A recognizable and loved brand is one of the most valuable assets a company owns. According to Nielson’s Global New Product Innovation Survey, 59% of consumers prefer to buy new products from brands familiar to them. As a small business, you may be competing against big brands with devoted customers. That’s why you have to find ways to differentiate–with a solid brand building process of your own. Branding is much more than just a cool logo or well-placed advertisement. You need to do more.
A successful brand has to be consistent in communication and experience, across many applications:
- Environment (storefront or office)
- Print, signage, packaging
- Website & online advertising
- Social media & content marketing
- Sales & customer service
The truth is: it doesn’t happen overnight…or even in a few months. Brand building is definitely a process. However, the ongoing effort will result in establishing long-term relationships with your customers. This can mean an increase in sales, more projects, word-of-mouth referrals, and advocacy for your products or services.
Are you wondering where to start? Here is a 10 step guide to building your brand
Step 1: Determine your brand’s target audience:
The foundation for building your brand is to determine the targeted audience that you’ll be focusing on. You can’t be everything to everyone, right? When brand building, keep in mind who exactly you are trying to reach. You’ll tailor your mission and message to meet their specific needs. Get specific. Figure out detailed behaviors and lifestyle of your consumers.
A few brief examples:
- single moms who work from home
- tech-savvy early adopters
- college students studying abroad
- executive recruiting professionals
Solidify a picture of your consumers, then create a brand identity that they can understand and relate to. When brand building, keep in mind exactly who you are trying to reach. You’ll tailor your mission and message to meet their specific needs.
Step 2 : Define a branding mission statement.
Before you can build a brand that your target audience trusts, you need to know what value your business provides. The mission statement basically defines a purpose for existing. It will inform every other aspect of your brand building. What’s your mission? Craft a clear expression of what your company is most passionate about. Everything from your logo to your tagline, voice, message and personality should reflect that mission.
We all know the Nike tagline: Just Do It. But do you know their mission statement? Nike’s mission is: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world“. You can see the Nike mission everywhere. They focus on all types of athletes using Nike products to be their best self. Nike goes even further with their mission, by adding a footnote to the statement: “If you have a body, you are an athlete“. Think about how wide their target audience becomes with a disclaimer like that!
The company has built up such a reputation and brand following, that they are able to increase their target to accommodate every “body”. Start small with your branding and remember to focus on your target niche audience first. With time, your brand loyalty may grow enough to expand your reach.
Step 3: Research brands within your industry niche.
You should never imitate exactly what the big brands are doing in your industry. But, you should be aware of what they do well (or where they fail). The goal is to differentiate from the competition. Convince a customer to purchase from you over them! 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?
Step 4: Outline the key qualities & benefits your brand offers.
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. It could be more authentic and transparent customer service, a better way to support productivity, or helping save money with a more affordable option. Assuming you know exactly who your target audience is, give them a reason to choose your brand over another.
Step 5: Create a great brand logo & tagline.
The most basic (and arguably the most important piece) of brand building, is the creation of your company logo and tagline. This graphic will appear on everything that relates to your small 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.
Hire a professional designer or creative agency with branding and identity design experience, to help you build your brand. Their expertise will ensure that you get a unique and timeless mark for your business. A designer can also develop brand guidelines, to ensure consistency for any future application of the logo and associated color palette.
Step 6: Form your brand’s business voice.
Your voice is dependent on your company mission, audience, and industry. It’s how you communicate with your customers, and how they respond to you.
A business voice could be:
- informative, etc.
There are endless adjectives and possibilities.
Step 7: Build a brand message and elevator pitch.
When brand building, tell customers succinctly who you are. Use the business voice you have chosen. Your message should be intricately associated with your brand and conveyed in 1-2 sentences. It goes beyond your logo and tagline to define the key aspects of who you are, what you offer, and why people should care. A brand message is an opportunity to communicate on a human level, making a direct emotional connection with your consumers. What this means, is that the language you use should be understood immediately while striking an emotional chord. Make it simple and clear. Most importantly: when crafting a message, address not what your product can do…but why it is important to your customer.
Step 8: Let your brand personality shine.
Customers aren’t looking for another cookie-cutter company who offers the same thing as everyone else. They are looking for an experience tailored to their needs, backed by genuine personal interaction. Make your personality stand out in every aspect of your brand building. Be consistent with this brand personality across all points of contact.
It can be as simple as:
- a conversational voice in communication (using “I”, and “you”)
- sharing behind-the-scenes content
- telling stories about real experiences
- describing your products/services in a quirky manner
Step 9: Integrate your brand into every aspect of your business.
Brand building never stops. 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 with personal interactions. Anything tangible–from business cards to advertisements, to packaging–needs the stamp of your logo. When you design your website: incorporate your voice, message, and personality into content. Profile pages for social media networks should be branded visually, and with your chosen voice for engagement.
Step 10: 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. Once you’ve chosen a voice, use it for every piece of content you create. Don’t constantly change your branding, The inconsistency will confuse your customers, and make long-term brand building more difficult.
A solid brand building process can transform your business from a small player into a successful competitor. You’ll discover that your customers will develop a deeper level of trust for your brand, and be more likely to purchase what you are selling. Develop a consistent message and visual identity to reinforce your mission. Integrate your brand into every aspect of customer experience: from your storefront to your website, to your personal interactions! Former Nike and Starbucks executive Scott Bedbury once said: ‘A brand is a story always being told’. Build an effective business brand strategy, and tell your story.