Read an Excerpt
101 Secrets to Building a Winning Business
By Andrew Griffiths
Allen & UnwinCopyright © 2008 Andrew Griffiths
All rights reserved.
Start with an impressive corporate image
What exactly is corporate image? It is a term that is often thrown into marketing spiels and books but what does it mean and why is it so important? Well the best way to describe corporate image is that it is the look and feel of your business to potential customers or how your business appears from the outside looking in. For many business people too much attention is focused looking the other way — from the inside out. But if the customers are not walking in the door, your corporate image could be to blame.
Your corporate image tells the story of your business. It explains what you do and it positions you against your competitors. There is a lot of psychology associated with corporate imaging — certain words evoke emotional responses; some colours reflect pricing, for example black and gold are generally associated with cheaper products or services; and the use of particular fonts or styles of lettering can make a business look old or modern, professional or amateurish. Having a good corporate image starts with the name and should permeate through the entire business. Most winning businesses have very good corporate images, regardless of their size. The issues covered in this section include:
# 1 Is your business name telling the right story?
# 2 Do you have a logo and if you do, is it the right one?
# 3 What is your tag line?
# 4 Consistency and the power of branding
# 5 Have you got a good corporate colour?
# 6 Who controls your corporate image?
# 7 There comes a time when you need to review your corporate image
# 8 Corporate imagery in advertising
# 9 Make sure your team understands your corporate philosophy
#10 Size doesn't matter — unless you let it
#1 Is your business name telling the right story?
Choosing the right name for your business is a tough decision. For many new businesses this is often a major stumbling block. What name should you use? Before we look at choosing the right name I want to spend a few moments talking about changing your business name.
Over time all businesses evolve. The name you started out with may no longer be applicable to what you do. Many business owners are very hesitant to change their business name if they have had it for a while because they feel they will lose their current customers. I have done a lot of corporate makeovers and have recommended businesses make quite dramatic changes, often including changing the business' name. Not once has this had a negative impact, in fact, quite the opposite: customers like to see a business is changing and evolving, it shows it is progressive and energetic. Large corporations reinvent themselves regularly and their customers almost expect it.
Don't underestimate your customers' ability to cope with change. From my experience they are better at dealing with it than most business owners. From here you need to decide if your business name really does represent what you truly do. If it does, excellent; if it doesn't, it might be time to make a change.
So what name do you change it to? There are lots of options. You can choose a clever name, you can choose a simple descriptive name or you can choose a combination of both. Some people like to invent their own word. All are fine options but, remember, if you choose a clever name or a non-descriptive name, you will need to spend more money promoting and branding the business to let prospective customers know exactly what product or services you are selling.
One example I worked on recently was for a florist. This business was well-known and established but it had a similar name to all the other florists in the same region. They mentioned the word florist, flowers or bridal in their names. Looking through the Yellow Pages made it really difficult to pick any one name out because they were all basically the same. After a creative session we came up with the name 'Buds'. A short, simple, modern name that reflected the owner's style and beliefs perfectly. They now had a name that was easy to remember, distinctive and fresh. Their business never looked back.
The decision you need to make is: do you want to be more interesting or more functional. I am certainly not advocating either, just explaining the choices. Ideally, coming up with something in the middle, a creative but explanatory style of name, is the easiest to build a brand around and to let customers know what you do.
Whatever your business name is or whatever name it is going to become, getting customers to use the business quickly is the difference between losing money over a short time or over a long time.
#2 Do you have a logo and if you do, is it the right one?
A logo is simply a graphical image used to promote your business. For some businesses it is a symbol of some sort, for others it is just the name in a stylised font and for some it is a combination of both. Logos are excellent tools for carrying a unique theme through your business and this is the very essence of a good corporate image.
Logos need to be distinctive and unique to your business. In one of my businesses I use a 'splat' in lime green. Ironically getting a good splat, like a paint splotch, is quite difficult, but the end result is very memorable — the message is: if you use my business we will make an impact on your business. A simple message but one that has worked extremely well. All of our promotional material, stationery, signage and websites use the logo to carry through our corporate image.
One of my major gripes with many modern, smaller businesses is the lack of quality logos or, worse, logos designed at home by someone who really has no idea what they are doing. If you are starting a new business, allocate a budget to developing a good logo. If you are in business and you haven't got a logo or you have a pretty ordinary logo, today may be the day to commission a graphic designer to come up with one that is memorable and distinctive.
Winning businesses have good logos and strong corporate images — because they know how important they are. Think about the logos of companies you deal with. Look through newspapers or magazines and check out the logos of the larger organisations. There is nothing stopping any sized business from having a strong, corporate image. Those that do will reap the rewards.
When deciding on which graphic designer to use, contact a few. Most have websites these days where you can check out their past logo designs. Try to find one whose style you like and ideally show them what type of logos you like. Negotiate a price up front so you know how much it will cost. Remember also that you will need to incorporate the new logo on your stationery and promotional material, so you may wish to plan the introduction of a new logo when your current stocks are low.
If you are changing your existing logo, make a big deal of it. Let your customers and suppliers know, take ownership of it and be proud of your new corporate image.
#3 What is your tag line?
A tag line is basically a few simple words that make a statement about your business. All businesses can use a tag line and the best advice I can give about choosing one is that it should answer the customer's question, 'Why should I use your business?' And keep it short and sharp.
Trends come and go, tag lines go in and out of fashion like colours, but I think they have considerable merit. Tag lines can be altered as your business changes or as the market in which you do business changes. Like choosing a name for your business, trying to define a simple tag line is not an easy task but the two should go hand in hand.
I recommend buying a book called More words that sell if you are looking for inspiration to help you with determining a tag line. This excellent publication is used extensively by most advertising agencies, marketing companies and copywriters looking for words on a daily basis.
#4 Consistency and the power of branding
Branding is one of those words we hear a lot. 'Developing a brand', 'building a brand', 'brand value' and so on. Most people think branding is applicable only to large corporations but it isn't. It is equally important for small businesses.
Any business can build a brand. Put simply this means when a consumer sees your company name (and logo) they have a positive perception about the business. This is one of the most appealing aspects of buying a franchise — you are purchasing an accepted brand name that consumers will hopefully already know and have a positive opinion about. Clearly it takes time to build a brand and to develop brand awareness but we all need to do it.
The real key to branding is consistency: sending a consistent message through your advertising, corporate image and look of your business. This affects the appearance of your business and all areas where your business interacts with consumers.
Consistency is controlled by systems — having the right mechanisms in place to ensure all aspects of your business are consistent is the starting point. Later in this chapter I discuss how to control your brand and assign an individual to this task, but the term consistency in all aspects of the business needs to be driven from the top.
Now I know I have also discussed that change is a good thing in corporate imaging but I would like to clarify this. Having a current, relevant and impressive corporate image is essential to making a winning business. If yours doesn't achieve these goals then it needs to be changed and your customers will adapt. But when the change is made, you need to build your corporate image and your brand with consistency in all that you do.
#5 Have you got a good corporate colour?
A big part of a strong corporate image is having a strong corporate colour. This means there is generally one dominant colour used in all aspects of your corporate image. This dominant colour is used consistently in everything you do and it forms the basis of the business' promotional material. As an example, I recently worked on a corporate image change for a training company specialising in offering human resources advice to remote areas throughout Australia and Asia. The colour we recommended they use was a deep red/brown ochre, which reflects the colour of the desert. This colour is used on their stationery, their sign writing, their promotional material, their website and their staff uniforms, and it has proven very successful. Their clients look at the colour and clearly relate it to remoteness.
Different colours evoke different emotions and it is important to choose an appropriate colour for your business. Darker colours tend to give a stronger, more established feel, hence a lot of law firms and accountants use dark blues, browns and even black as their corporate colour. Lighter colours tend to reflect a more modern look and feel and they are often favoured by businesses in the creative fields. This is an area where you need to take the advice of a good graphic designer. Decide what image you want to portray and then get them to turn it into a colour.
Colours, like most aspects of corporate branding, can go in and out of fashion so your corporate colours will need to be changed periodically. Just like a logo, they have a finite life span. Make sure the colour you choose can be used consistently in all printing and advertising as some colours are harder and more expensive to reproduce. Orange is one prime example of this; you can end up with a lot of variations which may erode the overall strong and consistent image you are trying to portray.
#6 Who controls your corporate image?
Believe it or not there are companies that specialise in controlling corporate image. These are generally used by large organisations, such as hotel chains, and their role is to be a central point of reference to approve promotional material and advertising for the individual operators within the chain, ensuring all material is consistent with the determined corporate image. This creates a very professional and consistent corporate image and makes sure consumers are being sent the right message.
On a smaller scale, keeping control of your corporate image is equally as important. Over time it can easily start to erode as different fonts are introduced, the colours of the logo start to vary and the layout of promotional material differs each time it is produced. Ideally one person should be used to control all aspects of your corporate image. Their job is to:
make sure the logo appears in the right format every time
make sure the colours used are correct and consistent
ensure the same font is used in promotional material
ensure the format of details, such as telephone numbers and addresses, is consistent
sign off on all proofs for advertising and promotional material
control the use of words to make sure of consistency of copy
keep copies of all promotional material and advertisements to form a historical library
control the use of images — for example, always send copies to avoid losing originals.
#7 There comes a time when you need to review your corporate image
Corporate images need to change. Over time they become dated, they lose their impact and to be honest they can often start to look amateurish. There is no set period of time between corporate image changes, it is more a matter of realising when the existing image has had its day and no longer truly represents the business. A lot of businesses struggle with making changes to corporate image — I see this in my work every day. There is an underlying concern that if they change their corporate image they may lose customers. I am not sure if this is a general resistance to change or a genuine belief that their customers could go somewhere else simply because the business introduces a new logo or even a new name.
The reality is that customers like to see businesses changing their corporate image — it shows the business is innovative and keeping up with the times. It shows that the business owners are proud of their business and they are prepared to reinvest in it. I have never, ever, instituted a new corporate image that hasn't been a very positive step in the history of a business. A new corporate image reinvigorates everyone — the business owners, the staff and even the customers. It is in its own right a sign of business success.
Another common mistake I see is the business owner who has developed their own logo and corporate image on their home PC — and they think it is sensational. Sure, sometimes people can develop great logos at home, but more often than not the end result is a long way from the desired professional result and the business' corporate image is terrible.
Spend some money and get a professional logo developed, and get the right advice on the use of colours and the design of promotional material. Saving a few dollars on the design of a strong corporate image is not a smart move and in most cases it ends up being a false economy as the business struggles to attract customers from the start.
#8 Corporate imagery in advertising
Is your corporate image accurately recreated in your advertising? For many businesses, advertising is done on an ad hoc basis, with no real direction. The end result can be that the advertising does not carry the corporate image through. This means it is harder for potential customers to form an association between your advertising and your business.
Just like all aspects of corporate imaging, your advertising should be consistent and carry the 'look and feel' of your business. Over time this helps to build the effectiveness of your advertising — people see your advertisements and recognise straight away that they relate to your business.
Look at the advertising done by large corporations. You will clearly see that their advertising follows a distinct format designed to be easily recognisable as belonging to them. It is important to overcome the urge to change your advertisements a lot simply for the sake of it. Consumers are bombarded with thousands of advertising messages every day and for advertising to really work it needs time to sink in. If you send a constantly changing message or a confusing message, where the consumer has to try and figure out who the advertisement belongs to, they will simply switch off.
Spend a few minutes looking through your local newspaper and see which advertisements you can identify with a specific company within the first second of looking at it. This is the image we all need to portray. Assess what makes the advertisement so easily recognisable. The colours used, the size of the logo, the type of font used, the pictures used or even the location of the advertisement itself?
If you are not sure how to carry your corporate image through your advertising enlist the services of a good graphic designer. Explain to them exactly what it is you are trying to achieve and they will do the rest.
#9 Make sure your team understands your corporate philosophy
All too often the head of an organisation knows where it is going but the tail is never told — it just has to follow blindly and hope for the best. What is your corporate philosophy? Some people may call this your mission statement but I personally think it is more. Where do you see your business being in one year, five years, ten years and even fifty years? Write this down. This may be a simple, one-page document which outlines what your business will look like in the future, including what you will sell, where the business will be located, how many staff you will have, what your role in this organisation will be over this timeframe. These are all good questions that are rarely asked.
Excerpted from 101 Secrets to Building a Winning Business by Andrew Griffiths. Copyright © 2008 Andrew Griffiths. Excerpted by permission of Allen & Unwin.
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