What is branding?
Branding or brand positioning is one of the most essential pillars of any business, large or small, retail or B2B. A well-thought out branding strategy gives you a major edge in the current cut-throat markets. But what exactly does branding entail? More importantly, why is branding so crucial to a small business like yours?
In a nutshell, your brand is your promise to the customer. It communicates what clients should expect from your services and products. Furthermore, it differentiates you from your competitors. Your brand is a mix of who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.
7 Components of an effective branding strategy
Every brand makes a promise. However, in a competitive marketplace where consumer confidence is low and budgetary caution is high, making a promise is not enough to differentiate your brand from the next. You need a defining purpose.
Understanding what your business promises and matching it is essential. Nonetheless, having a solid reason why you wake up every day is more important. To put it differently, your purpose is more specific, therefore, serving as a perfect separator between you and your business rivals.
The key to maintaining a consistent brand is by avoiding all things that do not relate to or improve your brand. Have you posted a new photo on your Instagram page? What value does it bring to your company? Does it align with your core message and values, or was it just an inappropriate meme that would only serve to confuse your audience?
In order to give your brand a solid foundation, you need to harmonize your message across all platforms. Ultimately, consistency is the fuel that super charges your brand recognition and boosts customer loyalty.
Most purchases are not rational. For example, a customer will be willing to spend thousands of dollars more to purchase a Mercedes instead of buying a cheaper, equally well-made car. What drove them to such a decision? The answer is that there was an emotional calling that made them lean towards a brand that they love, not just any brand.
Your brand should provide customers with an opportunity to be a part of something bigger. For example, Mercedes has been successful in positioning itself as the obvious choice for someone looking to purchase a high-end sedan.
In the rapidly changing modern world, marketers have been forced to be flexible if they are to remain relevant. The silver lining is that now you can be infinitely creative with your marketing campaign.
You may be wondering, “How is it even possible to be flexible and remain consistent at the same time?” That’s a good question. While consistency enables you to set a standard for your brand, flexibility allows you to adapt your strategies in a bid to build engagement and distinguish your brand from the rest.
By now, you know that consistency is crucial for effective brand positioning. Providing your employees with a style guide may help to some extent in achieving a seamless digital experience. Nonetheless, it is essential for all your employees to be well acquainted in how to represent the brand and relate to customers.
For instance, if your brand is playful and bubbly on social media, it would be a rude if a person called just to find a grumpy and monotone representative on the other end of the line. Don’t you think so?
If you already have customers, partners and employees that are showing your company and your brand some love, don’t just sit and watch. Be grateful.
There are customers and employees who go out of their way to recommend your services to friends and even act as your unofficial brand ambassador. By cultivating loyalty in such individuals, you will set yourself up for more referrals and returning customers, therefore, more profits to your business.
Defining your brand
Defining your brand is like a journey whereby your business discovers and identifies itself. It may be challenging, time consuming and uncomfortable. Fundamentally, it requires you to answer the following questions:
- What is your company’s mission?
- What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
- What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
- What qualities do you want them to associate with your business?
Do the necessary research and learn the needs, habits and desires of both your current and potential customers. Do not make the mistake of assuming that you know what your customers want and think. Find out by asking them – you may be surprised how wrong your presumptions were.
Due to the complexity involved in defining and developing a brand, we recommend leveraging the services of a non-profit small-business consulting group or a Small Business Development Center.
Now that you have established your brand, how do you get the word out? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Create a visually appealing and design-relevant logo then place it on all platforms.
- Write down your brand messaging. What is the core message you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should know the brand attributes intimately.
- Integrate your brand. Branding influences all aspects f your business, from how you answer the phone, to what your sales team wear on sales calls.
- Create a voice for your company that aligns with your brand. The voice or persona should be adopted across all written communication. It should also be incorporated in the visual imagery of all content, online and offline. Is your brand friendly? Then be more conversational. Is it ritzy? Add a little formality. You get the gist of it.
- Design templates and develop brand standards for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement as well as look and feel everywhere. You do not need fanciness, just consistency.
- Keep your promises. As we mentioned, every brand makes a promise, and it is your responsibility to keep it. Customers will not come back or refer your services if you do not deliver on your brand’s promises.
- Consistency is critical. This point comes last because in a way, it involves all the above and is still the most important aspect of branding.