What exactly is a brand? What’s the best way to brand your business? When should you start promoting your brand? Are there any pitfalls of which to be aware? Can you promote your brand without breaking your budget?

Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com said, “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” Let’s take a brief look at the history of brands. Wikipedia says that the Italians were the first to use brands such as watermarks on paper documents to define their products. In the 1700s, Paul Revere, patriot, and silversmith branded his silver products with his mark as did other silversmiths to differentiate their products. Cattlemen have used branding irons to burn their mark into cattle to show ownership for hundreds of years. During the peak of the industrial revolution, manufacturers needed a way to mark their products so customers could recognize them as they began to compete in larger markets. As time passed, businesses became more skilled at branding, promoting, and then marketing their products.

The best way to brand your business is to develop a couple of key positioning statements about your company. Remember, if you do not define your business, others will do it for you and you may not like what they say. A perfect example of this was how Mitt Romney, allowed his opponent and the media to define him. Had he developed a strong brand image and position, he would have been able to communicate his message more effectively.

Once somebody else defines you, it’s almost too late to change that perception. Therefore, I believe that it’s important that you develop the following statements for your business so that your employees, customers, and potential customers, know who you are, what you stand for, and what they can expect when they do business with you. This helps you define your company’s brand. Your brand is all of these things rolled together:

• A mission statement – an inward focused statement that tells your employees who you are

• A unique value proposition – an outward focused statement that tells your customers what you stand for

• A unique selling proposition – an outward focused statement that tells your customers why they should buy from you.

If a brand is truly like a reputation or personality, then surely you don’t want a schizophrenic brand or a brand in which your customers cannot relate. It’s never too early to define your brand. The first rule of branding is to build your brand — not someone else’s. When you start your business, it’s not a bad idea to align it with a well-known brand to gain both credibility and visibility. But, you must do it right so that your brand doesn’t become lost in the mix. A great example of this is my insurance agent. Paul is an agent for Allstate. Allstate’s marketing does a great job of branding the company, but there’s nothing to set the agencies apart from each other. Maybe that’s what Allstate wants, but Paul wanted something different. His agency developed a Charlie’s Angels spoof, which they’ve called ‘Paul’s Angels’, and it works. It sets them apart from all the other Allstate agencies in town, it shows off their unique, fun personality, and it makes their phones ring.

When building your brand there are pitfalls that you need to avoid. When you think about HVAC companies, there are only so many brand positions you can take. The main three are quality, reliability, and efficiency. We could make an argument that almost any other position is a variation of the main three. There could be others but for the sake of this discussion, if these are the main brand positions, how many differentiations can be made from them? There are a handful of positions at best, so how do you differentiate your business from other businesses within your industry? You could take a page out of Paul’s book and try to incorporate your company’s personality into your branding and do something to stand out from the crowd.

To promote your business effectively, you must have a sufficient marketing budget to support your marketing goals. If your goal is to be the first company that customers call when they have a need for HVAC service, and you live in a small town with few competitors, you don’t need as big a budget as you would if you lived in a medium sized town or a small city. Start by having realistic goals and expectations. Take advantage of using free opportunities to promote your brand. Build your digital footprint so people can find you online. In addition, as I say repeatedly in my book, you must have a solid marketing plan, and then use that plan to evaluate all offers and opportunities. Until next time…

My website contains links to all the marketing articles I’ve written for the HVAC-Talk Newsletter. If you are interested in pre-purchasing a copy of my new book, Navigating the Marketing Maze, click here. If you need a branding consultation, a complete strategic marketing plan, or help with marketing services, call or send an email to discuss your needs.

Andy Fracica is president and CEO of Fracica Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in marketing, and social media strategy. He has over 30 years of sales, marketing, and product management experience in the heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. He concentrates on helping companies deliver their message in an ever increasingly crowded market by helping HVAC dealers market themselves with less ($). Contact him at 260-338-4554, andy@fracicaenterprises.com or visit the Fracica Enterprises, Inc. website.