Don’t let a weak brand leave you dead on arrival. While many people focus on building a successful brand, it is just as important to understand how to avoid killing your brand. Spending thousands of dollars and countless hours on a brand that is ineffective is an exercise in frustration too many CEOs unwittingly engage in.
A colleague of mine, Chris Collins, distinguishes between getting branded and getting labeled. Getting labeled means you’ve lost control; people are defining your brand behind your back in ways that would make you cringe, and your potential for maximizing profits is being flushed down the toilet. Luckily, you won’t have to fish your brand out of trouble if you avoid making these seven mistakes:
Lack of intention.
If you don’t know exactly what your brand is, who your target audience is and what you want that audience’s perception of your brand to be, your brand becomes meaningless. I hear too many CEOs indicate they are trying to reach “everyone.” Well, unless you have a Fortune 50 company budget like Apple, reaching everyone just isn’t possible. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to be all things to all people, but the fact is that unfocused brands get slaughtered.
Taking too long to explain what you do.
There’s a reason the art of the elevator pitch is alive and well. People have short attention spans, so your brand needs to make an immediate impact. If your brand doesn’t instantly resonate, you’ve already lost whomever you’re speaking to. If I see someone at a conference I want to network with, I do not approach them until I know exactly how I want to open the conversation. This most often involves identifying something to say that I know will resonate so I can develop enough rapport to connect. In branding, connecting is everything. Those who are verbose get a polite nod and a quick exit from the conversation.
Asking for support before you demonstrate value.
Anyone who has watched the ABC TV hit Shark Tank knows that if you ask for a deal with an insane valuation and without demonstrating value, you’ll be hearing “You’re dead to me!” before you can finish your pitch. Similarly, in the marketplace, people aren’t obligated to help you or buy your product. Lead by demonstrating what’s in it for the people you are talking to. See how you can help them. Sowing seeds makes people want to reciprocate, which translates to one-on-one conversations or the ability to offer a free sample or learning tool.
Having an average or below-average website.
Your company website is an opportunity to clearly define your brand. Not taking great care with your website is the equivalent of inviting guests over to a dirty house or one without furniture. No website, or a bad business website, prevents people from getting to know you better. If your target audience can’t get the information they need quickly, you could lose the opportunity for a repeat customer, distribution partner, or even multimillion-dollar investor.
Lack of social media presence.
Even if you hate social media, people who aren’t on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are now suspect. It is worth having a social media presence and a following because it will help brand you as a person of influence. There is a very real opportunity to grow your business via LinkedIn, get your customers’ feedback via Facebook and follow trends on Twitter. The rare exception to this rule is if you are intentionally trying to create an aura of mystery and intrigue.
Your brand exhibits poor temperament.
Authenticity and maturity are two of the biggest factors that drive trust. Being defensive or contrived is a sure turnoff. If an investor or a customer asks you a question about your product/business, do you respond with a smile or do you get agitated? Investors often say things to test a CEO’s temperament and ensure that if things go bad, the CEO will have the resilience to push through. And when it comes to authenticity, realize not everyone needs to buy what you are selling. If you come across someone who isn’t a fit, let them know and help them get exactly what they need. While they may not become a customer, they can refer one to you!
Your online presence is out of control.
Have you Googled yourself lately? Do you like what you see? If not, change it. Just as social media can help build or destroy your brand’s credibility, negative Google results can also spell the end of your credibility. Hire an online reputation management or branding company and get more positive results.
Building your brand is a real investment of time and money. Do not kill it by making these easy-to-avoid mistakes.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Raoul Davis specializes in helping CEOs increase their visibility, revenues, and industry leadership status through a proprietary CEO branding model. He is a partner at Ascendant Group, a proven top line revenue growth strategy firm through utilizing the power of CEO branding. Ascendant integrates brand strategy, PR, speaking engagements, book deals, social media and strategic networking to accelerate visibility. Connect with @Ceo_Branding on Twitter.
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