CHARLOTTE, N.C. — “We help you have a better image” is a line that many textile rental companies tell prospective customers when asked why they should be hired for linen or uniform services.
But rarely do we in the industry take a step back to objectively analyze our own brands. We know it’s important, but in the changing routine of day-to-day priorities, it’s apt to fall way down the list.
When was the last time you stopped to analyze your logo, tagline, website, social media and marketing materials? Do they offer consistency across all platforms in appearance and message to your prospects and customers? Do they evoke an image that you are proud of, and one that is relevant to your universe of potential customers? Is your brand current and relevant?
The first step in making improvements to your image is to organize a brand audit. Whether you do this internally or with a third-party consultant, you’ll want to assemble all the materials that represent your company.
This laundry list of items includes, but is not necessarily limited to, your name, logo, business cards, letterhead, brochures, product sheets, website and social media pages.
Also pay special attention to internal documents, such as new hire or new customer welcome packets, standard operating procedures, and even internal memos and documents.
While evaluating the various components, assess their utility. Are they necessary to your marketing effort? Try to put yourself into a prospective customer’s mindset and take a fresh look at what you’ve laid out. Is there consistency in the materials? Are they up-to date? Do they project the image you want your customers to see?
In the hustle and bustle of the textile rental business, we often handle each marketing issue as it pops up. Need a brochure? Quick, throw one together. Need more information on your website? Just add a page here and there. Need new business cards? Just order something fast without checking for consistency.
While these may seem to be minor stopgaps, piecemeal changes accumulate over time, diluting your brand and hampering your perception as a market leader. After all, why should someone select you as custodian of their brand when you can’t manage your own?
For starters, when was the last time you took a look at your own logo … a close look? In an industry where independent companies tend to be passed down from generation to generation, has your logo been passed down as well?
If you want your customers to see you as fresh and relevant, your logo needs to represent future potential. Evaluate the imagery you are using and look at it with a fresh set of eyes to make sure that your logo is not too dated, generic or cartoon-like.
Has your primary business changed? Many laundries started out as dry cleaners or something else and evolved over the years. Does your brand represent your current operation? Your prospect is more likely to seek obvious business partners than spend time working to figure out what business is open for.
Once you’ve taken a closer look at your logo, begin to review all the pieces of your “identity package,” including your business cards, letterhead, envelopes, notecards, etc. Make certain each piece has a clear objective and that it complements the other parts of the package.
You want to be sure that employees aren’t stretching your logo or changing the colors in any way. Brand consistency is of the utmost importance; seemingly minor inconsistencies can subtly communicate a lack of reliability and professionalism.
Next, evaluate all the other places where you use your logo—signage, trucks, employee uniforms, brochures, etc. Do they look as if they are coming from the same company? Are they formatted the same?
If you change logos and don’t want to throw all your current materials away instantly, ensure you set a timeline for when you will have completed the change and eliminate all old materials.
Whether you have an internal marketing department or you use an outside agency or consulting firm, any true marketing partner will tell you that first you have to take a true look at who you are and evaluate how you are perceived. That’s the goal of the branding audit.
Next, they’ll work with you to understand where you want to go as a business. How do you want to be perceived? In other words, what is your aspirational brand message, and how do you protect your rental company from entering a mature and stagnant phase in its business lifecycle?
Once you know who you currently are and who you want to be, your marketing team should be able to help build a strategic communication plan to get you there while growing sales along the way. Branding yourself properly means more of your prospective customers will entrust you with helping them protect their own image.
Ironing out your image may take a few top-line dollars, but in every business sector, leaders know it delivers bottom-line results.