Hopefully, after reading last month's article on creating your brand (Part I) you're convinced that it's something you must do.

You don't want to be one of the many sources that simply sell finish plumbing products. You want to be identified as a source for design, largest display of quality products, talented/knowledgeable sales consultants and the best service available.

Branding simply (well, maybe not all that simply) involves developing and consistently communicating a group of positive characteristics that consumers can identify with and relate to your business. If these characteristics happen to fill a meaningful and available position in their minds, a need they have been wanting and trying to fill, then you just scored a marketing home-run, and you'll be well on your way to meeting your sales and profit goals.

Branding makes selling easier, and here is why. People want to buy from companies they know and like, companies they trust will be there well into the future. A brand puts forth that promise.

With a well-managed brand, your company hardly needs to introduce itself. Within your target market, people will already know you, your business personality, and your promise based on what they have seen and heard through your marketing communicators.

Last month we talked about the importance of your name.

Another element of your brand is your logo.

A graphic image that reinforces the name builds the brand. Ideally it says who you are and what you do. A logo can be a symbol (the Target target), a graphic interpretation of your business (USA Today), or both. We used a classic claw-footed tub as our logo. It was perfect when we were plumbing only - but wasn't as descriptive when we expanded into hardware and kitchens.

When choosing a logo, therefore, the essential thing is that it graphically represents to the world who you are and what is unique. Accordingly, choosing a logo is akin to naming your business. You want a logo that is distinctive, memorable and benefit-laden. (You can find some free logo generators online. A good site is www.cooltext.com.)

One way to add even more value to your logo is to incorporate a slogan with it. You will want your catch phrase to reinforce your desired image, and the benefits you offer should be incorporated into that catch phrase as part of your overall branding strategy. If you're sensing a theme here, you're right. For example:

IBM: Think

Carpet World: Elegance Underfoot

BMW: The Ultimate Driving Machine.

For you it might be: Distinctive Bath and Kitchen: Your one-stop shopping source.

These three things - your name, logo and catch phrase - are the holy trinity of your brand, and all are equally important.

Next, you want to pick colors and fonts that reinforce your emerging brand. Plumbing products involve water - so blue might be a good color, and because you probably emphasize the higher-end products, a “higher-end” font would be good.

You may need to retain a professional to help you with the logo color, catch phrase and font. There are folks who specialize in this. Search them out on the Web or in the Yellow Pages.

Do What You Do Best Again And Again

A brand is a promise that essentially boils down to: “If you buy this product, you know what you will be getting because our company stands for X, Y and Z.” For example, Volvos are safe, Nordstrom's offers great customer service - that sort of thing. This kind of branding takes time, and derives from a company doing what it does best and then making sure that everything else it does supports that value proposition. Consistency is key.

  • Offer superior service.

    Developing a brand is just the beginning. It will be all for naught and a waste of time and money if it isn't reinforced by happy customers. Customers should find it easy to work with you and buy from you. (I call this being customer friendly - all the time.)

  • Be a mensch.

Mensch is a Yiddish word that basically means “a good person.” If your business practices mensch ethics, your brand grows. Flash may bring people in the door once, but caring for them, your employees and your vendors gets people to stick with you for the long haul.

Six Steps To Brand Management

Define why you are in business. Do you just sell plumbing products or do you help create dream bathrooms and kitchens?

Consider what you want people to think when they hear and see your name. This includes current and prospective employees, customers, suppliers, competitors and friends. You cannot be different things to different groups. You must have a brand that people know and trust.

What words do you want people to use when defining your business? Do you want folks to say they sell plumbing products or they help create winning baths and kitchens?

Pinpoint the advantages you want people to associate with your business. You offer the largest, most up-to-date selection of quality finish plumbing products and your professional, knowledgeable staff will work with the customer through the whole project.

Define your brand. Using steps 1 through 4, develop a statement about what you offer, your company values, your business personality and the promise you convey to those who deal with your business. Boil your findings down into one concept - one brand definition - that tells your story. Here are a few examples: Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth; CNN is the all-news channel; Volvo is the safest car. Could your brand be, “We help turn your dreams into reality”?

Build your brand through every impression that you make. A well-managed brand creates a strong market impression, and a strong market impression fosters loyal customer behavior. Protect and project your brand through every representation of your business in the market.

Actions To Avoid

  • Looking like everyone else. To succeed, your company needs a different brand - one that stands out from the crowd. Start by identifying your strengths and building your brand around them.

    Brands need authenticity. Your brand must reflect the reality of the products and services you sell. If you are what your customers expect, they will like what they find.

  • Running out of money and energy before you implement. Once you've done the market research, come up with a name, logo, catch phrase, colors, font and a key message - you can't stop here. You'll need to replace all old business cards, letterheads, forms, signs, etc., with the new brand image. This can be phased in/out.

  • Don't underestimate the power of the Web. It's here in a big way - and growing. Many (most) of your clients will use the Web before ever venturing out of the house. This means you'll need a first class Web page that will attract clients to your showroom - then you'll have to do a first-class job of “selling” your total value-added package.

  • Don't waste valuable (and probably limited) ad and promotion budget dollars. Have a plan. Know what works and does not work. Track the results of your marketing dollars. And be sure to include your total brand message in all advertising and promotional efforts.

  • Avoid changing the brand. Once you have a sound, winning brand - stick to it. Consistency is the key. Sure, your brand will evolve over time, but it will happen with slow, subtle changes. BE CONSISTENT - always.

The bottom line is that you want to constantly reinforce the image you are creating with actions. Remember, the two keys to establishing a strong brand are developing a specific identity, and then communicating that identity consistently. Do that and your brand has begun.

If you're not sure where or how to get started, ask for help. There are many very qualified folks that can be of service - including yours truly. Good luck!