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Don’t be a well-kept secret

At some point in the life of a service business the owner has to step back and attempt to understand how to realise the value of the company. For mortgage brokers running businesses built on relationships this means giving your company the credibility to go on after your departure.

Unless the company is to be valued solely on its tangible and fixed assets, a considerable premium will be missed if the service side of the business has no value. Typically this is realised as brand value. A good, recognisable brand is an asset and enables you to differentiate your business from competitors, develop stronger relationships with customers, command higher prices, and provide a platform for new products.

But what is brand value and how do you develop it? Branding is more than visual identity. It is the image of your company and shapes how customers perceive it. Ian Mcphereson of Mortgagematch Home Loans is developing his firm’s brand. He says: “As ” Brands can become valuable assets. So much so that leading companies show the value of brands on the balance sheet”our company continued to grow it was clear we needed to raise the profile of the business to keep pace with the growth and help us differentiate from other distributors. It had to emerge from being a well-kept secret to something more significant but built on the values that underpin our success to date.”

When people make buying decisions they are making in part an emotional judgement of the people they buy from. They are saying: “This is a product for me from people like me.” They are, consciously or unconsciously, weighing up the product and its price and how they feel about the company that supplies it. In markets where suppliers are essentially similar, the brand represents an intangible, and often emotional, element of the purchasing decision. The emotional element is frequently the deciding factor.

Through brands you can build more loyal relationships with customers. For these reasons, brands can become valuable assets. So much so that leading companies show the value of brands on the balance sheet.

Your brand should make a statement about the quality of the service you provide. That is, what customers can expect in terms of reliability and style, and how it differs from other firms. In being different, you must ensure the values you wish to attach to your brand are also important to the customer.

Branding adds value to your company or product in the customer’s mind through a combination of the name, image, colours, logo and packaging and must be consistent and constantly reinforced whenever you communicate with customers, particularly where they are faced with similar offerings.

Creating, developing and maintaining a brand is a long-term process and can be expensive. But it is investing in an asset that has long-term value. Remember first impressions count. It is difficult and costly to re-launch a brand. So it is worth consulting an expert in the early stages and considering carefully the issues before you start investing.

Matt Smith is managing director of WPB Creative

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