The mere mention of the word branding makes the majority of growing business owners run for the hills. It’s a common misconception that branding is only for the big boys with vast budgets and something SMEs should tackle further down the line. However, establishing a branding strategy and defining your brand during the initial stages of a company’s lifecycle, can make you stand out in a crowded market place. It can give you a key differentiator, thus ensuring your prospects and customers understand the value you can bring above and beyond your competitors. Establishing a brand means less competing on price, less erosion of profits, greater customer loyalty and stronger perceived value.
So where should you start?
First things first, define what your business stands for. If you don’t know, how is your target audience supposed to understand why they need your products or services. What is your mission? How do you fulfil it? What is your value proposition? What qualities do you want associated with your products and services? This is often harder to in down than it sounds and can uncover differences of opinion. However, this is a positive and necessary step which ensures everyone is on the same page from the outset.
The next step sounds obvious, but you need to make sure you know your customer. The foundation for building a strong brand is to know the target audience on which you want to focus and to accept you can’t be everything to everyone. You probably have more than one type of audience so you will need to segment your target markets into groups. You can then create specific messages within your marketing activity that chime with each set. A one size fits all message will always be less effective and generate fewer responses than a targeted approach.
Your next task is to do a little digging and by that, I mean understand your competition. Research your main competitors or benchmarks. Study how they have effectively, and ineffectively built their brand. Are they consistent with their message and visual identity across channels? What is the quality of their products or services? Do they have customer reviews you can read, or social mentions about them? How and where are they positioning themselves?
Once you have a good understanding of your market and who else is operating within it, you will be able to outline the key qualities & benefits your brand offers that make you stand out. There will always be brands with bigger budgets and more resources to command their industry. Your products, services, and benefits belong solely to you. You have to delve down deep and figure out what you offer, that no one else is offering. In other words, define your unique selling point.
Only now are you ready to get creative and design your logo and strapline. This is the most basic element of brand building but arguably the most important. This graphic will appear on everything that relates to your business. It will become your calling card and the visual recognition of your promise. Be willing to invest the time and money to create something exceptional. You’ll be putting the logo on everything to reinforce visual identity of your brand.
At this point you can also decide on your brand’s tone of voice. This is dependent on your company’s mission, audience, and industry. It’s how you communicate with your customers, and how they respond to you. A business voice could be professional, friendly, conversational, there are many adjectives you can use. Bu chose a brand voice that resonates with your target audience to elicit a favourable response to your marketing messages.
Once you are happy, integrate your brand into every aspect of your business. Your brand should be visible and reflected in everything that your customer sees (and doesn’t see). If a client walks into your office, your brand should be on display both in the environment and in how your staff communicates. Anything tangible, from business signage, to photography used in advertisements needs the stamp of your brand. When you design your website: incorporate your voice, message and personality into content. Profile pages for social media channels should be branded visually and with your chosen voice for engagement.
And finally, stay true to your brand. Unless you decide to change your brand into something that is more effective, based on measured consumer response, consistency is key. Long term brand building needs stability and steadiness.
In conclusion, following a specific strategy to build your brand will transform your business into a successful competitor. As your brand gains traction and recognition, it also builds equity which in turn translates into a positive impact on your bottom line. And who wouldn’t want that!