Representing your business when you’re not in the room

10 November 2017

I asked copywriter Michelle Nicol to talk about what branding means to her. She kindly wrote me a guest blog with a great exercise included on how to you use your brand to represent your business. Michelle tells all….

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

That quote by Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos is often used in discussions about brand. I think it’s a useful one because it points to a truth that can often be missed when thinking about your business brand.

Brand isn’t about logo, or colours, or messages and straplines. It’s about inspiring human connections and emotions. How do people feel about doing business with you?

Don’t believe me? Let me try an experiment with you…

What do you think of if I say ‘Ryanair’? What associations come to mind?

How about if I say ‘Virgin Airlines?

Both companies offer the same service (flying people from A to B), but chances are you’ll think of those two brands very differently, even if you’ve never flown with them.

Try another pairing. How about Disney and Looney Tunes? Again, two companies that produce family entertainment, but two subtly different brands.


What does this mean for a small business brand?

You may be thinking it’s all very well for big companies who can afford to spend a fortune on marketing to ensure that their brand is at the forefront of your mind, but what about me and my small business?

Small businesses do have an advantage over some of the big brands because we know our business relies on us as people doing business with other people. And because we can control what we say and do to reflect our own business brand.

How do I represent my business brand?

Think about how and where your business brand appears. Chances are you’ll have a website. You may have a shop or regularly appear at events and conferences. You may have a presence in social media platforms.

Commercial photography Morpeth Newcastle

When you’re in the same room as other businesses and prospective customers, you give off lots of clues about the kind of business you represent. At networking and other events, it comes through in the way that you dress, whether you’re approachable or aloof, how you speak and interact with people, as well as what you say in person and through your marketing materials.

Now think about your regular everyday business. How do you communicate with your customers? Through your website, social media, telephone, email or newsletters?

When you’re not physically face-to-face in the room with your customers, communication loses some of those extra nuances.

Speaking on the phone, people can’t see whether you’re in your pyjamas or wearing a suit and tie, but they will judge from your tone of voice and what you say whether or not they feel you’re dealing with them in a professional manner.

When it comes to communications that are largely written, such as emails, newsletters and social media posts, customers can’t hear your tone.

”Do you want people to think

of your business as professional?”

How many times have you read a text or message and thought it was a bit off-hand? They might have thought it was funny or sarcastic, but without the clues in their voice, it’s easily misinterpreted.

business women portrait

That’s why, when it comes to written communications for your brand, your words have to work really hard. Without all those outside influences to back them up, you have to make sure your brand message is clear and consistent.

How do I do make sure my brand message is clear?

Here’s a quick exercise to help you think about how you represent your brand when you’re not there in person.

Think about what you would like your ideal customers to say about your business. What kind of words would you like them to use?

Do you want people to think of your business as professional? How about friendly? Approachable? Quirky? Stylish? Exclusive? Kid-friendly? Value for money? Or something else?

Write down the top 3 or 4 adjectives that you think best sum up your business brand from a customers’ point of view.

Now ask some of your customers to describe your business brand in 3 or 4 words.

Score 2 points for any words that exactly match the adjectives you chose. Score 1 for any that are similar. Score -2 for any that are the exact opposite.

Add up your scores. A positive result shows that you’re on the right track. A negative one indicates that you have work to do.

Taking time to think about how the words you use on your website, in social media and throughout the whole of your marketing mix can give you a good insight into how you present your business brand.”

If you need some help finding the right words to represent your brand and attract customers, then a copywriter, like Michelle Nicol, can help you.

Michelle is a copywriter, trainer and brand storyteller who helps businesses tell their story through words that attract attention. A former BBC journalist, she loves nosing out a great story and sharing her writing expertise through training and workshops. @I_am_word_struck

For more blogs on Business branding check out How To Create Trust In Your Brand Through Images or The Importance of defining a Brand