Whether you like it or not, everything & everybody is a brand.
When it comes to running your business one of the most important and valuable things to focus is building your brand.
In today’s crowded, noisy and always connected world, building your brand is hard work in the beginning and priceless when it’s done right. It’s a solid foundation that your marketing efforts can stand on and help 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 and maintained. But, if you put in the work up front it’s one those benefits of your business that will work in your favor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
But, Where Do You Start?
Building it is not something you can do over night and, as stated before, there is a lot that goes into it. Staying on the right track is extremely important as you move along your entrepreneurial path.
This 10 step process will help you throughout your journey to stay focused and build the brand you want. Use it as a guide to get you going and a resource as you build your business.
1) The Target Audience
Every great building in the world is built one a solid foundation.
When it comes to your business that foundation is your customers. The ones you have, and will hopefully have, will make or break your company. So figuring out who they are, what inspires them to action and what keeps them happy is the essential first step in this process.
So, who are they?
And the answer, isn’t everybody!
Even the largest brands in the world started with a target audience before they gained their popularity and everybody jumped on board. Nike targeted athletes in the beginning, Quicksilver went after the surf culture. Even Facebook before it became a world wide phenomena targeted college student only.
The Key Is In The Specifics
Details, details, and more details!
The clearer you can get about who you want to attract the better chance you’ll know how to interact with them when you do. When you’re defining your ideal customer include things like their behavior, likes & dislikes, lifestyle, income, education, etc. ask thoughtful questions about them.
The clearer you are about who you want to sell to, the easier it will become when coming up with marketing messages that truly speak to them. And, moving forward every decision you make about your brand will be based off of this information.
2) The Mission Statement
Now that you know who you’re going to be trying to attract it’s time to figure out the why.
A mission statement basically describes the purpose of your business. Why does it exist in the first place?
But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A strategic statement will separate your business from your competitors, help identify your business goals and the potential future growth that exists. Most of all it will showcase your business values and how it will help your customer’s solve a problem.
A good mission statement will cover three components:
- The vision you have for your company.
- Your business’ core values that will help shape your company culture and how you present yourself to your target market.
- Your goals and objectives moving forward.
If you want your target audience to trust and even be inspired by your business you must have a mission statement in mind.
A great place to start is by asking yourself what’s the purpose for your business existing?
This will set your mind off in the right direction of honing your actual statement. When you know the answer and have something written down it will help you with later brand building decisions. Everything from your logo, your tagline, brand voice, & any other marketing message will reflect this mission.
So, what value does your business provide?
3) The Research
Wouldn’t be great to wake up tomorrow and have a completely built brand?
Well, sadly, this isn’t realistic.
The truth is building a brand is a difficult job that never stops which is why research is so important.
The path to becoming a leader in your industry is not simply by copying what your competition does but by understanding what they do well (& not so well).
Researching your competition and figuring out how their brand is built will help inform your decision when your business. You’ll discover certain roads and paths to take and the one not to take. You’ll find where they may be brand gaps industry that you can take advantage of.
In the research stage ask questions like:
- Is there consistency throughout the the brand’s marketing channels?
- How high (or low) is the quality of their products/services?
- Is their a an industry stigma that the world has cornered you in?
- What are their customers saying about them?
By understanding how your competitors brand their companies you’ll have a greater knowledge on how to best position your business in the marketplace.
4) The Key Qualities & Benefits
What is unique about what you offer?
It doesn’t matter what industry your business is in, its going to have competition. Both large and small companies competing with you for their own piece of the pie. What sets your business apart are the benefits you offer to your target customer that makes you different from your competitors.
Your business’ qualities are already unique because they come from you but the benefits of your product/service may not be. At this point you’ll need to stretch that creative muscle and figure out how your business qualities match the benefits it offers.
Do you have a specific process that’s different from your competition? A faster turnaround time? Or, maybe you offer something simple like a better price on a particular service?
If you know you target audience you’ll know what reason to give them to choose your brand over another.
5) The Logo & Tagline
Two of the more prominent assets that make up your brand are often confused with the brand itself.
But, as you walk down the branding path you shouldn’t make this mistake. The logo and the tagline of your business just one part of what makes up the overall brand.
They are the point of recognition or the ambassador of your company that help communicate the core of your companies values or what it stands for. Think of these two assets as a point of recognition for your brand to “hang its hat on.”
Time and money should be invested in creating each but once they’re perfected you brand building job isn’t complete. They act as useful communication devices to help remind prospects about your brand and what it stands for.
6) The Brand Voice
Everything you’ve done up until this point will in a way already inform your brand voice.
But, if it’s still a little murky there are a few ways to help get more focused.
You can start by looking within you industry. How does your competition communicate with their audience? Is there a common way your industry speaks throughout their messaging?
Once you start looking you’ll soon see some common threads.
Next, take into account you company’s mission. How do you want to be seen by the public? What impressions do you want to make and what influence do you want to have?
Then look at you target market as a whole. What do they expect from a company in your industry? For instance, if you’re an accountant clients expect a professional/business-like voice over a wacky one.
Your brand voice is that tone in which you and your customers will communicate back and forth.
Some common examples of a brand voice are:
These are just a few examples and more research you do you soon find out that the possibilities are endless.
7) The Brand Message (& Elevator Pitch)
Now that you that you have a handle on what your brand voice is going to be, it’s now time to move onto the message you’ll tell your prospects.
When brand building, the best messages tell customers what the business does and why it does it – and it does as concise as possible.
Your message should be closely associated with your brand, and conveyed in 1-2 sentences.
It‘ll go beyond your logo or tagline and define the key aspects of who you are, what you offer, and why people should care.
What this means, is that the language you use should be understood immediately while striking an emotional chord.
Keep it simple and clear and remember this isn’t a statement about what your product or service does but why it’s important to your customer.
How does your business make your customer’s lives better?
What passion do you bring when it comes to your business?
If you were a stranger to your business, why should you care about it?
When you can figure out the ‘why should I care,’ part of the equation then coming up with a brand message will come a lot easier and have greater impact to your target market.
8) The Integration
Integration is all about how you present your business to the public.Every part of your business should have your brand incorporated in it.
The minute your prospects first discover your business your brand should be visible.
What they see, feel, read or hear should all reflect what your brand is about.
The two main aspects you should focus on when making sure your brand shines through are in person and online
If you run a brick-and-mortar store or an office the minute a customer enters your brand image and messages should be on display.
You can do this with collateral such as:
- business cards
- specific service advertisements
- packaging on products
- street/entry sign
- uniforms (if applicable)
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 guide. A small document that informs your employees on the consistent visuals they can use, the voice they can communicate in and how they should represents the brand.
The digital platforms you should be focusing on include:
- Company Website
- Email Newsletter and Campaigns
- Social Platforms
- Video Marketing efforts
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 efforts deliver a high standard to ensure you’re leaving your customers with the positive feelings you want them to have.
Integration is where all your research and preparation is put into action and starts to pay off.
9) The Responsibility (Stay True)
The number one principle on branding is simply that it’s never done.
The number two principle is consistency!
In business, as in all aspects of life, there are going ebbs and flows as you grow your business and it’s important to stay true to your original vision.
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 tinkering and falling under the spell of the latest trends will leads your brand to inconsistency. This will confuse your audience in knowing what to expect from your brand and make the process a never ending loop of starting over.
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. Another important reason to have brand guidelines is if you hire outside contractors to work on design or marketing elements of your business, it will give them a guide on what lines they can’t cross.
- Internal Brand Communication – When you’re bringing in new people to your company this will help them understand what your brand stands for. As well, when you evolve your brand throughout the growth 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 what your brand stands for it will help you maintain forward momentum while your business grows.
10) The Biggest Supporter
Now that your brand elements are in place, it’s time to turn your attention to your biggest (and best) supporters of your brand – you and all of your employees.
The heart of your brand that keeps it alive is those who remain closest to it. Everyday you and your employees will be behind the curtain, navigating where your brand will go.
When you’re coming up with marketing ideas and campaigns remember that no one is in a better position to spread your message.
Because of this 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 works
- How to fix it when it doesn’t work
This knowledge will help you in all of your business efforts like human resources because its mission will guide your hiring decisions, making sure a prospective candidate aligns with your values and is a fit in the type of culture you’re building.
When you find the right type of employees they will instinctively help build your brand through their attitude towards the work they do. This will rub off on prospective customer’s and leave them with the positive feelings that leads brand loyalty.
Once, your prospects become loyal customer’s they too will act as brand ambassadors helping spread your message and build your brand.
Brand building is the toughest tasks when running a business but one of the most important things you can do for your success. It’s a day-by-day, never-ending process that can sometimes make you feel frustrated or that it’s not working.
But, if you stick with it and it’s done right you’ll get back ten times what you put into it.