This week, Susan Hayes, a financial training and business consultant www.thepositive
based in Ireland, talks about what your brand can do for your bottom line.

“Branding is essential for any business, but most of the time the term is bandied about without much knowledge of what it actually means – and what it can do for your business. If more organisations, language schools among them, realised how crucial a brand is, especially for their bottom line, the word wouldn't have become yet another corporate catchphrase.

Your well-defined brand helps you stand out among the competition – after all, why would students choose your language school over other schools? If you don't have a clear, compelling answer, it's truly worth your while to think about it. A brand gives you internal direction, like a compass that makes running your business much more efficient. Making decisions becomes easier because options are more clear-cut: does a certain choice sit well with your company DNA, or not? I have three brand values which include “practice what I preach”, “focus on what you can do” and “practical and implementable”. People know exactly what they get when they ask me to speak at an event or book our training for their staff or buy my book. It makes it easier for audiences to relate to my experience and absorb my message, since I've been there and done that, they know that all of tips and advice will be immediately implementable and absolutely within their sphere of influence.

But what is it that makes a brand, a brand? Not your logo or the colour of your brochure. Your brand has to be quantifiable. Have you won awards? Can you quantify your customer service, as in, "we will answer your email within a day"? Can you quantify the increased employability of your students? Can you quantify how many of your students have won grants and study abroad scholarships? Can you quantify exam results, as in "85 per cent of our students have achieved “X” level or higher in accredited language exams"? Are you well-networked and as a result able to offer work placements? Do you offer a concierge service that makes it easier for out-of-town students to find accommodation for the duration of the course? Do you cater to a specific age group or demographic? Each one of these defines your offering and serves to make your business unique.

Remember that branding can always be fine-tuned, and harnessed in ever new ways. A brand directly influences the value of your business. Are you growing the number of your students, expanding into another area, another country? Your brand will help you make better business decisions, and will help you retain the "soul" of your business without diluting it, while taking it to the next level. Do you want to charge more? A well-defined differentiated proposition will be indispensable to demonstrate that you're adding more value than cheaper competitors. If you’re planning to sell a whole or part of a business in the future, the amount that you can raise will be directly proportional to the strength of the brand.

It's never too late to start thinking and articulating your brand and it's a very exciting process that breathes new life into your business. Enjoy it!”

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