How to have your chosen customers fall in love with your venue, with tips from Isabel Smith
Every business needs a brand, whether you own a bicycle shop, a global multinational or a wedding venue. Many start-ups get excited when it comes to marketing their new service and completely forget to create a brand, but this step is absolutely vital if you are to gain long term profitability through a consistent reputation. So, get back on the branding boat and let’s do this right.
No doubt you’ve heard of venues such as The Ritz and Four Seasons Hotels. Strong brands, right? You may be thinking, “but they are well established companies – of course their brand is strong”, but yours can be too. If your brand is powerful then it doesn’t matter if you’re long established or just starting up. So how do you create and maintain an awesome brand?
What is branding and why is it important?
Let’s start with the basics and define what branding is. The things that tend to spring to mind are often logo, product and website but your brand is so much more than that. Ultimately, it is the process of creating a long-lasting identity for your business. Just like people, with their individual personalities, are drawn to those who are likeminded, your brand is the soul and personality of your business – how can you connect with the right clients without it?
People fall in love with a brand because of the experience that comes with it. Apple is a great example of this. It’s not just about its leading technology – it has set about forging an impression of mutual values with its customers over time, building strong relationships and, eventually, brand loyalty. It’s all about appealing to the senses; what your customers see, hear and feel about your business. That is what creates an experience. Why would you want to phone ‘technical support’ when you could go to the ‘genius bar’? Why would you want clunky boxes full of cables and software discs when you could get a sleek box with a sexy product inside, already loaded up with software and with an intuitive set up process?
Do you see how your brand is represented by everything you put out there? How much you charge, how you interact with your customers, what marketing activities you undertake and how you use them, right down to the tiny details like whether your e-mail address is ‘enquiries@’ or ‘hello@’.
Knowing how to differentiate from your competitors and having that intriguing edge is something you don’t want to miss out on. It’s the personality of your company that will attract the right (or wrong) clients, and while you don’t need to aim ‘Apple’ big, you do need to develop your own unique identity and stick to it.
Hopefully you have some idea of what feeling you want your venue to portray, even if you haven’t formalised it in your mind and put it on paper. If not, the first place to head to is your target market. You can only brand appropriately once you have chosen who your target audience is. Think about what sort of clients you would love to work with and the style of events you want to host. Will it be sophisticated classic weddings and corporate events or more fun weddings with a free-spirited approach? Equally useful is thinking about the type of clients you don’t want to be selling to. Doing this helps keep you on the right track and your vision clear.
Now think about your venue itself. What will your target clients expect from you? Do you have a USP to make your venue stand out? Maybe your view is out of this world? What do your staff do to go above and beyond? Once you know what you want to highlight it’s easier to know how to brand yourself to fit.
Next up, find a branding agency. As I said in last month’s article on start-up costs, this is not a place to scrimp. This is the team who will create your brand package – logo, typography, tagline, and general branding ‘standards’ that all your marketing must meet. As with sourcing any other service in life, do a bit of Googling first, find a handful of agencies who appeal to you (yeah – that gut instinct on whether they might work for you or not – that’s branding) and then meet at least three of them for a full discovery of what they can offer.
Your chosen agency should ask you to work through a big long briefing sheet which will give them all the information they need to build your brand package options. This should be a breeze because you should have already thought through the information they need (details of your target market, colourways you like/want to associate with your brand, key brand values and attributes to reflect etc.), but if this is the first time you’ve really given all this any thought then make sure you invest the time now.
The agency should then present you with two or more distinct ideas to work from so you can work with them to refine the designs down to your final branding package.
But remember, branding agencies can only do so much of the work for you. They will give you the foundations from which to build your brand up, and the rules to follow in doing so, but this is just one part of the long-term strategy. Everything you then put out into the universe must be reflective of this brand and those values (the ‘personality’ of your venue) so as to build up continuity.
Building your brand over time
A brand isn’t born overnight; it needs to be nurtured and given time to grow. In the same way reputation and trust is built, branding is about consistently forming this one image/feeling for your clients over time.
To do this, you need to know that all communication – tweets (both tone of voice and style of content), blog posts, e-mails, telephone manners etc. – fits the brand. This means having all your staff on the same page and making sure that they are as aware of, and as passionate about, the values your business is promoting as you are. It’s no good if someone lets the side down and lets those values down since it is only through consistency that a brand grows.
Imagine your business brand as a physical structure. Everyone has their own ‘pillar’ to hold up; those delivering the guest service, your marketing team representing your business and those in charge of the site design/maintenance. If anyone working in these areas fails to keep up with your values, then your brand will fall. It’s not always easy to monitor this – no-one else will be as devoted as you are – but setting the tone yourself if a great way to start.
As you can see, building and maintaining a brand is a bit of an epic journey, but if there’s one thing to take away from this article, it’s that consistency is key. You’ve spent time and money building this business and its character, so don’t let it go to waste by not sustaining it. It’s down to you to keep it alive.
About the Author
Isabel Smith has 10 years in the wedding industry behind her as one of the UK’s top wedding planners and business consultants to venues and other suppliers. Isabel’s expertise spans marketing, sales and operations as she helps new vendors launch as well as assisting established businesses should they find their sales fallings. www.isabelsmithconsulting.co.uk / www.isabelsmithweddings.co.uk