Running a marketing agency focused on small business means that each day brings a mix of excitement, fulfillment, and sometimes, head-slapping infuriation.
Lots of small businesses can’t or don’t have a dedicated marketing professional, and that’s totally understandable. However, doing things that actively destroy or deteriorate your brand is not.
Here are 12 things you need to avoid:
1. No logo
You think I’m making this one up? Nope. I regularly run into businesses that have never committed to a logo. Last year, I had a client who has been in business for 40 years, and its biggest problem is that it had no market recognition. For 40 years it squandered the opportunity to build an identity because it never wanted to pay for a logo.
2. Logo inconsistency
Having your logo change every so many years is just as bad as having no logo. Yes, it’s OK to have a “refreshing” of your logo if it’s just so “80s” that you can’t stand it, but frequent change means that you never earn a recognizable status.
3. No brand imaging
You should have a company font, a standard layout for important documents, and publications, and all of your employees should be held to these standards. This will avoid one of your “artistic” employees from becoming Comic Sans-crazy.
4. Lack of a corporate voice
Having a company directive that outlines your company’s personality is an absolute must. Your employees need to grasp that personality, and speak with your voice whenever they interact with customers, both internal and external.
5. No customer service training
Once you figure out No. 4, you must implement a training program so that all employees understand who your company is and what your standards are. This can’t be directed at your actual customer service reps only; my worldview states that every one of your employees is “in sales”—no one is allowed a pass from this training.
6. No PR crisis plan
We see this again and again, and not from small businesses only. It doesn’t matter what
industry you’re in, PR disasters can occur. Just because you’ve never had one doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. Who
will respond to your PR disaster? What will the approach be? Will an outside agency be called in to help?
7. Wrong email signature
Not having your contact information as a standard signature with
your logo is a mistake. Having every phone number and address you’ve ever owned as your signature is worse. Use a small, stylish logo, and your pertinent
information in your signature so that people can quickly connect with you; don’t make it a chore to find what they’re looking for.
8. Neglected signage
Unless you own a Hair Club for Men or some other business that requires a discreet location, your signage needs to attract all eyes to it. Once attracted, those eyes should not see worn and tired signage that sends the message, “We’re not doing so well,” or, “We just don’t care anymore.” People want to do business with successful people—it’s sort of contagious.
9. A tired website
It is not difficult to convince a small business that a website is absolutely necessary, but your commitment to having a presence online has to go much further than that. Your website needs to be a living, breathing, and updated
part of your branding voice. Make it part of your regular branding reviews to ensure that your website is given the once over for stale or missing information.
10. No social media voice
Every single small business owner still in
business is too busy. Social media is a time suck if you don’t have a clear plan, so, you must
have a plan. If you are not the voice of your company on social media, I can guarantee you someone else will be. Just because you don’t “like” Facebook doesn’t mean you can avoid it.
11. Having no idea what your customer thinks
When was the last time you reached out to ask how your current customers see your brand? If the answer is “never” or “a really long time ago,” you are letting a gold mine of information go to waste. Use online surveys, or heck, even pick up the phone and ask
your customers what you’re doing wrong or right.
12. No marketing plan
If you have taken the trouble to develop a consistent plan for both the long and short term, it is unlikely that you will have missed Nos. s 1 through 11. The devil is in the details and without a plan for your brand, many of them will drop by the wayside.
Of course this list could be much longer. Each week brings a new guffaw made by even the biggest brand, but if you tackle each of these you will go a long way to protecting your brand.
What is the biggest “brand damning” move you’ve witnessed?
Amy McCloskey Tobin is the founding principal of Ariel Marketing Group, LLC. A version of this story first appeared on the 12 Most blog.