If you are considering improving your building business by joining a franchised group – assessing the strength of brand will be an important step – but how important? Let’s break it down and look at exactly what effect the brand will have on your business? What follows is some frank advice from James Stroud, founder of Stroud Homes on his experience with branding.
Q: How likely is a consumer to approach your business strictly because of the brand? How important is “brand personality” to consumers?
A: Having introduced a new brand name to the market twice, we have been able to make some interesting observations about how consumers react to a brand.
Brand Building Experience #1: Launching a national brand in a greenfield area
The first experience we had was when our family building business purchased a “greenfield” area from a national franchise group. The brand had been building occasional homes in the area, but had not had an office or display home location. Other building firms were considered to be dominant in the local market at that time and it was not uncommon to get a blank facial expression when introducing oneself!
As new franchisees, we had a sort of a “blind faith” in the brands’ ability to bring customers in the door. We soon learned that what the system really offered was a “structure” under which to promote the brand and soon initiated programs to get the brand name “out there”. We embraced the task with vigour and saw to it that every opportunity to create brand awareness was exploited whether that was the usual billboards and sign writing our cars or more randomly putting an entry in the Christmas parade and getting our name on the local sport teams’ jerseys. Locals soon warmed to the brand and the business, and we found most locals would approach us for a quote when they were building a new home because they were now comfortable with the brand.
What we learned was this:
- A consumer is not likely to approach our business strictly because of the brand – it was up to us to get the brand “out there” (but first we had to have the brand).
- Having a national brand did not excuse us from any local brand building work – we still had to put in the hard yards to make our locals love us!
Once the success of our brand awareness programs was evident, we stopped to ask ourself the question “What if we had put the same amount of brand awareness building work into another brand?” – the answer seemed obvious – it would have had the same effect. In any case, we soon had the opportunity to test our theory when we launched Stroud Homes!
Brand Building Experience #2: Launching Stroud Homes – A fresh, new brand name
With experience #1 behind us, we approached the task of establishing the brand with confidence – we had already done it once! Having had success in turning blank stares into smiles of brand recognition, I began to relish the challenge of bringing our new brand into the hearts and minds of the locals.
First task on this list was to create a great brand personality based on the values and goals in the business. What does this involve, you may ask? Short answer: A lot of time, hard work and money.
We hired a top level graphic design and marketing firm to create a brand that delivered a clear message about who we were and what we brought to the market place. At the time, it seemed like a ridiculous amount of money to lay out, but we soon found that to be money well spent.
After rolling out the upbeat green/yellow logo and our “Feels like home” tagline across our media, we quickly learned how important the brand’s personality was to our customers. We realised that they are trying to gauge the values of the business and how they will be treated if they choose to build with us. By attracting customers who were looking for a building experience they could feel comfortable with, we were soon doing business with families that wanted to build with a builder where the process “Feels like home”.
What we learned was this:
- A consumer will approach our business strictly because of the brand when they feel comfortable with the message and values in the brand.
- Consumers have an amazing ability to rapidly assess a builder based on the quality of the branding in advertising media
Q: How do you know if a brand is right for you and your team, your business?
A: If you are considering improving your building business by joining a franchised group, the best advice I can give you is to carefully assess the values and goals of the groups available.
For example, if you are considering a group where the brand awareness seems to be based around how well the company is established, how long it has been in business and how good it already is – then that may work fine for them. But if you are the sort of builder who seeks to innovate, believes that the industry needs to constantly improve and are wary of stale old ideas about how to run a building company – then you will be most surely find yourself dissatisfied working with that group.
The inverse is also true – if you are the sort of builder where you are already established, you know what you are doing and you just want some plans and a well known brand name to boost your business along – then you will probably find it frustrating being part of a group where innovation and constant improvement is a top priority.
Look for alignment with your own goals as a person, a builder and a business owner. Ask yourself how you want to be seen in your community – and how will the values of the group get you there. Don’t be afraid to consider an opportunity that will challenge you to grow as a person, a builder and a business owner.
Q: How do you know if you should launch your own brand?
A: If I have made the task of establishing a new brand and building brand awareness sound easy – don’t be mistaken! It is hard work that demands a sustained effort. Most builders don’t receive any training in this regard, nor do they normally have an opportunity to gain experience. As a result most building firms are woefully marketed.
We launched a new brand with the confidence gained from spending the previous five years successfully building the previous brand. In addition, I enjoy the work of marketing the business and it follows that I may have a knack for it.
If you feel you have the experience, the knack and would enjoy the sustained effort required to effectively launch your own brand, then by all means have a crack at it – the industry needs more good builders! Otherwise, my advice would be to find a group whose goals and values align with yours, take their brand and run with it.
James Stroud is the founder of Stroud Homes, a second generation home building franchise group. If you are interested in learning more about the Stroud Homes franchise opportunities, you can contact the Stroud Homes franchising team on 0435 803 411 or firstname.lastname@example.org