How to trash your brand and alienate customers

Your brand can quickly end up in the trash if you make the mistakes outlined in this post.

By Henry Brown

How could you possibly underestimate the importance of branding in the 21st century? We live in an era where big brands have become so ubiquitous that they’re literally everywhere we look. The 21st century belongs to big brands. But just because the giant corporations whose brands are so ubiquitous are so expert in their branding doesn’t mean they get it right all the time. And it certainly doesn’t mean that the same tricks they use can’t be used to give small businesses a leg up in today’s increasingly fast moving and competitive environment.

You may be of the old school and believe that if you do your job well enough your branding is irrelevant, or you may believe that your branding is completely on point and that your media and marketing savvy are so on point that your brand can do no wrong. But whatever your views on branding, make no mistake…

Your brand is your business and your business is your brand

No matter how hard we work on maintaining the quality of our products or the standard of our services, some mistakes can seriously compromise the pull of our brands and potentially alienate prospective and existing customers. Here we’ll look at some ways in which both new and veteran small businesses and their owners can risk damaging their brands and sending their customers running into the arms of their competitors. Remember that there’s no shame in ditching a brand that isn’t working, and it may be easier to start anew with a fresh face rather than to rebuild public perception of your old brand if one of these mistakes devalues your existing brand.

Getting political on social media

Of course, you’re entitled to your political views, but the world of politics is contentious. If you express a political alignment on your social media profile, post controversial reactions to news items or get political in your content marketing, you run the risk of alienating customers whose views do not align with your own. While championing fair, just and ethical political causes can be advantageous to your business and demonstrate that it has an ethical conscience, it’s best to steer clear of getting too vocal about partisan political issues using any profile associated (or that can be traced to) your business.

Reacting flippantly to customer complaints

[amazon_link asins=’1882181263′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’succeedingi0d-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’cae60e4b-89c4-11e8-b247-6b1e84e5d57c’]No entrepreneur relishes receiving complaints. Whether they’re made in person, in writing or visible for all to see in the digital domain, it can be all too tempting to take business complaints personally. Insecure entrepreneurs can take them as an indictment of personal failure. This can cause them to either overreact or, worse still, react defensively. This in turn can lead entrepreneurs to become dismissive or flippant when it comes to customer complaints instead of seeing them for what they are… a learning opportunity with the potential to improve your business.

Left unattended a complaint, especially one made in the comments section of your website or on social media, can toxify your brand. Prospective customers will see it and, worse still, they will notice that you have not reacted to it. They will assume that you’ve dismissed the complaint or brushed it off (even if you haven’t) and judge your customer service ethic accordingly. Thus, it’s vitally important to get out in front of customer complaints. Address them directly and decisively. Don’t be afraid to apologize and be accountable for the mistakes your business makes. There are very few complaints that can’t be turned around to strengthen your customers’ faith in your brand.

Being a penny pincher when it comes to ingredients and materials

No one can create a class A product using class B materials. Many entrepreneurs who are just at the start of their journey mistakenly believe the path to success lies in cutting costs to insulate their profit margins. While it’s perfectly understandable that nascent entrepreneurs might want to keep their numbers in the black, especially in those perilous early years, this logic can become counterproductive. It can lead you to under invest in your business. It can cause you to let opportunities for capital investments like equipment or better premises that can facilitate growth to pass you by. Worst of all, it can cause you to cut corners in ways that will negatively impact the quality of the products and services you offer.

[amazon_link asins=’0071441190′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’succeedingi0d-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’e59a4ce3-89c4-11e8-8abd-47023ecfab44′]If you work in the construction industry, for example, you wouldn’t besmirch the image of your brand by building foundations using substandard materials. You’d go to Helitech Civil Construction and invest in the best quality materials to get the job done right. The exact same principle goes for any business. You can’t make a delicious meal out of substandard ingredients, you can’t make coffee that keeps customers coming back using substandard beans and you can’t build reliable consumer electronics with cheap, low quality parts. Nothing will damage your brand more than inferior products made with low quality materials.

Failing to react to the needs of their customers

In business they say you should do what you love and stick to what you’re good at. And for the most part that’s pretty sound advice. But don’t let that dictum give you tunnel vision. You should stick to what you’re good at, sure. But you should also ensure that you’re listening to the needs of your consumer base, giving them what they want instead of telling them what they want. Not responding to customer needs can cause you to waste a fortune in inventory that lies untouched on the shelf. It also damages your brand. If consumers don’t feel that your brand is relevant to them or they worry that your business will not cater to their specific needs, they’ll be quite happy to take their business elsewhere.

[amazon_link asins=’B005EJAEJY’ template=’ProductAd’ store=’succeedingi0d-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’0cd26de2-89c5-11e8-8390-9dfbdd2c3770′]Cutting corners on your online presence

Your online presence is an extremely important facet of your business and forms the cornerstone of your branding. For many it will be the first and only exposure that they have to your business. As such, it’s very important that your website, social media presence and mobile app say all the right things about your business. Use a pre-programmed WordPress template and you’ll look like an amateur in a game of professionals. Cut corners on the blog posts and multimedia content you produce or outsource as part of your content marketing and you could do irreparable damage to your brand. If you outsource your written content to a cheap overseas provider, it will almost certainly be written by someone for whom English is not their first language. This may cause them to make lapses in spelling and grammar that can undermine your brand. Moreover, cheap content is rarely well researched or even factually accurate. Thus, you owe it to your business to entrust the maintenance of your online presence as well as the publishing of regular content to a dedicated member of staff or at least a trusted outsourced digital marketing company.

Appearing too small

For better for worse, rightly or wrongly customers want the best of both worlds when it comes to small businesses. They want the boutique individualized standard of customer service of a small business, but the same sense of assurance that they get from huge multinational corporations. Thus, if your business appears too small, it can undermine your brand. If, for example, your primary point of contact is a cell phone number or a gmail address, this can be an alarm bell for some customers. As such, your business must avoid appearing too small, walking that fine line so you can offer your customers the reassurance they crave.

When your business and your brand are in perfect harmony, you are in the best possible position for a successful future.


Henry Brown is an online marketing executive. When he isn’t talking shop he’s roaming the streets of London, uncovering the extra-ordinary in the ordinary.



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