Branding Yourself | The First Thing You Need to Know about Branding
Branding Yourself | Many business owners we talk to already understand that branding is essential to their small business, but a surprisingly high number of them don’t really know why. They recognise the link between strong branding and successful businesses, but too few realise that their brand lives in everyday interactions with their clients, the images they share, the messages they post on their blog, the content of their marketing materials, and in their posts on social media networks.
There’s more to your “brand essence” than just your logo and a snappy slogan. Your brand is the sum total of the experiences your clients and potential clients have with your company. A strong brand communicates what your company does, how it does it, and at the same time, establishes trust and credibility. However, thoughtfully building your brand is only simple on the surface level. Actually putting it into practice can be tricky, and it’s all too easy to unintentionally sideline your brand promise while juggling the day-to-day demands of running a small business. In this article, we offer guidelines for building a strong brand that positions your small business clearly and effectively in the marketplace, and helps attract repeat business and referrals.
1. Start by Defining Your Brand | Branding Yourself
Review the product or service your company offers, pinpoint the space in the market it occupies and research the emotive and rational needs and concerns of your customers. Your brand character should promote your small business, connect with your customer base and differentiate you in the market. What you say is important, but don’t overlook how you say it. Successful brands speak with a unique voice. Think about the brands you admire – what makes them unique? How do they communicate with you and other customers? What do you like about their voice?
2. Consistency and Clarity Are Key
Many businesses mistakenly change their messaging depending on their target audience. For example, a company might take a more serious tone on their web page but a very lighthearted tone on their Facebook page. Actively building your brand requires consistency. You need to repeatedly send the same messages, deliver the same positive outcomes for your clients and use the same visual elements. Also, be consistent when it comes to design and avoid the temptation to chop and change from one campaign to the next or across different marketing channels. From business cards and logo to email newsletters and brick-and-mortar signage, all of your printed communications and sales materials should look, feel and sound like they come from the same source.
Don’t have the right skills in-house? Explore hiring a professional copywriter and/or graphic designer to help with your marketing collateral. Projecting an unprofessional image will only discourage people from doing business with you.
3. Empower Your Clients
You can set your brand’s direction, but how your brand is perceived is determined by your clients. Branding yourself isn’t a one shot deal; it’s an on-going juggling act of marketing, research and conversation. If you’re not tapping into those conversations with you audience, how do you know what their real impression of you is? How will you know how to address it?
Make it easy and worthwhile for your customers to share their opinions and feedback. Do this well, and you’ll create a foundation for a vibrant community. When you include your customers in the content development process, you’re bolstering the relationships they have with your company. And by leveraging real-life client experiences, you are speaking directly to your current and potential customer base.
4. Do as You Say
Your business’ brand isn’t a mission statement engraved on a plaque that hangs on your office wall. It’s the gut feeling other people have about your business. Happy customers who feel good about your business are your best source of referrals. For example, Zappos has built great trust and credibility with customers by promising quick delivery (2-5 business days) but Zappos goes even further and upgrades most customers to free overnight shipping. While it may seem like extra work, these extra touches do matter. According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, 65 percent of consumers recommend a company to others because of its great customer service. You should therefore always ask yourself: Is this as good as it could be? What can be improved? Would this impress me?