Steaming coffee. Sticky-sweet pancakes piled high with fruit. The scent of sizzling sausage patties.
Everybody’s heard of IHOP, the International House of Pancakes. But in the summer of 2018, IHOP had a problem. Aside from serving steaming stacks of flapjacks, IHOP also served lunchtime fare, specifically burgers. Despite expanding their menu, lunch sales were a flop.
So what did IHOP do? They temporarily changed their name to IHOB: the International House of Burgers. It may sound silly, but this shameless ploy for attention got IHOP what they wanted. In an “any coverage is good coverage” move, IHOP got eyeballs on its brand.
But was changing their name the right kind of attention? I don’t think so. This temporary rebranding, although amusing, is an example of how not to brand.
IHOP went against everything its customers knew about the brand (y’know, the International House of Pancakes). Some customers actually thought IHOP was getting out of the pancake business altogether. They had to do quite a bit of scrambling to clarify their message.
Competing burger brand Wendy’s had a field day with IHOP’s misstep.
Entrepreneurs can learn a valuable lesson from the IHOP burger debacle. While your brand might not have huge international recognition yet, it’s incredibly important for your brand to convey the right message.
The critical value of your personal brand
Every entrepreneur needs to be a branding superhero. Whether you’re just starting out or have been running a profitable business for years, your brand is your meal ticket. Save yourself from the villains of self-employment by realizing the real worth of your brand.
Your personal brand isn’t a fluffy, “woo-woo” strategy. It’s a must-have. While you’ve probably devoted hours of time to brand your business, have you dedicated the same time to your own personal brand?
Your personal brand might not be identical to your business brand, but it deserves your attention. A personal brand complements your business brand, lending more credibility to you as a professional. But why do we care about personal branding?
A lack of good, consistent branding can have disastrous consequences for your business. As we’ve seen with IHOP, even big brands can fall prey to bad branding and tarnishing their hard-won place in the market.
Your personal brand is your ticket to freedom. Your brand is the difference between desperately searching for clients and having clients knocking down your door. Have you ever wondered why some entrepreneurs don’t struggle to make ends meet, while others do? I would bet money that the difference isn’t in their quality of work but in their branding.
Your personal brand makes you stand out. Clients shouldn’t choose you just based on your expertise. They choose you because of who you are and your values. In short, they pick you because of your brand.
Don’t pull an IHOP and give mixed signals to your potential clients. It will diminish your current clients’ trust, lower your quality and put up a roadblock to new business.
Let’s stop crossing wires
You might know the value of having a clarified brand, but how can you actually check to see if your brand is clear or not? Start by getting out of your own head.
Write it down
Is your branding actually written somewhere? I’m talking about more than jotting down your hex codes or social handles on a sticky note. I’m talking about a proper branding document. It should be your framework for reviewing work and behavior. It’s hard to evaluate your brand if you don’t have anything to compare it against. Start by writing everything down.
Survey current and past clients
Sometimes entrepreneurs get stuck in our own heads. It’s easy to assume you’re coming across one way when you’re actually projecting a totally different image. The easiest way to see how you’re coming off to clients is to ask them directly. This depends on your relationship with the clients, but you should be able to get honest feedback from happy customers.
To make it easier, try sending clients a quick survey that’s no more than five questions. Ask them about the general “feel” of your brand. Make sure their feedback jives with your written brand framework. If not, go back to the drawing board!
Join an accountability group
I believe there’s nothing more powerful than a group of entrepreneurs working together. Join a local feedback group for entrepreneurs in your niche. Meet regularly to exchange feedback, talk shop and help each other grow.
If you dream of waking up to a flood of emails begging for your services, it’s time to get serious about clarifying your personal brand. Branding with effective messaging is your ticket to doing what you love with less sleepless nights.