In May 2014, our company designed our new brand, tagline, positioning statement, and brand guidelines.
Two days after we launched, someone needed to create a PowerPoint presentation. To get the logo to fit into a tight spot, someone reduced the width of the logo by 50%, kept the height the same, and squished the logo into the document. Not that’s what I call a branding mistake.
And that was two days after we launched.
I often found myself acting as our company’s internal branding police fixing not just this branding mistake & problem, but, many others. I was constantly overseeing a long list of branding mistakes which constantly bothered me.
Here’s what I learned: If you’re not super vigilant about maintaining your company’s professionalism, things can quickly get out of hand.
A certain level of decorum and professionalism needs to appear in all of your business communication, including the way your staff emails your customers, formats your testimonials, and dresses for video meetings.
Below, I’ve listed seven items (in no particular order) that I find particularly bothersome. If your company is committing these branding violations, then it’s time to call the internal branding police to fix, and stop these branding mistakes from happening in the first place.
7 Common Branding Mistakes Most Small Businesses Keep Making
Love and Business Don’t Mix
And no, I’m not referring to internal office dalliances. (That’s an entirely different discussion.) Rather, I’m talking about using the word “love” in the context of a business email or voicemail.
When I was in grade school, I had an English teacher who actually penalized any student who used the word “nice” in a paper or on a test. She wanted us to expand our vocabulary, and use words that were more descriptive than “nice.”
Even though it was extreme, her insistence has stuck with me all these years, so I still make a conscious effort not to use that word. Whenever I see or hear the word “nice,” I immediately think of that teacher. In fact, I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with the word “nice”, other than it’s not that descriptive. But because of my teacher, it sets off a Pavlovian negative reaction in me.
Likewise, whenever I see the word “love” in a business email or voicemail, I’m immediately turned off. (No pun intended.)
Consider a salesperson sending me an email that says, “I would love to connect with you to discuss our products.” OK, just because you’d love to, does that mean it’s something I’m interested in doing? And if I’m not, do I have to agree anyway?
I use the word “love” very discriminately. For instance, I say it when I talk to my immediate family.
I would LOVE it if sales and businesspeople stopped using that word. It doesn’t have a place in business communications. In an ad (or a blog article about word choice) perhaps, but not in a business email.
For goodness’ sakes, please spell my name correctly.
It’s not “Jeffery.” It’s Jeffrey, and I prefer Jeff anyway.
Check your email before clicking send. I enjoy using Grammarly so much that I’ve signed up for the premium service. Spell-check is a standard feature on most email programs and word processors. The basic package is free, and it includes spell-check. Try it.
Email Formatting – The Common Small Business Email Mistake
The appearance of your email is important. It should be formatted appropriately. Make it look professional. The spacing between lines, sentences, and paragraphs should be consistent. Same thing with fonts and capitalizations. Capitalize the words that should be capitalized, and use the same font (ideally, the same corporate font) for all business emails.
Logos – Don’t Squish Your Logo
Does your company have a professionally designed logo?
If not, get one.
If you do (which I’m guessing 99% of you do), remember the example from the intro of this article: It isn’t OK to bastardize the font because you’re trying to cram it into a letterhead or PowerPoint presentation.
Grammar – This is Easy to Fix
Especially if English is your second language, grammar could be a more challenging problem for you than others on this list. You don’t need to be a wordsmith and follow the Chicago Manual of Style. But if you have difficulty with grammar, definitely sign up for the paid version of Grammarly, or hire a freelance editor. You can fix this one quite easily with a free Grammarly account.
I’m not very concerned about how my staff dresses in the office, but if they need to present to clients, then it’s very important that they look clean, presentable, and professional.
Answering the Phones – Answer Professionally
It’s important that you consider how your company answers the phones. The way you greet your customers is part of your branding.
Do you have an automated attendant that dumps the caller into a long list of menu options? Or do you allow the caller to press “0” to reach an operator?
How about your call center? Do you make callers wait on hold for 20 minutes to speak with an agent?
How does your staff answer the phones? A simple “hello” just isn’t sufficient. Every staff member needs to at least give his or her name. For instance, my minimum greeting is, “Jeff Wiener speaking.” Ideally, I warmly say, “Good Morning, thanks for calling. You’ve reached Jeff. How can I help you?”
If you’re not super vigilant about the points I address above, your staff may take a path of laziness, rudeness, or even ineptitude. And that’s assuming that everyone wants to do a great job in his or her role, and that no one is intentionally committing a brand faux pas.
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