A ton has been written about business branding and brand strategy. It seems like everywhere you look, someone is offering to create a brand for your business. What is branding? And, how do you create a solid brand strategy? I'm going to ruffle some feathers here, but you need to hear this: no one can brand your business but you.
First, let's look at what branding is and how marketing relates to branding.
What is marketing?
Let's look at a car. Any model and make; your choice. The engine is your marketing. It's what makes the car move. All of the other parts that makes the car move -- tires, battery, ignition, alternator, transmission -- are all marketing strategies (and here are some real life examples of inexpensive marketing strategies for your business). Together, when they work with the engine, the car moves smoothly, efficiently and safely.
What is Branding?
But the paint, body style, smell, upholstery, stereo system, options, feel of the drive... that's your brand. Everything that creates an experience while you drive that car is your brand. What can be confusing is all of the marketing parts above also contribute to the way you experience your car. Your brand is how your customers and prospects experience your business. Your marketing is the motor that attempts to create that experience for your customer.
Notice the word "attempt." The reality is, experiences can be subjective and can be perceived differently. And a car that feels like a smooth, comfortable ride to one person may feel stiff and sluggish to another. For this reason, a large part of your brand will be defined by your customers, not your graphic designer.
Who Creates your brand?
"Branding is what people say about you when you're not in the room."
The best way to control your business' brand is to take complete control and responsibility for it. This means not hiring someone to create a brand for you. Rather, you want to get very clear on what you want your customers to feel, sense, see, smell and say about you, and work with a designer to make that a reality. You set the tone and direction for your designer. Not the other way around.
What a Brand Strategy Can Do For your Business
A strong company brand incorporates a well-thought-out branding strategy that is applied to all relevant marketing channels, and will achieve the following results:
- Improve Recognition -- Customers and prospects will start identifying your business with your brand.
- Create Trust & Credibility -- A consistent message, backed up with consistent execution and testimonials, will build trust in your customers and credibility in your community.
- Guarantee Future Business -- Recognition and trust together create confidence in your business, resulting in greater chances new customers will visit you or use your service.
- Delight Current Customers -- If your brand strategy is laser focused on the consumer experience every step of the way, you are practically guaranteeing happy, positive customer feedback.
Considerations when building a brand strategy
A brand strategy basically takes your research into your customers, products and services, and applies it to many different aspects of your business. Here are the main points you should take the time to consider when developing your brand strategy:
- Who are we? What is the business all about? What is your mission statement, purpose statement and vision statement?
- Who do we serve? Who is your target audience? What is your customer avatar?
- How are we different? What's your unique selling proposition? How are you different from your competition?
- What are our core strengths? Think about all the things your business does really well.
- What is our personality? Are you formal? Casual? Comedic? Fun?
- What is our promise to our customers? Do you have a promise? A money back guarantee?
Putting your Brand Strategy into action
After you've worked through the above questions, you'll get a clear sense of the brand you want your business to project. You can either take this information to your designer to start developing collateral, develop them yourself, or do a combination of both. One good way to help you focus on action is with our Small Business Marketing Action Plan, which is totally free. Keep in mind, your brand goes way beyond your logo and color scheme. It also touches your:
- Website design & usability
- Social media activity & presence (and what channels you choose)
- Printed collateral, such as brochures, posters, presentations, packages & business cards
- Press releases & media relations
- Advertising (internal & external)
- Office decore
- Email signatures
- Voicemail greetings
- Customer relations
- Employee relations
- Company mojo
Your brand will, in essence, touch everything in your business. For more ideas on how to implement great marketing tactics see this post. Sure, a designer can create your logo, website, color scheme and business cards, but can she create your company mojo? Can she create excellent employee morale? Will she decorate your offices as well? And what about your voicemail greetings?
You see, much of your brand falls in your lap. Once you have a clear understanding of this, your brand will become clear to you, and ultimately to your customers. Want more help creating a brand strategy? Contact us!