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Five ways to future proof your business

Starting up a start-up? Rethinking your current market positioning? Or maybe your brand just needs a refresh to get through Covid and beyond. Thankfully, Clare Sheffield, founder of brand studio Strong and Together Design has the answers.

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We all know someone whose business was affected – maybe even decimated – by lockdown and coronavirus, whether it was friends, partners or even our own livelihoods. I know that had a spring with some severe head scratching on how to bring out a going out guide when no-one could go out 😱.

Those businesses left standing are still facing uncertain times – so what can they do to protect their precious homegrown jobs and talent? Talk to Clare Sheffield for starters! After 11 years working for a top design agency in London and then 10 more running her own brand design firm in Newbury, she’s something of an expert in strategically-positioning businesses and showing how brilliant branding can make a real difference. We asked her for her tips on how to stay afloat, relevant and indispensable. Over to you Clare.

1/ Understand your customer

The most important way you can future proof your business is to understand your customer. Ask yourself, “What are their aspirations? What problems might they have? What is my product or service solving or providing for them?” You know, it might be that somebody wants the greatest burger in Hampshire or the most fashionable drink, or the coolest jeans. And the more detail you can get about your customer – their lifestyle choices, where they shop, where they eat –  the more informed you are on how you should talk to them.

2/ Be clear on your USP

You have to understand your business’s point of difference and how your service or product sits in context. For instance, are you the only vegan restaurant in the county with 50% raw meals on the menu? Or, are you redefining boxed wine? If your customers understand why you’re different, it makes it easier for them to buy from you.

3/ Know what benefit your product provides

Let’s take the boxed wine example. Ask yourself why would a customer buy it? What’s in it for them? Well, the big selling point is that they can pour themselves a glass and the wine in the box stays fresh. Or, say, if you were introducing rum as the new gin, you might sell the benefits as being gluten-free, zero carbs and generally vegan. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and ask, ‘Why would they want my product? How does it help them?’

4/ Use design to communicate

Use your brand identity, your logo, your signage, your packaging, your marketing materials, your environment – whether that’s physical or digital – to communicate your product. And to tell people about it in the right way, you need to have the right logo, the right colour palette, the right fonts and say the right thing in your messages. It can’t be just about the words, it can’t be just about the design. It’s about how they come together; it’s how they work together to say the right thing about your brand.

5/ Don’t stop thinking about your customer

When you’ve done your brand and your identity and you’re underway, that’s not the end of it.  You’ve got to constantly review and think about your customer. So I think half of this point is the need to be really consistent. Being consistent with your message and your visual branding will, in turn, build loyalty. The more times a customer is exposed to a consistent message and look and feel, the more they remember it and become loyal to it. The second half of the point is that if your customers’ needs and aspirations change then as a brand, you need to respond to those evolved needs. We’ve seen many businesses do that during lockdown – for instance, people no longer require a meal out, they need a meal in. Respond to the changing needs of your customer and make sure you’re servicing them. Because if you stop listening and reevaluating, then that’s where the separation between what you’re saying as a brand and how you’re perceived by the audience begins.

Clare Sheffield

For more information on Strong and Together Design, visit sandtdesign.co.uk.

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