“Your Brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room.”

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If your business is not a brand, it is a commodity.

What is Branding?

Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small, retail or B2B. An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. But what exactly does "branding" mean? How does it affect a small business like yours?

Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors'. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.

7 Components for a Comprehensive Branding Strategy

  • Purpose

    “Every brand makes a promise. But in a marketplace in which consumer confidence is low and budgetary vigilance is high, it’s not just making a promise that separates one brand from another, but having a defining purpose,”

    While understanding what your business promises is necessary when defining your brand positioning, knowing why you wake up everyday and go to work carries more weight. In other words, your purpose is more specific, in that it serves as a differentiator between you and your competitors.

  • Consistency

    The key to consistency is to avoid talking about things that don’t relate to or enhance your brand. Added a new photo to your business’ Facebook Page? What does it mean for your company? Does it align with your message, or was it just something funny that would, quite frankly, confuse your audience?

    In an effort to give your brand a platform to stand on, you need to be sure that all of your messaging is cohesive. Ultimately, consistency contributes to brand recognition, which fuels customer loyalty. (No pressure, right?)

  • Emotion

    Customers aren’t always rational. How else do you explain the person who paid thousands of dollars more for a Harley rather than buying another cheaper, equally well-made bike? There was an emotional voice in there somewhere, whispering: “Buy a Harley.”

    By provided their customers with an opportunity to feel like they’re part of a larger group that’s more tight-knit than just a bunch of motorcycle riders, Harley Davidson is able to position themselves as an obvious choice for someone looking to purchase a bike.

  • Flexibility

    n this fast-changing world, marketers must remain flexible to stay relevant. On the plus side, this frees you to be creative with your campaigns.

    You may be thinking, “Wait a minute, how am I supposed to remain consistent while also being flexible?”

    Good question. While consistency aims to set the standard for your brand, flexibility enables you to make adjustments that build interest and distinguish your approach from that of your competition. 

  • Employee Involvement

    As we mentioned before, achieving a sense of consistency is important if you wish to build brand recognition. And while a style guide can help you achieve a cohesive digital experience, it’s equally important for your employees to be well versed in the how they should be communicating with customers and representing the brand. 

    If your brand is playful and bubbly through Twitter engagements, then it wouldn’t make sense if a customer called in and was connected with a grumpy, monotone representative, right?

  • Loyalty

    f you already have people that love you, your company, and your brand, don’t just sit there. Reward them for that love.

    These customers have gone out their way to write about you, to tell their friends about you, and to act as your brand ambassadors. Cultivating loyalty from these people early on will yield more returning customers — and more profit for your business.

Defining Your Brand

Defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the questions below:

  • 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 company?

Do your research. Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don't rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.

Because defining your brand and developing a brand strategy can be complex, consider leveraging the expertise of a nonprofit small-business advisory group or a Small Business Development Center .

Once you've defined your brand, how do you get the word out? Here are a few simple, time-tested tips:

  • Get a great logo. Place it everywhere.
  • Write down your brand messaging. What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should be aware of your brand attributes.
  • Integrate your brand. Branding extends to every aspect of your business--how you answer your phones, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your e-mail signature, everything.
  • Create a "voice" for your company that reflects your brand. This voice should be applied to all written communication and incorporated in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off. Is your brand friendly? Be conversational. Is it ritzy? Be more formal. You get the gist.
  • Develop a tagline. Write a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand.
  • Design templates and create brand standards for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. You don't need to be fancy, just consistent.
  • Be true to your brand. Customers won't return to you--or refer you to someone else--if you don't deliver on your brand promise.
  • Be consistent. I placed this point last only because it involves all of the above and is the most important tip I can give you. If you can't do this, your attempts at establishing a brand will fail.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I’ve never made a brand or logo before. How does your process work? +

That’s ok. In its barest essentials, we collaborate about what your brand or logo is intended to do, and then build a variety of choices that show how it accomplishing its job in a format approximating its final version. You will evaluate the work as your audience will.

Q: What is the difference between a brand and a logo? +

A logo is an image that is understood to represent your company. Typically, it is an image that works alongside a name, a tagline, and possibly other information.

A brand is a toolkit that keeps all of your marketing communications cohesive, reflects your values, and helps your audience notice, understand, and value you. A logo is only one element within a brand.

Q: What do I get when I buy a logo? +

A subscriber Opts-Out when they quit your list. Users can do this quickly and simply by replying to any text message you send them with the word STOP. Opt out instructions are text Stop KEYWORD to SHORTCODE.

Q: What does a good brand look like? +

Apple Inc. is an example of a company that has a well-established brand. When most people think of Apple, words like innovative, cutting-edge, modern and sleek come to mind. Its products—the iPad, iPhone, iPod and Mac have changed the way we interact with technology. Buying an Apple device is the promise of an experience characterized by simplicity, speed, ease of use, constant connection and an intuitive user interface.

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