In a rush to drive more sales, many business owners do what only seems natural — discount their products and services to entice customers to buy… right now. And while this may seem to make perfect sense, it’s much the equivalent of consuming a steady diet of sugar to give your body more energy. This strategy works in the short run and fails miserably over time. On the other hand, branding is like eating a solid protein meal, not the rush of a big sale, but better for your bottom line over time. So what makes branding the better strategy?
As the former owner of a full-service advertising agency, I saw the desperation of business owners, needing to drive sales, pay extraordinary amounts of money to push customers to their doors. Not only was it expensive to advertise, the ads also had to promise some sort of discount, creating a double whammy to the profit line… advertising expense and products discounts.
The thinking went like this, “If we can get lots of customers to try us out at a cheap price, then they’ll come back later and pay full price.” The only problem with that theory was that it rarely worked. In reality, the transactional sales ad (the “sugar”) created a short-term bump in sales, but at the same time, taught customers that the real value of the product or service was the savings. In some perverse equation, it did the opposite of what it was intended to do, it turned the business into a commodity, one that’s based on lowest price takes all.
The flip side of this sugar addiction is building your company’s brand image. Branding is owning a position in your customer’s mind. This might be safety, efficiency, convenience, performance, prestige, quality, etc. These are attributes that every customer wants, maybe not today and right this second, but in time. Ask yourself this question, “Do you want a cheap car or a safe car?” Given the choice, most consumers want the positive benefit of a product or service, not the savings. Customers want a solution to their problems, not $10 off.
That’s why you rarely see Apple products with massive discounts, or Volvos being blown out this weekend only. Or Rolex watches, buy one get one free. They have all managed to brand their business, to own a desirable quality, from cool innovation, to safety to social status. And the beauty of this strategy is that customers will always pay more for benefits than features.
As a company naming and branding firm, we now promote clarity, helping clients get their story straight. Clarity is much more valuable than “naming.” There are dozens of crowdsourcing sites that will sling names out for next to nothing, but clients will pay a premium for brand identities that give them a clear, concise, and compelling image.
When we first named and marketed Mt. Washmore, an express tunnel car wash in the Tampa Bay market, we offered car washes for as little as $1. Traffic was sightly up while we ran the promotion but then dropped right after the offer ended. We finally went back to promoting the quality, service, and benefits of the wash, getting a superior wash and wax from a friendly staff. Our numbers steadily grew over time, with no discounts, and happier customers. We quit training our customers to only come for sales, and to see the value of trained professional workers providing a top quality wash from a state-of-the-art facility.
The brand message? Mt. Washmore… it’s a total “rush!”
We sold the experience, not the discount. We kept it short and sweet. And we saw a significant increase in our positive 5-star ratings on Google local business. The give-a-way strategy did just that… gave away profits and attracted disgruntled customers expecting something for nothing. To add insult to injury we paid for the $1 car wash ads, further eroding the bottom line.
What is it about your business that is unique and separates you from the competition? Can you summarize it into one short, punchy and memorable line? Here are some examples that we have created:
ParkPlace — The Ultimate Garage Space
Big Earth Supply — Our Name Speaks Volumes
Spruce Maintenance — The Everclean Company
CalmCoyote — Taming Wild Skin
StreetKing — Rule the Road
The purpose of these slogans is to position your company in your own industry. Instead of telling them what you do (e.g. Midtown Seafood… 10% off seafood every Tuesday) tell them how you do what you do (Midtown Seafood… Voted Freshest 5 Straight Years!)
By branding and positioning your company around your core attributes, you will embed your message in your customer’s mind and train them to call you for what you do best. That makes for a happier customer, better margins, and repeat business. That’s building a more muscular brand based on “protein” rather than a skinny business surviving on sugar.