Whether you like it or not, everything & everybody is a brand.

When it comes to running a successful business (online or off) one of the most valuable aspects you can have is the understanding of your brand. In today’s always connected world you’re competing with what seems like everybody shouting to the masses about their brand.

One of the most disappointing things is that a majority don’t have a solid grasp of what brand is and how to properly manage it.

However, once you know how to properly brand your business you’ll have a solid foundation for all of your marketing campaigns & communication efforts to spring off of.  And, most importantly it helps your business’ sustainability, credibility & long-term success.

As your business gets more successful your brand gets bigger which can be a difficult to maintain if not properly built. A properly built brand, however, is one that will work in your favor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Where Do You Start?

The first thing you should accept about branding is that it’s not something that happens over night.  There is a lot that goes into building a brand that is a a combination of your marketing, internal & external communications, advertising, public relation and even how you interact with your customers online and off.

The best brand in the world know what they want their audience to think about when encountering their business and stay focused on that mission. Getting their takes some work but if you break it down into this 10 step process you’ll be able to build a solid brand that lasts.

1) The Target Customer

The foundation of your brand starts your customers. They are the ones that will make or break your company. So figuring out who they are is the essential first step in the brand building process.

And the answer isn’t everybody!

Even the largest brands in the world started with a target audience before they gained their popularity & everybody jumped on board. Nike targeted athletes in the beginning, Quicksilver went after the surf culture and so on and so forth.

Get as specific as possible!

The more details you can figure out about who your current customers are and who your ideal prospect are the clearer your messaging will be. Every decision you make about your brand will be based on this information.

  • What do they do?
  • Who are they?
  • Are they educated? If so, what’s the highest level?
  • How much income do the bring home?
  • What are their likes/dislike?
  • Do they share a similar a lifestyle as your business?
  • What are their spending behaviors?

Get as much information you can about who you sell to and who you want to sell to.

2 ) The Mission Statement

What value does your business provide?

If you want your ideal customers to trust you, you must know the value your business provides. The simplest question you can ask yourself is:

  • What’s the purpose for your business existing?

Knowing this answer will help you with later decisions that will include everything from your logo, your tagline and brand voice to website design choices and your various marketing campaigns.

Your mission will bring your brand to life giving it some heart. Your prospective customers will be more likely to become a brand ambassador if your mission statement falls inline with the kind of person they are or want to be.

A great example of this is with Warby Parker, a designer eyewear company based out of New York. Their mission is: “To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading they way for socially-conscious businesses.”

In just this one statement, Warby Parker gives us the reason why it was founded (To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price) while building to their future (leading they way for socially-conscious businesses.)

3) Research

Wouldn’t it be great to wake up tomorrow and your brand stands with or above the big brands in your industry?

If it was only this easy but this just isn’t the reality.

The truth is brand building is a process that never ends as your business matures. This is where research comes into play.

  • Who are your competitors?
  • Which company is truly leading the way?
  • Who has the largest market share in your industry?

When you research you can start with the above questions to find out where your business is in comparison. Take time to understand what your competition does well (& not so well.)

If you want to be a leader in your niche you don’t get there by simply copying what your competition does but getting to the why behind their action. At this stage, it’s about figuring out the process they took to get to where they are.

When researching look for the answer to these questions:

  • Is there consistency throughout the the brand’s marketing channels?
  • How high (or low) is the quality of their products/services?
  • What are their customers saying about them?

By understanding how your competitors & their current standing with their customers you’ll have a greater knowledge on how to best position your business in the marketplace.

4) The Key Qualities & Benefits

What’s unique about what you offer?

Every industry is filled with similar product or services but the great business can find that one benefit that separates them from the competition. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in you’ll always have competition. Whether that be from larger companies or that are new upstart vying for their piece of the pie, all with their own value they bring to the market place.

What will set you apart?

Some questions you can answer to figure out your business’ value are:

  • What’s that one benefit that makes you different that your customers are looking for?
  • Do you have a better process?
  • Is your turnaround time quicker than your competitors?
  • Do you offer a better price on popular products or services?

If you’ve done your target customer research you’ll already know what reasons they look for in your type of business. Knowing this will put you in good place to take the benefits and value you can highlight to your prospects and current customers.

5) The Logo & Tagline

A lot of new companies make the mistake of starting with their logo. The most common mistake is thinking that branding is simply the logo.

Unfortunately branding isn’t that one dimensional in the minds of the customer. Your brand is the gut feeling the customer get when thinking about your company and the logo is a representation to that feeling.

As the ambassadors for your company, the logo needs work is a cornerstone asset which is the point of recognition for brand to “hang its hat on.” It help you communicate further the core of your company’s message.

To ensure your company logo works for your business here are 5 principles every great logo shares in common:

  1. Simple
  2. Memorable
  3. Enduring
  4. Versatile
  5. Appropriate

Your tagline helps strengthen your brand through messaging. More than just a statement that has a ring to it, your tagline should communicate the core value of your business.

This quick introduction to your business should work to:

  1. Tell the prospect, in a sense, what you do
  2. Inspire them to learn more

When you’re coming up with the winning tagline for your business the best approach can be to write out what your business does. Once you have your description, work to keep shortening it until it’s down to the least amount of words possible without losing meaning.

The key with both the logo and tagline is to make sure that your prospects understand of the type of business you are while wanting to learn more.

6) The Brand Voice

Your brand voice will distinguish your business from every other one in the same brand category. While the above steps will inform you on what types of brand voices will work for you company, crafting a distinct one will go a long way in separating you from your competition.

A brand voice is the expression through purposeful words and styles of how you will interact with your customers. Taking time to define it will help give your brand a personality that will help you engage and even motivate your prospects and audience.

You can get started by focusing on these three aspects:

  1. The type of industry your business resides in. For example a fitness company will have a different voice then an accountant. At this stage take a look at your competition and the ‘big players’ in your industry. Ask yourself how do they talk to their customers and prospects?
  2. Your company’s mission. The purpose of your mission is to define what drives your company based on its core values. Some missions may include being entertaining, educational and friendly where other may be more focused on providing professional, high-quality and innovative service.
  3. Your target customer. Finally, your target market will help you understand how they communicate and what is the best brand voice to take that will best make sure your messages are heard.

Some example of a brand voice are:

  • professional
  • friendly
  • service-oriented
  • promotional
  • conversational
  • informative
  • The possibilities are endless

In essence, your brand voice is the tone in which you & your customers will communicate back and forth. Taking time to define yours will ensure there is no miscommunication between you and your target market.

7) The Brand Message (& Elevator Pitch)

Your brand message will tell your customers and prospect who you are and what you do in the most succinct way possible.

Using the brand voice you’ve chosen, it should be a detailed explanation in 1-2 sentences that speaks to your business. It will cover key aspects of who you are, what you offer and why people should care.

A great message will not only be immediately understood when it comes to what you business does but will strike all the right emotion chords for your target market.

When crafting your message you’ll want to keep in mind these 3 basics:

  1. Your Customers Viewpoint – what do customers think  about the type of business you run? Understanding the stereotypes that customers have towards your industry will help you come up with the words that will stick your message in the minds of your customers.
  2. Your Viewpoint – What drew you to becoming an entrepreneur in your industry to begin with? In other words what’s the why behind what you do for a living? This will help guide the emotional side of your brand message.
  3. The Marketplace Viewpoint – What is the current standing of your industry in the marketplace as a whole. Knowing where your industry stands in regards to other industries will allow you properly position your message in the customer’s minds.

Once you determine these three points you’ll be able to start crafting your message. Remember, stay away from a description of what your products or services can do and focus on why your products or services are important to customers

Most importantly, make it simple and clear so that it is easily understood.

8) The Integration

Every part of your business should have your brand incorporated in it. From the point your prospective customers interact with your business your brand should be visible.

What they see, read or hear should reflect what your brand is about.

The two aspects you should focus on when making sure your brand shines through to your customers are in person and online

In Person

If you run a brick-and-mortar store or run an office the minute a customer enters you brand image and messages should be on display. You can do this with collateral such as:

  • Business cards
  • Brochures
  • Specific Service Advertisements
  • Packaging on products
  • Street/entry signs
  • Uniform (if applicable)

Online

The digital space should be filled with your brand colors, logo and messages on every platform you’re active on. The best way to stay consistent company wide with this is by creating a brand style guide that informs your employees on the consistent visuals they can use.

The digital platforms you should be focusing on include:

  • Company Website
  • Email Newsletter and Campaigns
  • Social Media Platforms
  • Video Marketing Efforts
  • Online Advertising

Once you have the visual and messaging across all mediums, both online & off, you can then turn your attention to the physical.

A large portion of brand is the feeling your customers get from your business and there is no better way to control the feeling then with your customer service.

Every personal interaction you or your employees have with your customers should leave them with a positive feeling. Make sure all of your customer service delivers a high standard of service to ensure you’re leaving your customers with the positive feelings you want them to have.

9) The Responsibility (Staying True)

The number one principle on branding is simply that it’s never done.

The number two principle is consistency!

The above steps will guide your efforts when branding your business but once you decide on these elements it’s important to stick with them.

Your brand voice, logo, taglines and messaging must stay consistent as your business grows so your customers know what to expect and can describe it to their friends.

Constantly changing and tinkering with the brand elements leads to inconsistency. This will lead to confusion from your customers and make you brand building a more daunting task for the long-term.

To ensure your brand remains consistent as your business grows focus on having the following:

  • Brand Guidelines – Having guidelines to keep you and your employees on track when interacting, whether online or off, with your customers
  • Internal Communication – This will help when you’re bringing in new people to your company to understand what your brand stands for. As well, if you do tinker with your brand throughout the evolution of your company, good internal communications can makes sure your brand stays on point.

Remember, branding is a fragile thing and the smallest miscommunication can ruin even the most solid brand. But, by staying consistent with you brand will help you maintain forward momentum while your business grows.

10 ) The Biggest Supporter

Once your happy with the brand elements for your business the biggest (and best) advocates of it will always be you and your employees.

When you’re coming up with marketing ideas and campaigns remember that no one is in a better position to spread your message than you. Because of you knowledge of your brand you’ll now know:

  • What it’s supposed to be
  • How it’s supposed to be communicated the best
  • Know when that communication work and
  • How to fix it when it doesn’t

Understanding all of this will help your human resource efforts as your brand’s mission and values will guide you in making sure you’re hiring employees that fit the culture your building.

And, most importantly, your brand will give your prospect and customers the feeling that makes them become loyal. Once they turn into the loyal customers they act as brand ambassadors spreading your message and their experience with your brand to all of their friends.

Brand building is one of the most important things you can do for your business. It’s a process that when done right will give back to you ten fold take your company from one level to the next. Once you understand your brand & where you want it to go all your marketing efforts become a little bit easier because your brand focus is better.

Do you have your own brand building process? Comment below & let me know what you do to build your business’ brand.