Updated: Apr 23, 2019
First of all, what IS branding?
There is still an idea going around that branding a business is as simple as choosing a color scheme and designing a logo. The trouble is, a logo and recognizable colors are not enough to keep small businesses front and center in the consumer mind; in fact, it’s not even enough for major corporations.
Brand is a vision and a promise that consumers should understand from the first glance. Inside the showroom, everyone from the owner to the manager to the sales staff have to agree on the vision and deliver on the promise.
Consistency is key. Otherwise the message gets confused and customers lose confidence in the company. Millennials are especially sensitive to brand consistency and will not hesitate to find another place to spend their money if they feel a brand has gone off-message.
Note: 62% of millennials say that online content inspires brand loyalty.
A brand is the personality of a company. Once that personality is defined, it must become a part of every aspect of a company: logo, website, store design, lighting, sales practices, customer service techniques, merchandising, promotional materials…you name it.
The goal of a brand is to create a lasting connection between a consumer and a company. This is achieved through shared values, meaningful interactions, and compelling storytelling (which comes down to being honest and open).
Why is branding important?
The bottom line? Proper branding is good for, well, your bottom line. Ultimately, branding strategies and the marketing tactics that go along with them aim to increase profits. Everyone from the local artisan to the multi-billion-dollar corporation needs good branding to succeed.
For brick and mortar stores, branding is increasingly important. As if there wasn’t enough competition from online retail, now even the e-comm giants are opening physical stores! The message: people need a break from technology. There is no substitute for an in-person experience, no matter what the industry.
Lifestyle graphics, like the one seen on the left, send a strong brand message.
If you’re not convinced of the importance of good branding, consider this: a recent survey in the U.S. found that respondents only trusted 22 percent of brands, and overall, 74 percent of brands could disappear and consumers wouldn’t notice. That doesn’t mean you should forget the whole idea- it means a local business has an opportunity to create a real connection.
How does good branding affect the customer?
Purchases are driven by emotions. The rational brain kicks in later to justify the decision. Enough research has gone into understanding customer behavior that it is no mystery anymore- brands have to reach people where it counts.
Branding helps create an emotional connection between a company and their customers. With the right research into your target audience, you can show the right group of people that you ‘get them.’
Shape the entire customer experience, online, in-store and in-home, with your customers’ needs and pain-points in mind. If they feel understood, they feel valued. If you help people improve their lives, you become a partner instead of a retailer.
When that connection is made, customers are more likely to buy from you, spend more, listen to your advice, and recommend your business to others.
Finding your target audience
As a first step, look at your showroom’s sales statistics to see who is buying what and how much they are spending. Your sales associates will also know who is coming in the showroom and what people are asking for.
To spread a wider net, look into your area’s demographics:
Who are the homeowners?
What are the average income levels for each age group?
If there are a lot of young people in the area, you will have DIY-ers. How can you help them?
Is there an aging population renovating to age in place?
How much new construction is going on?
How old are the houses in your area?
After taking a look at the people in your area and your existing customers, you can start to target the groups that will bring you the best business. There may be more than one, and it is up to individual showrooms to decide how to approach different market segments. Using data collected online and from showroom records, determine your best customers- those who visit often, invest in quality products and services and refer your showroom to family and friends.
Reward their loyalty with personalized services, priority access to sales or special events.
Reinforcing your brand
First off, make sure people can find you!
People are using their phones to find local businesses- that’s a fact. Having complete information available on search engines like Google, review sites like Yelp, your website and on social media channels like Facebook is essential. Often, people search without a specific type of business in mind but are looking for a product or service. Make sure you come up in those product categories with a good online presence.
When people do a search for a local store, 50% of mobile users end up visiting a store within one day. It may seem that people are acting impulsively, but this is the way consumers shop these days. While many people still search on their computers, people who are out and about will search for what is available nearby- which means your company has to come up easily in searches with all the information. A kitchen and bath showroom has so much to offer; even people who have no plans for a renovation can be attracted to come by for hardware, lighting or home accessories.
Put good reviews everywhere!
People trust online reviews and they look for them before choosing a place to shop. The more positive reviews you have, the better. Find them, get them, put them front and center.
Getting them is another issue. You can go the passive route and wait for clients to post on your Facebook page or write a review on Google, Yelp or Angie’s List. You can also be proactive and have a customer satisfaction survey section on your website or offer an incentive to get people to review you online.
Note: There are 2.1 million negative social mentions about brands every single day in the US.
Pay close attention to what people are saying about you online and act on it. Share appreciation for good reviews and re-post them on your website and social media, or even in the showroom. Bad reviews? Instead of reacting negatively, find a way to fix the issue or at least respond in an open, honest manner.
Use your social media to communicate!
A recent survey revealed that 45 percent of people will unfollow brands who do too much self-promotion on social media.
Don’t sell the products or services- sell a solution. Show people how you will make their lives easier.
You can share information about sales, events or products, but people get tired of only seeing news about the business. Be sure to also share content that your clients will find useful. Post about new technologies and trends, and share articles about beautiful kitchens or bathrooms from the top design sites.
Note: Only 32% of small businesses invest in social media marketing- but it’s not a fad any more. Social media is the key to exposure and growth for companies of any size. Use your social media to share completed projects and ask clients to do the same. When a client shares photos of their new space and lets everyone know who helped them, their friends will pay attention. There is nothing more powerful than a customer referral, no matter what the medium.
The power of social media isn’t only in the hands of major corporation; smaller companies can really take control of their social media on a local level with targeted ads and posts. Smart social media use, especially when you get your clients involved, keeps existing customers engaged and brings new people into the showroom.
Leverage the power of your local social networks by consistently reminding people they have an easy-to-access showroom nearby- that can be through promotional posts, ads, retargeting campaigns, or by sharing interesting information about the industry and the community.
A few branding tips to take with you
The most important message? Be consistent! If needed, find a good agency to set down brand guidelines and design your logo so your marketing materials are the same no matter where people see them.
Part of creating the right emotional connection with your target audience is choosing the right colors for the logo and in the showroom. A signature color can boost brand recognition by 80 percent. What do different colors mean to people? Check out this infographic.
72 percent of marketers say branded content is more effective than advertising in a magazine. Advertising is expensive and people need to see ads at least 5 times before they connect, and above 5 times, the chance they will engage plummets. It also takes anywhere from 5 to 7 impressions before a person to remember a logo. Branded content helps people remember who you are better than an ad.
Make sure your staff understand the message and brand promise. It makes it easier for them to do their jobs and become brand advocates.
Don’t let manufacturer displays take over. They can easily obscure your brand vision and design choices- you can have a custom display built with their logo and specs but your colors and style.
Having a blog can produce up to 67% more leads per month! Good quality content encourages people to engage and share. It establishes your authority in the industry and keeps people up to date with the showroom and design trends.