Soon-to-be Business Mogul Ryan Windsor joins us once again to have a chat about business. We’ve all heard about the importance of branding and how it can help our businesses, but what is it? How does it work? How do I get one?
In today’s interview, we answer all those questions and more.
FF: “Build your brand” business coaches scream at us, “You are your brand!” they shout. But what does that even mean? Could you briefly talk about what a brand is and what it is not?
RW: This is actually a question I get a lot from start-ups and founders, and it is something they tend to focus on as much as the product or service!
So, what is a brand? David Ogilvy [Known as “The Father of Advertising” – Know it all Nate] described it as “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes”. What he meant was that marketers could create and give a perception of the product and services to the customer, and this became the brand. This is important as this type of communication goes a lot deeper than simply stating what this product is or could be used for.
Good branding affects a customer’s perception of lifestyle, ambition and status. It can also communicate a lot about the company, its culture, and what its unique selling point is. For example, “Apple” wants to be known for exclusivity, quality and innovation.
Simply, your brand is what your clients, customer and stakeholders think of when they see your company, products and services, whether that be factual or emotional. When building your business, you should think of the brand as an extension of you. You are the brand and the brand is the business. A great example of this is Sir Richard Branson; when you think about Virgin, you think about him. They go hand in hand and this is part of the success of the company, it has personality.
This is even truer when you are just starting off. You should really make every attempt to remind people about your business and brand. This could be as subtle as wearing an item of clothing with the same colour as your company logo, or going one step further and putting that logo on your T-shirts. What you are doing here is engaging people subconsciously and setting up triggers for them to remember you and your company. The brand building activities help communicate all parts of your business to the outside world, they create a promise of what your products offer and reflect the whole customer experience.
FF: Like the aforementioned Richard Branson, you’re gaining a lot of momentum with the “Ryan Windsor” brand, speaking all over the country, appearing in all sorts of publications, and it even looks like you have got a book deal on the horizon. How did you start building your brand? And what pitfalls did you fall into?
RW: I can recap how I built my brand in a quote by Ernest Hemmingway; “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.” I guess that is true for a lot of things, but especially true for brand building.
I have been working on building businesses for many years now, and this has led to people seeing and thinking of me in a certain light. I have worked hard to get where I am now, and I believe doing things correctly and for the long term is essential. My best advice is to take your time. Cutting corners is the fastest way to destroy trust, reputation, and a brand at once.
In terms of pitfalls, I would say the time I was putting into gaining exposure early in my career was out of balance. I sometimes concentrated on those opportunities too much, rather than taking care of the actual business. Now I have a much more balanced approach and leverage my time better.
FF: Could you tell us more about that balance? When is a good time to start building your brand and how do you balance your resources between “branding,” marketing, sales, and product development?
RW: The more traditional view is to have an idea, build a product and then send it out into the market. I prefer the approach of having an idea, testing it in the market first, and then pivoting and changing in real time. This way if the product is unpopular (or does not meet requirements), you can change it fast before you spend too much time and money on buying stock and marketing it.
One ingenious way I have seen this done is actually through crowd funding sites. The company in question did not need the funds, they just wanted to see what people thought of their idea and collect feedback to make changes.
With that in mind, I now believe you can start the branding even before you have a product. Tell people you are working on something, ask questions to gain insight and start to brand yourself as a thought leader. Through this, you should see yourself and company gain a following, and the more value you provide at this point, the faster you’ll gain that following.
Also, think about providing social currency, this means people can gain points and credit for sharing your information, blog posts, and videos. Blendtec and it’s “will it blend” videos are a good example. These marketing videos went viral with millions of views, they got people talking about the product and eventually drove sales. Smart, if you ask me.
FF: For a lot of the more technical minded entrepreneurs, branding can feel like an incredibly shallow endeavour. Could you go into where branding fits into a business, what the benefits of it are, and some common misconceptions about what being “branded” means?
RW: Branding for me is as important as the product or service the business is trying to sell. To do branding well you need to understand a lot of different points, such as:
- Who your customers are
- What their spending habits are
- Whether your product or service fits into this
- What message you are trying to convey to your costumers
- How this message aligns with your company’s vision and mission
If you spend time on the branding and think strategically about it, it should help with defining the positioning and impact of your company. The thought process that goes into this is very important and should not be overlooked. Customers will be influenced by it, feel they can trust your brand and ultimately buy.
A first misconception I often see when working with clients is that they think they need a huge budget to do the branding. This is not true. If you take the time to think about your companies ‘attitude’ and get your branding right from the start, this can be quite cost effective.
Another misconception is that many founders/CEOs do not value branding. This is really hard for me to understand as I think a company’s branding has possibly the highest value of all the assets. Let us think of Apple as an example again; if you took away their branding, their culture, and their mission, would it still command the same respect, admiration, and premium price tag?
Do not underestimate this essential part of your business!
FF: So, what are some cost-effective ways that our readers can brand themselves?
RW: As I mentioned before, the branding can be cost effective if you have a good approach. There are some simple things you can do to get started.
First, I would recommend you join networks in your field of expertise, both on and offline. Help out, share your knowledge, and give value to as many people as you can. By doing this, you position yourself as an expert and people will start to recognise you and your contribution.
Second, I would continue with the value strategy but make it more formal by creating a website/blog under your full name. This helps build your profile, create value and also make you searchable.
In today’s world branding your company is not enough. People want to know about you, your story and what you think. This brings me to the third tip; write a book.
If you are writing blog posts and creating content, the next natural step is to formalise your thoughts and write a book. This puts you in a whole new league, the league of the influencer. Influencers often have brand advocates who help build your profile, and thus, your company.
Remember, to be successful you need to be true to yourself as well as to your customers, work on your own branding as well as your companies, and most important, consistently add value. Providing value builds trust, trust creates customers, and only returning costumers will ensure that your company has sustainable repeat business.
If you have a story to share or some advice to give our readers, send your pitches to firstname.lastname@example.org.