Too often when business owners here’s the word “branding” their mind goes straight to their logo. Sure, your logo is an important aspect of your brand, but it is far from encompassing your entire brand.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos famously said, “Your brand is what other people say when you’re not in the room.” While this may be an over-simplification, it also happens to be true.
Your brand is how others feel about your company, and when you consider how emotional we human beings are, you’ll quickly realize what an impact your brand has on your bottom line.
So, if you’re a start-up just beginning to consider what your brand should be or an established company who is reevaluating your brand, use these four building blocks to create a better brand.
1. Do market research
Don’t let the term market research scare you off. Too many of us think of market research as a giant company spending millions of dollars evaluating a new product or idea. Market research is simply the process of gathering the business intelligence needed to put together your marketing plan.
The first step is customer definition and understanding. Use tools like website analytics, surveys, in-depth interviews and even focus groups to help you determine who your target audience is. This analysis will allow you to build buyer personas and more accurately target your potential customers.
The second step is to determine the benefit that you provide to your customers. You must be able to describe this in simple words, if you cannot, you have bigger problems than branding. Benefits can be functional, emotional, experiential, aspirational or even self-expressive, but they must be identified.
Lastly, you’ll want to get to know your competition. The internet provides a wealth of knowledge about other companies competing in your industry. An effective approach to organizing your competitor research is by using SWOT analysis. By identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, you will develop a firm grasp on where you fit into the marketplace.
2. Create your marketing plan
To build a better brand, you need a plan of action. Use your market research to establish your brand strategy and tactics.
Your marketing plan can be as simple or complex as you think is appropriate, no two businesses are the same. But, regardless of its complexity, your plan needs to establish the following:
- Brand positioning
- Target Customer
- Brand Promise
- Brand Personality
- Marketing Mix
Each of these are integral pieces in any marketing plan. They inform the decisions that must be made regarding how you will sell your product or service and to whom you will sell it. A failure to establish any of these will only lead to hardships later as you struggle to understand why your marketing is not working.
3. Create a total brand experience
With your marketing plan in hand, it’s time to go to work. With the research and planning that you’ve done, you should know where you fit into the market, who your target audience is, and what message you want to deliver to them. It’s time to build a vehicle for delivering that message.
At this point in the process, we can turn our attention to your logo. Creating a brand identity is very important. It will come to represent, in one graphic, all of the feelings that your customers and potential customers will project onto your company.
Consider the color palette, typography, and visual style of your identity carefully. Does it convey the message that you know you must deliver to reach the right audience?
Next, you will need to create the collateral, whether online or offline, that you have identified in your marketing mix. Creating collateral can be a time-consuming process. You will need to build a website, create print pieces like business cards and brochures, and establish yourself online both with search engines and on the social media platforms that fit into your marketing mix.
As you create your brand identity and develop your marketing collateral, keep in mind that your internal company culture is as much a part of your brand as your marketing pieces. The experience that your customers have with your brand will go further in establishing their feelings towards your brand than any logo you could ever design.
Your internal company culture will form the bedrock of your service delivery and directly impact your customers feeling about your brand. Ensure that, whether it’s your customer service department, marketing department, billing department, or any other department, your brand personality and brand promise are always top of mind during customer interactions.
4. Create strategic goals and track deliverables
So, you’ve done your market research, you’ve created a killer marketing plan, and you’ve created the collateral and culture to execute it. What’s next?
Well, it’s time to deliver. You need to set strategic goals. Your goals can be focused on awareness, consistency, value, or even emotional connections, but they need to be measurable.
This is a good time to break out the old SMART goal sheet. Your goals need to be specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, and time-based.
For example, if one goal is to increase the perceived value you provide to your customers your SMART goal may be as follows:
Over the next quarter, we will work to increase our average customer satisfaction score (scored on a scale of 1-5 points) by 0.5 points.
Once you’ve established your goals, you must track your performance. No plan is perfect, so adjust where necessary, and it will be necessary.
If you can deliver on your strategic goals, you will build a brand that works hard for your bottom line, not against it.
Building a better brand is not a stand-alone project that you undertake. Building a better brand is an ongoing process that touches every aspect of your business.
If you are successful in building a better brand, the payoff is brand preference. The benefits of brand preference include decreased price sensitivity, increased recognition and recall, increased customer loyalty, increased flexibility for future growth, and increased market share.
If you execute on these four building blocks, you will build a better brand and a stronger business.