When considering how to build a brand, there are a variety of factors that businesses need to consider. Great content, thought leadership, recognizable marketing, and customer service all come up when companies discuss brand. Less commonly discussed are things like employee environment, exit strategies, and location.
There’s a reason why customer-facing elements of a company’s brand – content, thought leadership, marketing, and customer service – are often focused on. For many companies, failing to succeed in these areas will cause a company to fall apart faster than anything else. If a business has no content in a digital age, doesn’t have coherent and recognizable marketing, and does not bother to serve its customers well, it will never get off the ground.
But too often, business look solely at the customer focused pieces of a brand, and fail to recognize that what’s happening behind the scenes is just as important, if not more so. Today, let’s look at some of the most important parts of a business-facing brand.
Why does your exit strategy matter?
An exit strategy is what an entrepreneur ultimately hopes to do with a business. Some entrepreneurs found businesses with the hope of being bought out by larger companies, making money in the process. Other companies are created because entrepreneurs want to hand a business down to their kids, or to eventually hand it off to their employees. Some businesses plan to eventually go public, using stock options to raise capital for an expansion, and then allow a board of directors to take over.
It may seem counter intuitive to plan out your exit strategy when you’re just beginning to consider your business. From an investing point of view, however, it makes sense. As this Inc post lays out, “Whether you intend to pass your business on to family members or employees or your goal is a buyout, having an exit strategy in place can give your company an edge over the competition in winning investment dollars.”
But what does that matter in terms of brand?
Companies that are hoping to be long term family businesses can market and position themselves differently than start-ups that are hoping to be bought out a few years down the road.
By knowing this at the moment of business creation, companies can target their branding, and avoid disasters such as what happened to Ello, the social network that might have been. The small site initially put itself forward as a site that would allow the kind of social sharing that had made Facebook famous, without the pandering for financial investment that has made Facebook problematic for many users over the years. Just a rumor that Ello was funded by a venture capital firm, and would eventually be forced to sell itself off, caused the buzz around the site to crater within days. If Ello had been up front and clear about its capital funding and long term plan from the beginning, the rumor could have been less damaging, and the near-disaster averted.
The incredible importance of location
Every business, even in the digital age, needs to be aware of the importance of location. As large swaths of the country continue to be affected by the slow recovery of the housing market, businesses need to consider whether their location is right for them. If a business relies on in-office employees, but is in a location that feels unsafe to commute or move to, companies will have a difficult time attracting and keeping top talent. Ultimately, a brand will suffer because the best people don’t want to work for it.
If a business wants to keep its headquarters where they are, but location is becoming an undesirable part of their brand, they might consider whether or not more employees could work remotely. One of the benefits of the ubiquity of high speed Internet access is that employers have access to a larger and more specialized work force, if they choose to use it. Not all companies can utilize a remote work force, but for those that are tech based, it can be surprising how many jobs don’t really need to be in the office in order to make things work.
Companies that allow flex time and remote locations are often perceived as more understanding employers, and often have more satisfied employees.
Employee benefits and satisfaction
A company is only as successful as its employees. If its employees are unhappy, hate their jobs, and wish they could work anywhere else, they aren’t going to bring fresh new energy to a company, and the company will ultimately fail. The best people will jump ship.
Consider the example of Google, famous for demanding that its employees take time every week to work on side projects, and commitment to making sure the workplace is fun and engaging. Remember that, for many employees, they spend more of their waking hours at work than they do at home. If they enjoy being there, they’re more likely to stay, give the company their best work, and commit to the betterment of the company.
Too many businesses offer their employees health insurance, vacation days, sick time, and then consider their work done. Business lays out some interesting possibilities for other benefits that can be offered to employees to increase their happiness in the work environment, while AllBusiness Experts offers some insight on ways that businesses can work to retain the best talent available to them.
Blend it together
While the customer facing portion of your company is a crucial piece of your brand, remember that your employees are those who represent your brand every day. By taking care of them, meeting their needs, and encouraging them to be themselves at work, you help to increase the positive perception of your brand. Similarly, by wisely choosing and supporting your location, and targeting your branding around your exit strategy, you make sure that customers won’t get a nasty surprise down the road.
What other tips would you suggest to a business that’s working to define its brand? Tell us in the comments!
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