January 30, 2017
Building your brand confidence
For years, you’ve been hearing about the value that a strong brand can bring to your business. You believed it. And yet, your own branding efforts have been largely unsatisfying. The only result you seem to have got from them is to feel unsure that you made the right branding decisions. Why is that?
I have found, time and again, that it can often come down to a lack of clarity about what ‘branding’ actually means. In my experience, and in surveys among independent businesses owners, people unfamiliar with branding often define it as their product, name, or logo. But it’s this narrow definition that is exactly why so many branding efforts can fall short.
Brand is what makes a business, product or service unique in the mind of its customers and the marketplace. It is expressed in every interaction with your customers — your name and logo, yes, but much more. It includes all your communications and marketing materials, serves as a filter for key business decisions, can guide the types of people you hire, and then defines how you interact with them on a daily basis. So needless to say, an investment in your brand is an important investment in your business, regardless of your size, or whether you’re B2C or B2B.
At start up, many business owners don’t have the budget, time or dedicated marketing department to invest in a branding program—so as they grow, they find that their brand doesn’t really feel right any more. It’s never too late to build a brand strategy and your brand confidence.
Some big-picture brand pointers:
Look at brand as an investment in your company
Only a fraction of entrepreneurs say that when they first started their business, marketing and branding were their top priorities. And I’ve personally seen this with businesses going through transitions as well, such as taking on a new market opportunity or going through a change in leadership. Although a business owner may have planned to get to it later, brand strategy really needs to be part of any transition or new positioning. It should be seen as an up-front, long-term investment that will pay off over the entire life of a company. An effective brand will help attract the right clients and potential partners. And having a strong brand can help give a company credibility.
Tell your story
Brand is the personification of a business. Just like an individual, each brand is unique. And that’s the core question independent business owners need to ask themselves: What makes their business or product unique? In thinking about the uniqueness of a brand, business owners need to consider what they want to become, what they do, what values their brand represents and who they want as customers. Once these questions are answered clearly in a brand position, the outward expressions of “branding”—name, logo, communications content, human resources procedures, etc.—can begin.
Keep it simple
When it comes to the core identity, a good one distills your entire brand story into one mark. In our experience, the more simple that visual, the more clearly it resonates – and the easier it is to apply it in all communications.
Apply it consistently
As the face of your company, your brand should be reflected in everything you do and every interaction made. One of the keys to this is to develop flexible brand tools. This includes physical and digital pieces—like labels, note cards, and avatars—that can be easily attached to all communications, but also a flexible brand language that your team and confidently and naturally speak to.
A lot of businesses out there are providing excellent products or services, but their brand no longer represents them. Brand is always evolving and should always reflect the business as it is today, not how it was the day it started. If more services or products are added, if there is new leadership, or if new markets are being pursued, the brand needs to reflect that. Updates can be as simple a few extra line items on the company website, a quick update to the company brochure, or it may be the right time for a rebrand.
It’s never too late to make branding a part of your business strategy. And if you do it thoughtfully with all the above in mind, investing in creating a strong brand is an investment in your business’s continued success.
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