Whether you're a big or small business, branding is one of the most important aspects of your presence. But what is "branding"? How does it define your business and affect it?
In simple terms, your brand is your promise to your customer. Your logo is your brand's foundation. Your promo materials (business crads, letterhead, etc.), website and packaging communicate your brand. From there your brand can tell customers what to exoect from your products or services and how you're different from your competition.
Your target customers define who you should be and how you should present yourself to the world. Are you an avant-garde radical, or an experienced and reliable provider? Do you offer a quality, high-cost product or service, or a lower-cost, high-value alternative? Can't be both and you can't be all things to all people. So who you are is based to some degree on whom your target audience is.
TIP | Who you are is based to some degree on whom your target audience is.
Your brand approach is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on delivering on your brand messages. How you answer the phone and introduce yourself is part of your brand strategy. Where you advertise is part of it too. Your communication channels and what you communicate visually and verbally are part of your brand strategy.
A strong brand is achieved through consistent and strong messaging, which in turn brings added value to your company. As you bring more value and grow in credibility, you can charge more for your branded products over those that are identical, but unbranded. Brand adds value. We see it every day as consumers will typically pick Coke over the grocery store-branded cola.
TIP | What should you communicate through your brand? Every staff member should know your brand virtues.
The intrinsic value added to a brand through consistent messaging is rewarded with a perceived quality or emotional attachment. As an example, in Europe Adidas associates itself with star football (soccer) players, in hopes that customers will transfer their passionate attachment from the football player to the product. It's not just the shoe or apparel that sell, but the connection customers have to it.
Define Your Brand
It takes a long journey of self-discovery to define your brand, and it can be difficult and incredibly time-consuming to do so. You should at the very least consider the following:
- What is your company's mission?
- What traits do you want them to identify with your company?
- What benefits and features are there to your products or services?
- What do customers already think of your company?
Research your current and future customers, learn their needs and desires. Know what they think so you can cater your brand to their expectations of you.
A brand strategy is a complex endeavour so you ought to consider getting the necessary expertise guidance of a small-business advisory group or in some cases a small business development center.
Now that you have your brand defined, how do you get noticed? Follow these tips:
- Design a great logo. And not a cookie cutter logo you can purchase anywhere online. Remember, you've invested a lot of time and effort in your brand, so you should have a custom-tailored solution for your logo. The logo is the first impression customers will have of your brand.
- What is your brand message? Write it down and ensure every employee is on board. How do you communicate with customers, what's your message?
- Harmonize and organize your brand. How you introduce yourself to how you answer the phone, to what you wear when meeting with clients. It all plays an integral part in your brand messaging.
- Your brand should have a "voice", instantly identifiable. If you're friendly, be more conversational. If you're posh, then be more formal. This voice should be applied to every aspect of your interactions with customers via visual messaging, written communications, online and off.
- Develop a tagline. Write a meaningful statement that captures the soul of your brand.
- Create a brand standard for your marketing materials. Be consistent, but use the same color palette, logo placement, typography, look and feel throughout.
- Consistency is key. If you can't be consistent you will fail. Any slip-up and you will fail to deliver on your brand promise.