When it comes to developing a marketing plan, I often get asked what branding is and why it’s important for small businesses to consider as a part of their overall approach. Here are the answers to those questions and 3 basic steps on how you can develop your company's brand.
What is a Brand?
A brand is the combination of visual images and wording that creates a perception in the mind of the customer. The best brands start with a strategy. They are carefully defined and developed with the customer’s experience in mind.
Why is it Important?
If you get the idea that you need to present a certain image for your company in order to gain greater success, or you want to achieve the goal of increasing long-term, repeat customers, or you want to improve the goodwill aspect of your business for a potential exit strategy, then branding is for you.
A successful brand is made up of a recognized name, design, logo, symbol or a combination of these and/or other factors. It has a competitive advantage because it is the one that immediately comes to mind, and gaining a competitive advantage means the brand makes more money.
Instant recognition of a brand is just one aspect of what makes it successful. Another defining characteristic between successful and failed brands is that the more successful brands deliver on the values the customer wants. A customer actually has an emotional connection to a brand because there is some relevant, unique value in a successful brand that the others just don’t provide, and people like to align themselves with certain brands because it defines who they are in essence.
How to Develop Your Brand
Step 1: Define your brand
Defining your brand as a company can be uncomfortable because in some ways it can be akin to soul-searching. It’s a matter of getting to your core values, combining them with the essence of your offering and creating a visual and verbal message for your key audiences. Start with asking some specific questions:
- What do we stand for (this is your Mission / Vision for the company)
- What is the value that we deliver to the customer and within the industry?
- How do we deliver value better than the competition?
- What is the current perception about your brand? You should ask your customers what they think.
- What do you aspire to be in the mind of the customer?
Step 2: Create elements that will represent the brand
All aspects of the company – both external and internal - should envelop the brand elements. This goes for the traditional advertising components of colors and fonts, as well as the sights, sounds and scents in your retail store. Customer service is another branding element that should be included in your strategy.
Step 3: Deliver your brand
Once the brand elements are developed getting it out there requires a commitment. Enduring brands are created with consistent visual and verbal symbols and messaging over a cross-section of media channels directly aimed at your target audience over a long period of time. The pay-off is getting your brand known for something that resonates with customers to the point they become devoted advocates. When you succeed in gaining true brand advocates, they are prone to fanatically promote yours as their favorite brand. That kind of word of mouth means gold for your business.
Toni Guffei is an Entrepreneur, Educator & Explorer. Follow her on Twitter: @tonironi
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