Quality. Service. Value. Experience.
It seems like almost every builder advertises some form of these things, doesn’t it? So, what sets you apart if everyone is also advertising their “quality?” How is a customer supposed to differentiate and ultimately choose you? Well, read on my friends…
Brand DNA is that immutable “organic” matter that makes up the essence of your company. It’s not your core values. It’s not your mission. It’s more encompassing. And whether you like it or not, it’s something that your customers and vendors will readily see when they talk to you or your team, visit your website, or interact with any of your social media.
It’s a common fabric that weaves together a cohesive, compelling story of your company to outsiders. And it helps differentiate your company from the crowd, so you can generate strong profitability rather than getting sucked into the low-bid game.
You are conveying messages 24/7 to potential customers whether you intend to or not…whether you like the message they are processing in their own minds or not.
Sound harsh? It has to be! We live in a time where we get solicited to in one form or another THOUSANDS of times per day. If we gave each of those thousands of messages plenty of time and research, we’d go insane. So, we have pretty advanced mechanisms in our brains for processing through the junk in a matter of seconds to find and keep only the stuff of real interest.
And while potential customers won’t be making a “buy” decision in the first few seconds of talking to you, seeing your website, or your social media, they will be making a “no-buy” decision in those few seconds if they don’t like what they see. So, to keep yourself in the game and advance a potential customer to the next step, you must get past that initial filter. This is where a well-crafted Brand DNA will set you up for success.
But first, you have to have one. Here are a few steps to craft your own, individual, authentic Brand DNA that will represent your company and convey the right message in the right way to your customers.
Call it your Brand DNA Statement, put it in writing, and make sure everyone in your company knows it. It will affect EVERY function, and EVERY employee. Here are the steps, along with some ideas to put it all into action. After all, talk is cheap, so this all must be actionable. We have to resist the norm of making a beautifully-written plan that just collects dust on the shelf.
First, define exactly what you are all about.
There are several components to this.
[Step 1] What’s your story?
This is a good warmup exercise for the rest of what’s to come. People connect to passion. And presumably, there was some sort of passion for what you do that motivated you to start.
A passion for craft.
A passion for sustainability.
A passion for helping people achieve the American Dream.
Only you know, but you need to put it in words and communicate it to the outside world, so they can connect to you and your company.
Put it into action: There is immense potential in a powerful, well-conveyed story. And even better if it’s in video, by the way. Buying a home is a trust-based transaction, and the better they “know” you, the greater advantage you have in winning their business.
[Step 2] What is your reason for existing? Your mission. Your purpose for doing what you do.
No, it can’t to be to make money! That’s a foregone conclusion. This will require reflection. You are looking for your “why.” Resist the urge to write something that sounds good, or something that you feel like it “should” be. For your mission to mean anything, it needs to be authentic.
Put it into action: Put it on your website. Put it on top of the door walking into your office. Put it wherever you can as a reminder to you and your team why you are doing what you do and keep you focused above all the daily noise.
[Step 3] What are your core values?
Try to avoid the generic trap…honesty, reliability, blah, blah, blah. Obviously, we all need to followed ethical, principled behavior, but the core values don’t necessarily need to be the place to state the obvious. Core values are a place where there are no rules, and you can get creative. Core values will direct behavior in your company to make your culture unique. Here are a few examples from my companies…
Make it happen…This means, don’t just talk. Don’t sit around expecting someone else to save you. If something needs to happen, take charge and do it!
Embrace discomfort…This means, have that uncomfortable conversation rather than putting it off. It also means, take chances. Get outside your comfort zone.
You don’t have to agree with me or buy into these, because these are individual to my companies. So, get creative, and pick only the top several values that truly resonate with what you all are about. Less is more. Too many will just get forgotten.
Put it into action: Consider opening your team/staff meetings with three to five minutes of open forum in which any team member can give a shout-out to another for something they did that “lived” a core value over the past week.
The accounting manager can give a shout out to the construction superintendent for “hitting it head on” with an issue that arose with a trade partner, and he promptly acted to resolve things. You get the idea.
This can serve to keep the core values in everyone’s mind and also generate goodwill amongst your team. While we are still on this point, you can also use your core values as pillars of evaluation for employee reviews and also hiring/firing decisions.
[Step 4] What makes you different?
Why would a customer choose you over someone else? In the building industry, this can be surprisingly hard to pin down sometimes. There is a reason though, and if you’re struggling with the answer, one of the easiest ways to find out is to poll your previous and current customers. Ask how they made the choice to buy from you. Their feedback will be enlightening, and I almost guarantee you will learn things you wouldn’t have expected.
My company differentiates ourselves through thought leadership…education…through advancing the conversation. It’s why we created Building Optimal. If you look at our social media or the way we present info to our clients, it’s often through an educational lens, establishing ourselves as preeminent experts in their eyes.
Hammer and Hand (whom I have no affiliation with, just respect for) differentiates themselves through passion for the craft. It’s why the have the name. The logo. They have in house carpenters and a mill-working shop. And if you look at their promotional material like their website, everything is cohesive. They even have “Best Practice” construction guidelines, which reinforces their expertise on the technical side of building. Everything you see with them weaves a singular story.
Put it into action: Figure this out, then package it up nicely, and make sure it’s visible for everyone to see.
Next how do you want to convey the message of what you are about?
Now you have a strong grasp on what you’re all about. Let’s translate that into a message for your team and customers.
[Step 5] Define your personality.
If you are a luxury home builder in Aspen, your message and wording needs to reflect your target market. Words like “elegant,” “luxury,” “refined,” or “unparalleled” might be appropriate choices to weave through all of your messages.
If you are building urban condos for Millenials in Atlanta, you are probably wanting to convey other messages with words like “lifestyle,” “convenient,” “modern,” or “affordable.”
This depends entirely on your target market and your culture as a company. Are you serious? Are you fun? Are you traditional? Modern? What matters is that you translate this in your messaging.
Put it into action: See steps 6 and 7.
[Step 6] Develop your primary phrasing.
Based on your personality, create your phrasing that you will use over and over (and over). Be consistent with it. My company’s phrasing that I want to sear into everyone’s head that checks us out is “craftsmanship, design, and performance.” I want my brand synonymous with those things…so I say them and write them…a lot.
Try to stick to a select set of operative, key words in your messaging. It’s better than saying a bunch of things only one time. Again, less is more.
Put it into action: Take your keywords and put them on your signage, website, in the bio of your social media, tattooed on your forehead, etc.
[Step 7] “Regale” them with high quality imagery.
Images are a currency for emotion and emotions are a currency for sales. So, one thing you can do right now…use fewer words and more images, just about everywhere.
Pictures are more interesting than words.
Videos can be even more interesting than pictures.
If you think people are reading your 10-page dissertation on your company’s commitment to quality, think again. Also, long paragraphs suck to read. Avoid both.
Put it into action: Almost everyone can benefit from more videos and images and less text. Show your quality, don’t tell them. Prove your amazing process via video testimonials, rather than asserting the same in paragraph form.
Also, invest a few hours learning how to take higher quality photos and videos. With current phone technology, it’s not hard. You don’t have to spend thousands on professionals if you don’t have the budget. Invest a little time learning. Download a good photo editor to improve the final product. And BAM!
[Step 8] Establish your visual brand guidelines.
Create a document to inform all of your external messaging that ties into what you are all about. This requires more thought than we are accustomed to giving some of these messaging details, but it’s critically important.
If you build very modern homes, a traditional New Times Roman font probably isn’t the most relevant for your documents. To make sure you are intentionally crafting a message across all media that puts your best foot forward, use a brand guidelines document.
This is more easily shown than described. Below are a few snapshots of our brand guidelines document for a non-profit I have, but it translates for builders as well…
Put it into action: Once you have your brand guidelines, this can help direct and inform your entire marketing team across all media.
[Step 9] Be consistent!!!
This is where the wheels often fall off. One font style or color here. A strange color introduced into your messaging there. Throw a little typo into the mix. This is so easy to do, and guess what it inherently reflects…
Lack of attention to detail.
Lack of attention to good design.
We are builders and contractors. That might directly contradict the message you are trying to convey. So, pay attention.
Put it into action: Create your brand guidelines document. Circulate it. Make sure all marketing, sales, and external-facing team members know it and religiously abide by it!
This is inherently an introspective exercise, but one of the most important you will do as a business owner. And when the demands of daily life take over (and we are constantly in the mode of just getting s**t done), these kinds of questions and explorations can be put off for days, months, years, and sometimes they’re never answered.
The problem is, without stepping back and finding out what we’re about, what we’re best at, and how we want to communicate that to our team and our customers, the voids will be filled with messages that our teams and customers have to make themselves. This puts us in the driver’s seat, and allows our OWN messages to be the one’s that get heard.
BTW, if you are looking to improve some of your company’s systems, head on over to the Building Optimal Shop to check out some of our swag to build a better business. Proceeds go to benefit, Exponencialistas, my non-profit investing in entrepreneurs transforming their communities in Latin America.