Two of the most common questions I’m asked are:
“We want to strengthen our brand/increase brand awareness, but can’t spare much extra money – What can we do?” and “We need to cut our budgets – How can we do that without affecting our brand?”
To this, the first question I’ll ask you is:
“How much do you currently spend on your branding each year?”
No matter what amount you tell me, I have one reply for you – WRONG.
How can I say that? After all, I don’t even know your business.
The money you invest into building and maintaining your brand is ‘in every facet of the game’. There are the obvious items like printing, web sites and brand/marketing department staff, but there are many other areas to consider.
- A percentage of every staff members salary – after all, they are the face of the company and are the ones delivering the brand promise to customers.
- A portion of your fleet maintenance budget – it hurts your brand if you can’t deliver on time, or turn up to a client in a run down car.
- A piece of your office maintenance expenses – the carpet needs replacing as it’s in poor condition? That’s part of your brand image too.
“So, if that’s true, how can you possibly budget for your branding?” you ask.
The simple answer is – You can’t.
True, budgeting for the creation or rebirth of a brand is vital. You need to create a new vision, new designs and implement it all so the world views you as they should – that takes money. But a lot of the implementation and maintenance investment, is in reality, linked to your entire company budget.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend to be some big company budgeting expert – because, frankly I’m not. So I will leave the review of your entire company budget and the allocation of resources to the number crunchers who know what they’re doing. What I will do for you, is give you a number of areas that can be reviewed, based on the amount of money you have allocated in your budget.
Your three main options are:
- Slimming down – fit into a tighter budget, without affecting your brand strength.
- Solidifying your brand presence – make better use of your current funds, so you can reinvest the savings into building a stronger brand.
- Investing in a stronger brand – reinvest the savings (as above) plus increase the return you receive from any additional allocated spending, making a major difference in your brand strength.
Whatever your goal, reviewing and making changes to these areas will be of benefit for your business. Reviewing can be an internal matter if you have the knowledge already in-house. But for those that don’t, the investment in an expert to review and implement changes for you, can mean a much larger return in the future.
If you order something on a regular basis – maybe it’s time to start ordering twice as much, half as often. There are potentially large savings to be made with this practice.
Review your marketing schedule and pinpoint what collateral you may be able to print at the same time – saving you money and preventing short deadlines in the future.
With the constant fluctuations in paper costs (mostly upwards), it is always recommended to regularly check for alternative stocks. There is the possibility of getting the same quality for less, or better quality for the same price.
Look at new paper alternatives (synthetics). Some are more durable whilst being cheaper than paper itself – a winning combination.
Branded Apparel and Products
Review the quality vs cost of your apparel. If you pay slightly more, will they last longer? If so, that can save you a lot in the long run (imagine paying only $5 per shirt more – but only buying half as many shirts each year!)
Do you have a large number of branded promotional products that you give away? Work out the most effective combination and scrap the rest. You can invest some of the savings into buying more of the limited range, or use it somewhere else.
Marketing and Design
Do you have sales staff doing work on design and marketing? Sales staff should be getting you sales, not spending their time elsewhere.
Conversely, do you have marketing and design staff who don’t have enough to do? Find other projects (or create new ones) for them to work on. You’re paying them whether they’re marketing or not, so you might as well get the benefit.
It can be extremely cost effective to externalise this area of your business, especially factoring in salary packages, computers and software. You can have a brand/marketing manager in-house and outsource your design needs, or if you don’t currently have a brand manager, you can have an outside team to handle it all for you.
It’s ‘free’ to use and ‘everyone’ is on social media. But in their rush to not be left behind, many people have forgotten to keep their brand image going.
Review your usage of social media and make sure you’re doing it effectively. Are your brand values showing through? Is it costing you too many paid man-hours?
Find out any weak spots you can sure up, or other sites you need to be on. This can increase your social media gains rapidly.
You have quality assurance systems set up for all the other areas of your business, so why would your brand be any different? Because your brand extends into everything you do as a business, a brand QA system can make a big difference in your branding returns.
- Are the phones answered correctly?
- Does everyone use branded emails?
- Is every piece of marketing and advertising brand approved?
- Do you have a brand of “Visual ID” manual? And is it current?
There are many more areas you can review (which we can discuss in future articles). These are a few of the main areas where you can potentially get a lot more bang for your branding buck.