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In the big picture, it may seem like basic knowledge that your employees affect your brand. You go out to eat with friends and your waitress—let’s call her “Tammy”—acts completely inconvenienced by your presence. She rarely stops by your table. When you flag her down to ask for something, she answers with attitude. She forgets that you asked for a side of dressing, and she doesn’t come refill your drink; she swiftly, and almost rhetorically, asks if you need anything else as she plops your check down onto the table. Some individuals might think “Wow, Tammy must be having a bad day”, but most of us would be thinking “the service here is not good” and think twice before coming back.
It’s as clear as day when it comes to someone else’s business, especially food service or retail; what about your business? Many of us focus only on the service or product we provide; we forget that customer experience is greatly affected by the attitude of every person they encounter along the way, in person or on the phone.
A lot of times, it’s a matter of being too close to see it. You hired your friend’s niece as a receptionist, and although she isn’t winning Employee of the Month anytime soon, you overlook it as a personal favor to your friend. Maybe it’s your family member. Or maybe you just don’t want to be the strict kind of boss you always hated. Your reasoning doesn’t really matter. You have to stop letting bad work ethic or bad attitudes fly. It’s dragging down your brand.
Be the Boss
I hate to break it to you, but your employees aren’t meant to be your friends. Your friends are your friends. Your employees are subordinates. This doesn’t mean you can’t have positive and friendly interactions; it means that you’re a boss first. Maybe it sounds like a power trip to you, but it’s not. Well, maybe a little bit, but it’s a necessary one. Your employees should be somewhat afraid of you. They should be afraid to break rules in front of you, or to underperform. They should not feel free to complain in front of you or have visible mood swings. They shouldn’t feel like you’re going to let them get by with subpar job performance without saying something. It's a form of respect that has to be present for you to be able to run your business effectively.
Creating A Winning Culture
It’s important for you to realize that you create a culture within your business. The work environment you create and allow is what everyone will go by. You have to set clear boundaries on the kind of behavior that is acceptable and the kind that is unacceptable. It doesn’t mean that your employees should be robots who aren’t allowed to have feelings. It does mean they have respect for the work environment and deal with things in a professional way. This also means you should lead by example and not let your emotion or mood affect the environment in any way that’s not positive.
Bad attitudes are toxic and contagious. If you allow one employee’s mood swings to go unchecked, they will only get worse with time and will likely pull down the overall environment. It’s crucial that you correct it. If you don’t, it will spill over into their interactions with your clients/customers.
In the same way, good attitudes and job performance can also be contagious. I worked with a business whose employees were bogged down with an incredible amount of quotas and goals. They felt as though they were unattainable, and were discouraged. They’d get reprimanded when one of their multiple monthly goals wasn't met, so it felt as if the ones they did meet didn’t matter. It was an environment that constantly produced bad energy. A new manager came in and shifted focus. He broke down some of the more attainable goals and focused on them first, providing practical steps for every transaction. He celebrated the progress when those steps produced results. In one week, he had changed the environment so much that not only were the easier goals being blown away with record-breaking sales, they were meeting the harder-to-reach ones more than ever... because the employees were encouraged and excited about the new environment.
Be Diligent With Performance Reviews
Your employees will be as unruly as you allow them to be (in most cases). What you allow in minimum will be done in excess when you’re not looking. Being intentional about a positive and professional environment lets them know what you expect, which makes it easier to address the negativity if or when it rears its head. Giving regular feedback keeps the dialogue going. It keeps your employees in check and reminds them that you’re watching. This gives you control of the employee-aspect of your brand, and may also provide you with helpful feedback.
This all doesn’t mean you have to be a leader who rules with an iron fist; if you are able to find balance, you can be both a boss that has high expectations, but is also personable and inspiring.
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Ok. Take a step back. Think about 2015 and all of the marketing you did for your brand. Were you on-schedule and well-prepared, or were you scrambling to create graphics or images for your posts and running late? If you’re in the latter group, fret not. Acknowledgement is the first step. The next step (which should immediately follow) is strategizing how to be better in 2016.
“But where do I even start?” you ask. It’s funny that you asked, because we have the perfect tool to make it easier for you to strategize, build a plan and stick to it! And lucky for you, it doesn’t involve paying for an expensive conference/seminar. This marketing calendar template has space for you to keep track of any holidays, seasonal promotions and campaigns that you want to promote, make task lists for what needs to be done (and by what date), and the start and end date that you push them on social media. It includes all major holidays, and you can add any fun holidays that would be good for promotions (here is a great list of fun holidays by month).
If your business has it’s biggest sale/promotion coming up, you can mark when you want to start promotions and in the months leading up to it you can set deadlines to create art for posts and complete tasks to make it happen! These are the small things that become big things and leave you in a late night rush to create graphics when you forget until the last minute. This tool will keep everything you need to be mindful of right in front of your face so you will remember to prepare!
Some months you’ll have promotions going and no shortage of post ideas. Sometimes it’s a slower season for actual events or promotions but inspiration hits and you have endless ideas; other times it can be a challenge to come up with the right subject for a post and enough material to make it compelling. This calendar is an asset because you can put in any holiday, observance, trending topic or event that could help you generate and schedule great posts and even build a well of great material to draw from!
Make 2016 a year of strategic marketing for your business by planning your marketing material in advance! Not just your events and promotions; add anything that could spur posts (i.e. social and sporting events that get lots of attention can be great platforms for your posts depending on your industry). Social media marketing can make your brand look exciting or dead, professional or low-quality. Be intentional with what you present to your audience.
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If you’re trying to build a business, “branding” is probably a word you’ve heard and read incessantly on your quest to getting established. The problem is, it can seem like a vague term that goes out and never really lands. You may have a general idea of what good branding is, but have been so involved with your business that it’s impossible to take an objective look. Good branding is memorable. It’s definitive. Unfortunately, bad branding is often both of those things, as well. The even more unfortunate thing is that branding that is not memorable is just as bad. Just because you haven’t thought about it, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a brand. Everyone has a brand—intentional or not. The day you begin to strategize and take control of it is the day your business begins to move toward the identity it’s meant to have. That sounds nice, but what does it mean? We’re here to help you take the practical steps toward building a brand that will last!
Singers have to work on their voices and rehearse their songs. Athletes have to practice. Most artists work on their craft long before they achieve their masterpiece. For some reason, we tend to believe that our first business idea and model is gold, and we aren’t willing to take an honest look at how it could improve. Great branding [usually] doesn’t just come naturally. It is strategized, planned, and facilitated, very intentionally. In order to do this, you must first be self-aware. This means evaluating your current brand and every component of it. It means being willing to change from what you like to what your target audience is looking for.
2. Determine Your Target Demographic/Audience
Speaking of target audience, we need to talk. You might not want to narrow it down. After all, why would you want to rule out any possible business, right? Wrong. To determine your target audience is not to eliminate others, it’s to zero in on the image/brand that will pull in the most clients. Beer companies market to men, although plenty of women buy and drink beer. Many cereal companies market directly to children, but that doesn’t stop me from eating a bowl as a late night snack (I know I’m not the only one). Target audience is important: If you’re marketing to everyone, you’re marketing to no one. Your desperate attempt to make your business appeal to everyone only makes it appear as though you don’t know who you are or what you have to offer.
3. Get Honest Feedback
You may be too involved to be objective. Get others to give you feedback. Your mom doesn’t count. (She loved your macaroni art as a kid and told you that pixie cut looked nice on you—she clearly isn’t objective.)
The best people to ask are those who have established businesses and strong branding. Ask about the vibe your logo, website, and branding give. Ask if they were shopping around for your product/services, what they would be looking for, and what their concerns would be. Ask who they would guess your target demographic is, based on your current brand image. Ask what they think you could improve.
Be careful not to ask questions that will solicit positive answers unless they are earned. Instead of “do you like my website?” ask “what could I do to make this site more user friendly?” Their answers will help you see the brand you’re really conveying. It may sting, but it’s better to have hurt feelings now than to miss out on business.
4. Develop A Brand Accordingly
This is where it is totally worth it to hire a professional. They will not only build you an appropriate logo, but they will build an entire visual concept for your business. Most non-designers don’t fully understand what a logo is, let alone how to pair the right designs, patterns, textures and fonts to create a solid brand. If you hire a professional to build your brand, they’ll give you all of the tools to implement it without compromising the design.
5. Stick To That Brand Without Compromise
In order to have a memorable brand, you must be consistent. Conflicting designs and fonts will wreck the whole aesthetic of your brand. Continuity is crucial. H&M is a great example: They have their simple logo and a secondary font that are always paired together. They’re so consistent with it that I can see a price tag or a commercial and, long before their logo appears, I know it’s H&M because of the font pairings. To facilitate good branding, you must have a set of rules for your logo and the elements paired with it and stick to them. It’s easy to feel like a different aesthetic might be appropriate for a different piece or promotion, but as soon as you compromise your branding, you lose the DNA you’ve worked so hard to establish. Resist the urge to jump on trend bandwagons and establish a brand that will last!
We hope this propels you to take control of your brand in 2016! We would love to help you design or redesign your brand! Contact us to get started!
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Subterra is a music group based out of Harrison, AR, where Scott has created a studio with an at-home, comfortable vibe to encourage and inspire creativity. Branding Bistro has had the privilege of doing extensive work with Scott and Subterra, and even designed the album covers for all of the artists’ projects.
Make sure to check them all out! Like them on Facebook, listen to their music, and wish them luck! If they make it to the next round, they are among the elite group of official GRAMMY nominees! Congrats and great work! If you’re reading this and you’re a musician looking for a place to record, make sure to contact Subterra Music Group so you can work with the incredible Scott Hoffman! You’ll be glad you did.
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If you're reading this, there's a good chance we've already spoken with you or told you to come to this site. Why do we know that? Not through any sorcery or psychic intuition, but because we are brand new. Not new to design; that's actually why Branding Bistro was birthed... (Aren't you so glad we used the term "birthed"?) Both Liz and myself have been doing freelance design, promotions and consulting for several years now, and we finally had the brilliant idea to combine efforts and offer our services from a more established platform. So here it is. After much planning and preparation, we are ready to take off officially, and we're so glad you're here with us!
We don't want this first introduction to get long and boring (you're welcome), so feel free to read more about us, personally and professionally, here. To give you the CliffsNotes version, we are two relatively young ladies who have a passion for presentation. We've both been designing logos, promotions, and much more for companies and assisting them in branding. Doing so has made us very aware that many businesses and public figures carry out their branding aimlessly, just letting it happen instead of strategizing. The problem with this style of business is that many times it means you are communicating a brand that (a) does not reach your target demographic, (b) communicates bad business, or (c) communicates bad taste. When you just let the chips fall where they may, you are not in control. Our goal is to help you take control of the brand you are conveying to the world.
So contact us! Hit us up for a consultation about your business. We can talk about your current branding and what you'd like for it to be. We would love to work with you, and hopefully you'll love working with us! We're not limited to full branding packages; we'll also design promotional art or websites for you that will be consistent with your current branding if you're satisfied with it. Check out our Services Menu for more ideas of what we can do to help! See more of our work in our Portfolio, and look for more from us in the future. There are still plenty of branding projects that are not fully finished and will be available for your viewing pleasure soon, so check back in with us!