Whether you’re starting up a business which you plan to run from anywhere in the world or it’s a “normal” single location business, the name and brand you choose is one of those big decisions which can tie you up in knots.
If you are planning to be location independent and run your business from anywhere however, this can add an extra dimension to the branding question. Consider these 2 key questions:
- Should I let my customers know that I am (or I’m planning to be) location independent?
- How can I hide the fact that I’m not in the same country as my clients?
Both are questions I get asked frequently by consulting clients – and the answers reveal two very different strategies when it comes to branding your location independent business…
Before we look at each of these strategies, let’s de-construct what branding is:
To many people it’s often simply about the name of their business and perhaps the logo. That’s a huge over-simplification however.
Branding (or “good” branding) is about more than just your company name and logo, it’s about the personality, character and values of your business or what you sell. If that all sounds a bit theoretical, here’s a practical (if hideous) example taken from the masters of strategic brand management, Procter & Gamble…
Do you remember the story of that vile drink Sunny Delight? Despite its vileness, the way it was marketed was an absolute masterclass in strategic brand management. Here’s the background info from Wikipedia…
“It was launched in 1998 in the United Kingdom with a £10 million promotional campaign, and became the third biggest selling drink in the UK, behind Coca-Cola and Pepsi. It was marketed as a healthy alternative to soft drinks and was sold in refrigerated cabinets…the products itself states that it contains less than 2% juice, its main ingredients being water and corn syrup.”
Re-read this statement again: “It became the third biggest selling drink…behind Coke & Pepsi”. That’s quite an astounding achievement for a brand new “health” drink that essentially looked like an orange juice for kids yet had only 2% juice.
The reason it sold so well?
Sunny Delight sold a healthier lifestyle – the branding wasn’t just about the bright, colourful logo, the visual elements or it’s name, it was the fact that the whole brand embodied everything a parent wanted in a healthy but tasty drink for their kids so that they didn’t need to feel bad about giving it to them.
Everything right down to the way it was sold (in the refrigerated section right next to the healthier orange juices – it didn’t actually need to be refrigerated, by the way!) was part of the brand – and it worked brilliantly.
But what does this have to do with branding your location independent business?
I mentioned the 2 very different strategies to brand your location independent business. Here’s what they are:
- You brand your business in a way that embraces and integrates the location independent aspect in every way.
- You completely separate the fact that your business is location independent from the branding of your business.
Whichever approach you choose, it needs to be well thought out and implemented across your entire business in much the same way that P&G did with Sunny Delight.
Strategy #1: Your business is loudly & proudly location independent
If you choose to go with strategy number 1, these are some of the ways you can implement this brand strategy across your whole business:
Select a name which conveys your lifestyle: If you opt for this strategy, then naming your business in a way that conveys this aspect of your lifestyle makes it clear right from the beginning what your customers will be getting. Tina, one of our writers here calls her business “Freebird Pro” and quite clearly states on her about page that she “capitalises on the opportunities modern technology provides…to work remotely”.
Pass on the benefits of your lifestyle to customers: Being location independent may enable you to offer certain benefits to customers in your home or other countries. This isn’t just about offering lower prices, but time zone differences can mean you are able to offer a same-day turnaround or overnight turnaround without requiring you to work unsociable hours or charge a premium. Leveraging the lifestyle benefits like these for your business & customers, can be a real USP and set you apart from the rest of your competitors.
Capitalise on your background & roots: It’s natural that some people will be suspicious or reluctant to hire someone halfway round the world, but you can capitalise on the fact that you are US-, UK- (or whatever) trained but work from a lower cost country meaning you can provide the same quality but at better prices. If you live in a lower cost country, it doesn’t mean you have to offer lower prices than say your American or UK counterparts, but technically you could. This works well when you’re aiming to “sell” your lifestyle as a benefit to clients rather than it being perceived as a hurdle.
Strategy #2: You don’t want customers to know your business is location independent
If you choose to go with strategy number 2, these are some of the ways you can implement this brand strategy across your whole business:
Select a location-specific name: If you would rather your business be seen as a “local” business, then naming your business in a way that conveys this is essential. For example, if your clients are largely based in the Middle East but you gallivant around the world (or you’re based in the US), then using a middle eastern name may be more preferable than a western name.
Ensure your contact details are location-specific: To reassure customers of your location, ensure you use a local phone number and other local contact details. It is relatively easy to do this these days, by using a service such as Skype In (which give you a US, UK or multiple other country-based phone numbers that reach you anywhere in the world). For postal mail, Earth Class Mail gives you a US-based postal address which lets you manage your post online and share a US postal address with customers. Unfortunately there aren’t many similar solutions for the UK or elsewhere but using a virtual office service is one possible option.
Ensure your operations are seamless & timing-specific: By this I mean that if you’re servicing customers and clients no matter where you are in the world and what time zone you’re in, you must ensure that your service hours coincide with those of your customers – even if that means being up in the middle of the night.
Strategy #3: Explain on a need-to-know basis
Personally, I’m a little uncomfortable with strategy #2 because I believe in transparency and honesty in business and this feels a little deceptive. However, if you don’t feel comfortable declaring your digital nomad lifestyle to customers for whatever reason, there is a middle ground.
It’s the way we do it. We named our business Kinetiva (a made-up combo of the words “kinetic” and “viva” to mean “long live constant motion”) – which hints at the lifestyle but is not totally explicit unless you know where it comes from and how appropriate it is for our lifestyle.
We also don’t hide the fact that we’re location independent and run our business from wherever we are – but neither do we go out of our way to advertise it. The majority of the customer base we serve are typically enlightened enough not be bothered by the fact that we’re halfway round the world from them (even the corporate ones) as long as it doesn’t impact them and our service to them.
The challenge currently is balancing this moderate approach with the fact that I’m currently trying to integrate all the location independent projects into our main business – meaning that it’s in our interests to promote the fact that we’re location independent and run our business in a location independent way. I’ve still not figured out this branding conundrum 100% but I’m getting there!
The right answer to the question: Should you brand your business as a location independent business?…ultimately lies in knowing your customer base and target markets well enough to understand whether this is something that will matter to them or not. And if you don’t know yet, then wouldn’t now be a good time to find out?