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What Your Customers Absolutely Must Know About Your Business

By Ray Worthy Campbell
Posted Wednesday, December 22, 2004

No matter how small or new your home business, it is never too soon to start thinking about your brand image.

Brand image?

You may think that brand image is something that matters for consumer products like Coke or Chevrolet. What does it have to do with a small -- maybe one person -- real world or internet business operating off a kitchen table or out of a spare bedroom?

Pretty much everything.

About the time my brothers and I hit high school, my mother came up with a new catch phrase.

¨Remember who you are and what you stand for,¨ she would tell us as we would head out the door.

Good advice for a teenager.

Good advice for a business.

Your brand image is what your company means in the customer´s mind -- what it can, and cannot, do for them.

It is who you are and what you stand for, as understood by your customers.

Especially for a small business, it is critically important that that image be razor sharp and crystal clear in customers´minds.

You cannot do everything. You cannot even do a lot of things. If you are lucky, you can do one or two things really, really well.

You want potential customers to think of you -- and think of you first -- when they need someone to do those one or two things.

So eliminate from your image, from how you present yourself, all those things you do not do. Present for the customer´s consideration only those things you do do, and do especially well.

But that is only the start. The next key is consistency -- staying on message.

There is a tremendous temptation for a small business to wander in the way it presents itself, testing out a new marketing proposition, or marketing a little bit in a lot of different places.

Huge mistake.

You need to be one thing, and to be that one thing over and over and over again -- to the point of numbing repetition.

Whatever it is that makes your products or services unique and worth having, you need to pound that message home relentlessly, so that those who really do need what you offer clearly understand that you are the solution to that particular problem.

You also need to pick where and how you are going to deliver that message, and to achieve a presence in that forum that makes you seem both familiar and formidable.

That does not mean that you close your ears to what customers want, or that you refuse to let your business evolve into something different and better.

It does mean that you must recognize the necessity for choice. You cannot be all things to all people, and any new opportunity you pursue must come at the cost of what you have done before.

As you develop your brand image, you need to focus on it in every aspect of your business. It is not just advertising or marketing materials, it is what other businesses you associate with, where you a advertise, how you look, how you provide customer service, and so on. Every aspect of your business needs to reinforce the brand image you want to present.

For example, if your business is to provide customization services for Harley Davidson choppers, stapling your business card to a bulletin board at a biker bar might be a good association. If your business is interior design for the country club set, that might not be an association that helps build an image consistent with the brand you want to build.

On the other hand, Laura Ashley style letterhead could be a big mistake for the guy making a living painting death´s head logos on choppers, but might be just the right brand-enhancing touch for some interior decorators.

So here are the act upon questions: with regard to your business, who are you and what do you stand for? What problem do your customers see you solving better than any of their alternatives? How can you better communicate to the world what you do and what you stand for?

About the Author
Ray Worthy Campbell´s first online business reached $1 million monthly in sales in less than 18 months -- on a shoestring budget. His weekly business tips are available at (


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