What Does Branding Mean To Instructors?
If you are a firearms instructor, you are likely operating as a business. Usually it’s a bare bones operation and you are required to wear a lot of different hats, including owner, operator, accountant, marketing director, scheduler, not to mention the actual job of instructing.
If you are focused on instructing, it can be easy to forget the other important jobs required to keep your business alive and thriving. There are a lot of people who are great instructors but aren’t necessarily good at the other elements of running a business. You have credentials and a desire to teach and it seems like that is all it should take. Well I’m sorry to say that is not all that it takes.
This post is intended to target instructors who don’t have a lot of experience with Branding. If you are well experienced then much of the following will be things you may already know. But you still might learn something if you read on.
First, let us define “Branding”. Branding is the image that you project outward into the market. This is not just a logo or a name. Branding encompasses your image, your reputation, your ethic and your core values. Branding is what associates your logo with the immediate recognition by the viewer with what they already know about your through previous interactions with your brand or with other’s who know your brand. Your brand, in essence, is an idea. It’s the idea of who or what you are as a company. You are not just a Firearms Instructor, you are a Firearms Instructor who fill in the blank.
When you understand your brand as a multifaceted image, you can start to manage your brand more efficiently. Deconstructing your brand into defined elements can help you manage each aspect in an intelligent and effective way.
Logos & Identity – Where To Start
The starting place for most people is the name and logo. This is a natural place to start but it should get more attention then just a conversation with friends around a few pints. There are some questions you should ask an answer about who you are and what your goals are. What kind of customer are you trying to attract? In the context of firearms instruction, are you teaching beginners or is your focus on more advanced students, long range shooting or simply handgun, competition or self defense? What is your teaching style, your credentials, your image? Are you forecasting growth into other elements of the industry or do you plan to stay in one lane?
The same questions should be considered when you are developing a logo. People are more likely to recognize and remember a symbol than a name, so your logo should go hand in hand with your name. There are many professional logo creation services that can help you create a logo, but it helps immensely if you have a general idea of what you are looking for as far as branding before you hand off the design to someone else.
Now that you have the fun stuff out of the way and you feel like you are finally on your way to realizing your goal of becoming an instructor, you can sit down and start doing the real work of defining and building your brand. Building and maintaining a brand is a long term strategy and you need to approach it as such. Your brand never takes a day off.
Consistency Is Key To Success
The most important element of brand building and management is CONSISTENCY. Once you have decided what image and ethos you want to project outward, stick with it. Everything you do should reflect your brand. This is especially true when you are in the early stages of building your brand. The easier it is for people to understand exactly what you do and who you are, the more likely they are to remember you in the context that you want them to. This doesn’t mean that you cannot grow into new areas in the future, but this must be done carefully. Consistency can feel repetitive and exhausting sometimes, but it pays off in the long run. Your goal is that eventually, your brand speaks for itself based on its history.
What does consistency look like? Let’s talk about some examples.
If you are using social media to get your brand in front of people, you should be generating content on a regular basis. There is no one-size-fits-all quota, but setting a goal to generate X number of posts every day, or every X number of days is important. When someone finds you and they review how often you are posting, a consistent output lets them know that you are active and engaged. Consistent output also sets you apart from the competitors who aren’t willing to put in the grueling work to stay at the front of the line when it comes to the attention of your potential customers.
Another example of consistency is the content of your output. This is the message you are broadcasting about yourself into the market. Your message is that idea of who or what you are as an Instructor. Your content should clearly and quickly communicate your message every time. Your audience has a finite attention span and your goal should be to capture that attention with as much efficiency as possible. It takes awhile to get the hang of this, but with consistent practice you will start to get the hang of it. Get your practice in while your audience is still small and forgiving.
Every time you project that message outward, you should include your name, logo, tag line or slogan, and piece of contact information (ie. webpage, phone number, social media account, email). You can spice it up by playing with the content, but at a minimum these pieces of information need to be part of the message. A few deviations from this from time to time is ok, but the rule should be consistency. You want to make it easy for people to instantly associate your brand with that easy to reach contact point. You want potential customers to be able to identify your brand out of the sea of other content they wade through.
Be Unique & Stay Consistent
Your brand does not have to conform to an image that meets other people’s standards. There is a market for just about anything in the age of the internet. If you want to project a tough guy image that is flagrantly crude or crass, that can work just as well as a wholesome family oriented image. Once you establish your brand and remain consistent with it and as long as you are providing real value to the market, the customers who connect with your brand will come. The primary goal is that when people hear your name, see your logo or interact with your brand in any other way, they leave with a clear idea of who you are. If the customer has a difficult time understanding who or what you are, they are far less likely to connect an emotion with your brand and therefor less likely to remember you.
Ultimately the goal is to get people to remember you. It’s easier to do that when you project a consistent message about who you are. The simpler the message, the easier it is to maintain that consistency. In the future, we plan to expand on the concept of branding but this should be a good place to start if you are trying to find your voice. Your voice is yours and yours alone. Listen to advice but remember, do not let others try to define your brand for you. Own your branding and STICK WITH IT!