Remember how you almost passed over a purchase just because of the kind of people associated with the brand or based on what you heard about them? That is what brand image is all about.
Brand image is the perception people including your customers or non-costumers have of your brand. This is one aspect of branding that a lot of businesses especially small businesses ignore. It's like your currency to a great business although other factors are consisdered, it can make or break your business without careful considerations.
When you meet someone for the first time, you immediately size them up and create an impression about who they are. This impression may change due to constant interaction with this person. It's the same for any business, small, medium or large.
What influences your brand image?
Using the aforementioned analogy, certain factors influence the impression that you have of a brand.
This is what you may have heard about this person. This also depends on the source of information. If someone you trust recommends them you tend to trust them more. It could also be what you have read about them in the news or how they operate online. Your business is seen in the same light; before any customer experiences your brand they do their research. That is why it is important to stay consistent at all touchpoints including your customer service.
This comes from the knowledge you have of them or even the lack thereof. That's why after interacting with some brands you go like, "Is that it?" because you expected more from them. Promising and not delivering is a bad move; yes you want to make sure you have a good image out there by marketing your way through it, however, if you do not do as you say, you disappoint customers and that could be the last time they ever buy from you. Yes the hype is good but you should ask yourself and answer honestly: "Are you worth the hype?"
My first experience of a certain brand made me realise I had wasted my time and money. My impression of them was based on the hype and what I saw online. However, after interacting with them I realised it was a rip off at least in my opinion. You may lose a client or customer forever if you do not serve them well on their first experience with your brand.
What are the causes of a negative brand image?
Lack of respect for customers
Anyone in any business knows that bad customer service can greatly harm a brand's image even to the point of failure of the business. For example; taking too long to reply your customer's request, being rude to them and outrightly treating them poorly. A good customer would naturally recommend you to others if she is satisfied with your services so imagine what will happen if she's treated poorly?!
There are too many culprits in this category than you think. You don't need to deceive people just to make ends meet and if you plan on staying for long, that's a bad strategy.
Treating employees poorly
Employees and team members are the first ambassadors of your brand. Treating them poorly is shooting yourself in the foot. For instance, micro-managing them, not giving them room to grow, ignoring their concerns and not paying them on time.
Not addressing negative reviews
Customers usually search online for what people are saying about your brand before they make any purchases. Some even go to the extent of fishing out bad reviews just to know how that was addressed. This goes without saying that, some customers give bad reviews for no reason but this is an opportunity for you to address any issues that may not be true about you. Even if it's true, you still need to address it respectfully to avoid losing clients.
Your activity on social media
Social media is the new storefront; people usually look you up on social media before making a purchasing decision. It's therefore important to not engage in any scandalous activity on social media with your business account or any account for that matter; it creates a bad image.
Poor branding and design
Design has become an integral part of our world today including businesses. That is why large companies invest so much in proper branding and design of products and services. Imagine Apple produced an iPhone worth thousands of dollars with poor design or branding, I bet they would be lost in the sea just like some other brands. Your brand identity is the representation of your business, a bad brand can cost you so much.
Why does it matter?
So you may be wondering what this has got to do with small businesses or startups. After all, you stand to lose little to nothing if you have a bad brand image. First let me tell you about all the benefits of having a good brand image and then you decide whether it matters or not.
Trust and confidence
You gain the trust and confidence of your customers and non-customers alike. People, on their first experience with a brand do not necessarily trust them, however, if you have a good brand image and live up to your promises, you can gain the trust of these people. Some people may not be customers but can recommend you to others due to your good image. They always have confidence that you will never disappoint. That's why we have customers of a brand who no matter what, will not change their minds about the said brand.
Quick purchasing decision
It becomes easy for customers to make a quick purchasing decision. Customer A wants to purchase a shoe from you. Because they already trust you, they do not waste time in purchasing. If this customer recommends you to a potential customer, they will need no convincing to purchase as well.
Easy penetration with new products
Having a good brand image can help you a great deal if you want to introduce new products into the market. The fact has already been established that you deliver your promises so customers trust that any product coming from you is a good one. This saves you a lot of resources as it would have otherwise been expensive and time-consuming.
Proud employees and team members
Everyone wishes to work at companies with good brand image because it makes them also feel good about themselves and it looks good on their portfolio. This makes employees and team members proud to be a part of your company.
Having a good brand image is equally important as making sales and creating new products. Your image will take you places you might not have imagined; do your best to protect it!
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