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Ready to Expand Your Brand? Don't Make These 4 Critical Mistakes

Make sure you know why you want to expand, make sure you have the cash required to expand -- then avoid making these four mistakes.

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So, you want to expand your business. That can be a very good thing — it means you're doing well. But, first, determine why you want to grow. It could be to achieve greater profit, to seize the opportunity to diversify your business, to expand as a prelude to selling your business or it could be something else.

Make sure you know why you want to expand, make sure you have the cash required to expand — then avoid making these four critical mistakes:

1. Failing to create and stick to brand guidelines

If your brand isn't easy to understand, and if you have inconsistent branding, you can confuse consumers. And with confusion, comes a disconnect from a potential consumer.

Branding refers to the clothes worn or sold at your business, how your business moves and how it speaks. Branding telegraphs your business's mood (such as happy, energetic, thoughtful), your business's style (such as sedate, dignified, silly or fun), and your business's identity (what your brand represents).

Brand guidelines determine how your brand lives in the world. Guidelines can include color schemes, writing styles, how the logo is used, visuals and imagery. They are meant to protect and preserve the uniqueness, integrity and intellectual (and intrinsic) value of your brand and include how these elements are used, where they are used and what sort of feelings are stimulated in your customers' minds as a result.

The more your branding is disjointed, seen in incongruent contexts or is viewed as being devaluing or confusing, the harder it will be for a consumer to identify with what your brand is offering. If you don't get the chance to tell your existing brand story in a consistent and compelling way, then it would be even harder to make the case for why your brand is expanding.

Related: Branding Is More Than an Accessory: It's the Foundation of Any Business

2. Compromising authenticity and originality

Remember who you are as a business, why you got started and what your original mission and vision are, and stick to what your unique selling proposition is.

Consumers believe that authentic brands: are honest about their products and services; are not only interested in making money above all else; are transparent about ingredients, materials and country of origin; are socially and environmentally responsible; and have a cool, fascinating or relevant brand story.

In addition to being true, be clear and simple. Stay away from jargon and buzzwords, and avoid being overly scientific or technical. Complexity does not equal authority. Copywriting gurus typically use Microsoft Word's built-in Flesch-Kincaid Grade level index when developing copy. This index measures how much education a person needs to understand a text.

These experts tell us that when the opportunity comes to convey a message, remember the adage that if a fourth-grader can understand it, you are probably on the right track. Why? Because each time you communicate about your brand, you're competing with the hundreds or thousands or even millions of other stories on a page or display — don't make your copy feel like homework.

Related: It's Not You, It's Your Story: Why Branding Matters

3. Neglecting the customer experience

You can have the prettiest website and the most incredible social media posts, but if the user experience with your brand comes across as superficial and sparkly (without substance), you are going to lose more than you win.

Implementing systems that resolve customer service issues promptly, making sure the buying experience is enjoyable and making sure the post-purchase experience is even better, are ways to ensure your expansion will be successful. At the end of the day, if a consumer enjoys doing business with a brand, they are more likely to continue to engage.

One bad customer experience might not only mean one customer lost but also the five people that person tells or the thousands of people who view that person's reviews on Google, Yelp, Trustpilot, Amazon and elsewhere.

Related: How to Optimize Your Branding

Not guiding customers through your changes

Change may be necessary for your business but, if you properly curate how this is communicated to your customers, it will reduce confusion and a disconnect from your brand. Being proactive and thoughtful about your expansion, and how it is viewed, could also include asking your customers what they think. Ask for their help in choosing a new logo, name, slogan, packaging, etc.

Social media is ideal for involving your customers, and prospective customers, keeping them engaged and feeling included. Avoiding these pitfalls essentially boils down to branding intelligently, being true to yourself and showing appreciation to your customers, which is great advice for all businesses, whether you're expanding or not.

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