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The One Thing You Need In Your Business for Success And How To Achieve It

If you're a small business owner who has been in business for more than 5 minutes you've probably already heard someone say the key to success is consistency.

It's true.

But the word consistency can feel confusing (just me?). Like, what does it mean, exactly, to have consistency in your business? Does it mean never changing a single thing about your visual brand from the day you launch? That's what a lot of people think. So I'm here to shine a light on what consistency really is and exactly how to use it to grow your business and build a loyal customer base.

What is consistency in business?

Consistency is just acting with predictability. It means showing up in your business in a way that your customers can predict. It applies to everything in your business, from your visual brand, to your voice and tone, your products and offerings, even your business hours. Customers want to know exactly what they're going to get from you and when they're going to get it.

Consistency doesn't have to be rigid. It doesn't mean every single thing you do has to be an exact carbon copy of what you did before. It just means acting in a way that's true to the core values of your business and the customer experience you want to provide.

Why is consistency so important?

Consistency is what builds trust. If a business starts to change too much too quickly to the point that it becomes unrecognizable or unpredictable, it becomes difficult for their customers to trust. If they say one thing and do another, it's going to cause them to put their guard up. And just like in relationships, trust can be easily broken and take a long time to build back up.

That can feel dramatic when talking about a business, but it's not. When we're asking for our customers to type their credit card information into our website to make a purchase we're asking for them to have an incredible amount of trust in us to handle their very private and sensitive information. If a customer senses any kind of untrustworthiness, they're going to leave without completing the sale.

How do I achieve consistency in my brand?

It might be helpful to think of your business and brand like a person.

Like people, Brands are best recognized by how they look, act, and sound. When you hear a song on the radio you can probably tell who's singing it after just a few seconds of listening. When someone we know does something that catches us off guard, something that we never would have expected, we say "Oh that's so out of character for them."

They behaved in a way that was unexpected. It was off-brand.

As a business, behaving "off-brand" can be seriously detrimental. Consistency in brand elements, such as logos, colors, and typography, builds recognition and trust among your audience. When these guidelines are disregarded, a brand loses its visual identity, which causes confusion and a loss of trust with your audience. Being inconsistent with your branding can create a disjointed brand image, making it challenging for customers to connect with and remember your brand. It can also erode the perceived professionalism and reliability of your business that you worked so hard for!

To ensure you're comprehensive brand style guide that outlines your brand's color palette, typography, logo usage, and tone of voice. Your Brand Guide should as your North star, ensuring that every piece of collateral, from marketing materials to social media posts, aligns seamlessly with your brand identity. Make sure you and your team are well-versed in and have easy access to your Brand Guidelines so your brand has the same look and feel across all touch points.

How do I achieve consistency in my business?

Simply put, do what you say you're doing to do. If you announce a new shipping policy, stick to it. If you name a sale "the annual sale" makes sure to actually do it annually. If you say your business hours are Monday through Friday from 10am - 6pm then make sure your store is always open during those times. Consistently showing up when and how you say you're going to is the quickest way to build up trust in your brand.

Inconsistency looks like setting vacation mode on your Etsy shop or website without warning. Or telling your customers you'll respond to their email within 24 hours but then taking a week to actually reply. This kind of willy-nilly-show-up-when-I-want-to way of running business is the fastest way to put yourself out of business. It has hard costs in actual loss of customers and sales, as well as soft costs like breaking down trust with the customers you have who are expecting your business to be available.

Recently I showed up to patronize a local business. Before heading over there I double checked their hours on their website to make sure they were open. Their website had some outdated information referencing some new outdoor dining options starting in June (when it's actually October), but when I found their hours on their website it was under the headline "Current Hours," so I had no reason not to believe them. However when I showed up and tried to open their door, I discovered it was locked. There was no sign on the door; no explanation as to why. It was the middle of the afternoon on a weekday and they were closed.

Let me point out a couple of red flags:

  1. The fact I even needed to check the hours of this particular business should be enough to tell you they're a bit notorious for changing up their hours.
  2. The outdated information on the website tells me that no one is upkeeping the communication to customers. How can I believe anything on their website is accurate when I can clearly see it hasn't been updated in at least four months?
  3. The fact that they are calling their business hours "Current Hours" does not instill any kind of hope for consistency. When I read "Current Hours" it makes me feel as those may change minute to minute and I clearly may not have the most up-to-date information.

Not only did they lose my sale for that day, but they jeopardized future sales as well because I walked away questioning when I should go back. Their lack of consistency and communication smashed any kind of trust I had in their business hours.

But life happens and businesses are all run differently, so you may find yourself in an unexpected situation where you need to close up shop or change a policy suddenly. The best way to maintain consistency in these situations is though communication.

I see a lot of businesses post important information about their business hours or changes in policy on their social media accounts. That's a start, but if a customer is not a follower or doesn't keep a close eye on their social accounts, they may miss that announcement. Not to mention it will be buried in the newsfeed in a matter of hours, maybe even minutes. Over-communication is your friend is times like these—post online, leave a sign on your door, update your website, send an email to your subscribers—any avenue that you can use to send a message to your audience, do that. It will help maintain the feeling of consistency and trust with your audience.

There are many layers to creating consistency in your business, from your visual identity to communication and reliability and I can't understate its importance. It takes a whole lot of trust for a new customer to pull out their credit card and one little conflicting detail can make the difference between a loyal new customer and someone who will likely never visit your site again. By following these tips, you're guaranteed to make a positive and lasting impression on your target audience that might just have them clicking "Add to Cart."

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About the Author

Brittany Wong

Brittany Wong is the Founder and Creative Director of Happyland Creative®, a design studio helping small business owners make more money with their branding.