Branding is one of the most crucial factors in building a successful business.
A clear, effective brand-strategy ensures you stand out and have an edge in today’s fiercely-competitive marketplace. After all, if you appear identical to a host of other companies out there, why should any consumer choose you over the rest?
Look at brands like Google or Apple. As soon as you see these iconic logos on any product, software etc., you know what to expect: quality, innovation, reliability (at the least). Whether you like them or not, nobody can argue that these two brands have established exactly who they are, what they do, and why they matter.
Now, it’s up to you to do the same. But how?
Every brand should know its value. Not in a monetary sense, of course, but with regards to what they offer to customers.
To define your brand, you need to ascertain:
#1: What is your mission / ultimate goal?
#2: What connotations do you want people to make with your brand (think of Google and Apple again)?
#3: Does your company already have an established reputation, or are you hitting the market fresh?
#4: What benefits do your products, services, or both offer to today’s consumers (both B2B and B2C)?
Get a little help by researching your most successful competitors and your prospective clients. Study their spending habits and changing tastes.
Answering these questions may take a little time, but it’s imperative to define your brand.
Develop a Voice
Are you targeting young, trendy customers with a love of gadgets and cutting-edge fashion? Perhaps you may be aiming for conservative middle-aged men with a fondness for golf and classical music?
Obviously, these are wildly diverse clients – and you can’t speak to them both with the same voice.
The point of this example?
Establishing a voice is key, but this doesn’t just mean in the way you communicate with customers directly. It also bleeds into every aspect of your image and marketing: your boilerplate, mission statement, slogans, and artwork will all have to tie-in to this voice.
Are you straight to the point, or a little more flowery? Do you like to shock customers into paying attention to your services? For example, a sunglasses brand may like to keep their branding simple and understated, letting the products speak for themselves, but a company selling cruises to retirees will have to adopt a more comprehensive style.
Always Deliver on your Promises
You have to be true to your values and mission. This is even more important today than ever: consumers have a world of options out there, all accessible with a quick search.
Any brand that fails to live up to its own self-made ideology is likely to alienate customers and experience difficulties with reputation-management.
For example, let’s say you’re a site dedicated to letting people advertise their goods with an aim to swap them. Let’s also say you start out offering this for free, monetizing the site through ads, and promise that the service will remain free. Perhaps you even emphasise this in your slogan and marketing (such as referring to your business as ‘the free swap-site’).
Three months down the line, once your brand has gained some traction and acquired a following, you change your mind. You announce the service is no longer free, and all members will be expected to pay a high monthly rate instead.
How do you think people will react?
More importantly, how do you think you would react in their shoes?
Chances are, unless you felt a real affinity for the site and the other members, you would search for alternatives. Newcomers might also question how valuable the site is to them, and if it were worth paying for. Long-term members may stick with you, but would no doubt expect a higher quality of service to justify the new model.
Likewise, if you state that you will never work with a particular type of supplier or retailer, and then go back on your word, people will question the merits of staying with you.
Be true to your values, be true to your brand. Know who you are, and stay the course.
Establishing a brand identity is critical in today’s marketplace. Any successful entrepreneur understands this, and invests as much time as needed into knowing exactly what a business is before launching it.
By doing this, you start with a solid foundation – and the only way is up.