Would you be as likely to buy Starbucks or Dunkin coffee in a brown paper cup? What if you walked into their stores and it was a plain retail space, bright lights, and with random chairs, lacking a similar experience in one store compared to the next? Even local coffee shops with one storefront get this. They create an atmosphere and experience that is unique and memorable in order to compete and differentiate.
OK. You are not Starbucks. You have a service business or start up. I get it.
So, here’s the thing: Anyone can create a business.
Building a brand is something that goes far beyond coming up with a name, setting up your website and creating a logo. It goes beyond making a few calls, getting that first growth income going, and delivering a good product or service.
In fact, branding can sound like a lot of work, especially when you feel enormous pressure to make money right now, or else! The irony is that taking some time at the outset to really establish a strong brand will actually accelerate your results over time.
Branding your business will ask you to answer some questions you may have overlooked. These can include:
What feelings should a brand evoke?
How should a brand look?
How do I make it resonate with my target market?
And many business owners believe these questions are “soft” and irrelevant to their sales efforts. In fact, every decision you and your customers make are emotional first, and foremost. Not considering these questions leaves you in high pressure sales scenarios, because you don’t understand your customers’ deeper motivations.
Branding is a powerful marketing tool and establishing a brand early on can mean the difference between wild success and mediocrity.
Whether you’re still in the idea stage of starting your business or have been in business for years, you should be attempting to build your brand.
This blog is a very high-level explanation of each step of the brand development process. It won’t answer a number of questions, but you will be able to grasp what is involved. For those of you who are ready and interested in accelerating your brand development and strategy, I am launching the brand mastery mini-training in just a couple of weeks, and you can register to be notified when it is available here:
Before You Use Brand Building Tips: Know What A Brand Really Is
A brand isn’t just your business name or logo. Think of your brand as your business's personality. It’s how people perceive your business whenever they think about or have an interaction with it.
It’s not what you tell people about your business; it’s what they tell each other.
The brand isn’t just one aspect of your business. It’s a multi-faceted and complex set of factors like your values, communication style, products, logos, colors, and so much more. All of these things together create your brand. But it’s the customer's perception that ultimately becomes your brand.
If you think about it, each of us has personal brands too. Your name and your face, how you wear your hair, and the clothes you wear are a part of your brand. Then add in your character and the way you communicate. All of these pieces come together to make an impression on the people you interact with. Business owners’ personal brands are the largest influence on their organization’s brand.
Why Do I Need a Brand?
Your brand is what separates you from other businesses sharing your market. The market can be crowded and anything you can do to stand out is going to improve your success.
Consequently, building a quality brand identity builds trust with the consumer and also can allow you to charge more for your products or services.
Going through the process of building a brand for your business will compel you to think about the future of your business. And going through that process will help create a vision for your business beyond the name and slogan.
Thinking that you’ll establish your brand later is a critical error that a lot of businesses make because they don’t understand the value in doing it. You may think it makes sense to just get the ball rolling and get some money coming in.
Unfortunately, this can cause problems that you won’t see in the beginning. The problems will come later and they will likely end up costing you more time and money.
So much good comes from putting in that work in the beginning. Everything from your business name to your marketing strategy becomes a cohesive experience for you and your customer.
Though it may seem tedious and time consuming, do the work required to build your brand. It will be a huge boon in the long run.
How to Build a Brand
Building a brand doesn’t happen overnight - it takes time. But putting in the time to create a brand identity will propel your business forward like nothing else.
There are three main topics to consider when building your brand and they are commonly known as the three C’s of branding.
Clarity: It’s your job to define your brand - not your customer’s. The primary points of your message should be easy for your customer to identify. If they have to work too hard to figure out what you’re about, you might lose them to the competition.
Be clear about what your brand message is. If you have to work too hard to explain it to the average person - your parents for example - you probably aren’t there yet.
Consistency: Everything should be consistent with your brand. From the font on your website and the lighting/style of your photos to the voice of your blog, website, and emails. Consistency is key. There’s nothing worse than a website with 14 different fonts and irrelevant pictures.
Consistency builds trust and gives the customer something they can count on.
Constancy: Building a great brand takes time. Don’t shift directions every time you don’t have show-stopping results. Stay the course.
Sailors have learned over hundreds of years that there are specific routes they can take where the winds will benefit their direction of travel. These trade winds are noted for their constancy of speed and direction.
The sailors know they can count on the trade winds to make their travels faster and safer. Be like the trade winds with your brand strategy.
Now let’s go step-by-step through the process of building your brand. Keep in mind that as you go through this process, you may revisit some of these steps to fine tune exactly what you want your brand to convey.
RESEARCH YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE AND COMPETITION
Before you get started making any decisions about your brand, learn who your target customers will be, your competition, and the current market. A number of entrepreneurs and business owners will tell me that they have no competitors since their concept is wildly original. In this case, your competitors are simply doing nothing. While others tell me they are competing against a large international company, while their offering is local. That might be true, but try to put yourself in your customers’ place. What will they consider a reasonable alternative to your product or service? That is your competition.
It’s impossible to build a solid brand identity without first identifying your target audience. If you skip this step, your entire strategy will suffer. Knowing your target audience is not only necessary for building your brand, but also for any marketing strategies you hope to implement.
Doing quality research now may seem boring and unnecessary, but it’s a critical step in the success of your brand and your business. This may seem overwhelming but don’t worry, you don’t need a marketing degree to do quality market research.
Defining Your Target Audience
Defining your customer involves more than saying I’m selling to people who are looking for my product. It’s about finding out who that is, what they want, and where they’re at in their life.
When you define your target market, you learn how your customers spend their time and where they hang out online. Once you learn this, you can make better decisions about how to target those customers.
The first thing you may want to think about is demographics. Demographics are statistical data relating to the market who will be interested in your product.
Consider these demographics in relation to your product:
● Marital status
● Location (where they live)
● Do they have kids?
Next, you might consider their lifestyles/attitudes. People who work will have different priorities and constraints than people who are retired.
Ask these questions about your target audience:
● Are they retired or employed?
● What do they do for fun?
● What are their shopping habits?
● What other things do they buy?
● Where do they shop?
● Where do they go on vacation?
Odds are you already know some people who might be your ideal customer. Let them be the embodiment of your customer prototype. You likely have 3 or 4 various ideal customers. To identify them for yourself, you may want to download a copy of my free Ideal Customer Worksheet.
Size Up the Competition
Finding out who your competitors are and understanding why they are successful can be useful in building your brand’s identity. Here are some great ways to research your market:
Google your product or service category and see what comes up. Who are your competitors? What are they offering? What else comes up in the search results? Explore websites and get a feel for who your competitors are marketing to.
Talk to customers who are in your target market and ask them what brands they buy.
Check out subreddits that relate to your potential customers.
Shop your competitors' products. Try to put yourself in the mind of your customers and discover what they might like or don’t like.
Look at social media profiles and posts that your target audience is interested in.
Check out the books, magazines, and events that your target market is interested in.
While doing this research, make note of which types of customers you could most easily sell to. Also look at your top competitors - the brands that are well-established and known.
Pay attention to how your competitions speaks and what they talk about. This will help you establish your brand voice later on.
Knowing this information before you move forward will help you to know what you should focus on and how you can set yourself apart from other businesses in your market.
YOUR BRAND FOCUS AND PERSONALITY
Why did you decide to start a business?
Everyone is trying to make money so that’s probably at the top of your list, but try to go a little deeper. What made you choose your particular business? What benefits does your business provide to the customer?
What’s Your Positioning Statement?
A positioning statement is not a slogan or tagline. It’s a brief 1-2 lines that stakes your claim in the market. This is a way for you to be able to answer questions about your brand that will help you create your slogan.
Here’s what a typical positioning statement looks like:
Our business offers [Product/Service] for [Target Audience] to [Value Proposition].
Unlike [Our Competition], we [Do This Really Great Thing].
Here’s an example:
Our business offers fishing lures for bass fishermen to catch more fish.
Unlike other fishing lure brands, we donate a portion of every sale to lake fishing conservation.
What Words Do You Associate With Your Brand?
Imagine your brand as a person. What are they like? Kind? Cheerful? Fun loving?
Think about your target audience and what kinds of words they would be attracted to. Doing this word association exercise will help you create the tone of your business. Having a tone is important because it’s how you will speak to your customers.
Whether you’re posting on social media or writing an email, you want your tone to match your brand and the feelings you’re trying to convey.
If your brand were a person, what are 3-5 words you would choose to describe him/her?
These words might begin to give you a glimmer into your core values. To get more clarity on your brand’s core values, grab a copy of my Core Values worksheet. (You might be surprised that it focuses on your personal core values, but again, the owner/founder’s values are the determining factor in a business’ core values.)
What Personifies Your Brand?
Now try personifying your brand. This can help you identify the qualities you want it to have. It can be an animal or a sports team or vehicle - anything that makes you think of the vibe you want your brand to have.
Every brand has both a brand personality and a brand archetype that is dominant. There are five essential personalities, and each brand has a combination that are present. Take this quiz to determine your dominant and secondary brand personalities.
Creating a Voice for Your Brand
Another important component of creating your brand is finding its voice. Once you know the words that best describe your brand and are starting to see its personality emerge, you need to figure out how it talks to the audience.
Is it professional or casual? Funny or serious? Whatever you choose, it should match the overall tone you are creating.
The voice should stay consistent whether it’s your website copy, blogs, social media posts or emails. The most important thing is that it resonates with your target audience.
A business selling skateboards doesn’t have the same brand voice as a boutique selling men’s suits. Again, this is where your target market research is going to be critical to your success.
CHOOSE THE LOOK OF YOUR BRAND
How you visually represent your brand is another important step when creating your brand. Remember those 3-5 words you chose to describe your brand? Those descriptive words may be helpful as you think about how you want people to “see” your brand.
The visual elements of your brand will carry significant weight in how your brand is perceived. It will be helpful to have this nailed down as you begin to design your website and your marketing materials. It’s all part of creating a cohesive, consistent, brand.
Colors convey feelings.
So how can you use colors to convey your brand’s personality? First, take a look at this chart to see what feelings each color evokes.
How do the descriptive words you chose to describe your brand match up with these colors? Color psychology isn’t an exact science, but it may be helpful information to know as you are choosing colors for your website and/or logo.
Remember to think about how text looks over the colors you choose. You want it to be very easy to read.
While you’re looking at colors, you may also want to start exploring different font options.
To avoid your website looking “disheveled”, try to only pick two fonts. Use one for headings and one for text. Look at some of your favorite websites or media to see what kinds of fonts you like and also what types go together well.
Your brand personality will probably also be helpful to factor in when choosing fonts. Some fonts are relaxed and funky while others are more professional. Just be sure to pick something that is readable.
DESIGNING A LOGO
When thinking about creating your brand, a logo is probably one of the first things that comes to your mind. After all, it is the symbol of your brand and will potentially be on everything from your website to business cards.
Optimally, you want to pick a logo that’s unique and scalable. You want to be able to change the size without changing the shape and have it look just as good when it’s small as it does when it’s big. It needs to be recognizable no matter what size it is.
When choosing your logo, consider these suggestions:
● An abstract shape
● An image from nature
● Pick a mascot
● Create an emblem
● Use an acronym or lettermark
● Try a visual metaphor
Whatever you choose as the logo to represent your business, be sure to experiment with it to see how it looks in certain settings. Much like choosing your business name, run it past a focus group to make sure it doesn’t look like something you didn’t intend.
Putting Your Brand Into Action
When applying your brand, think about telling the story of your brand. This story represents who you are as a business and where you are positioned in the market. It will be the backdrop for every interaction you have with customers.
It may be helpful to create a mission statement for your business. A mission statement is an explanation of why your business exists and what its overall goals are. Consider the following when developing your mission statement:
● What you do
● How you do it
● Why you do it
The “why” of your mission statement is the most crucial part. That’s what most consumers want to know. This is what separates you from the competition.
Often, buyers who visit your website for the first time will look at your “About” page to learn more about your company values. You want to have a good brand story to tell these people (and everyone, really).
You can use your positioning statement from chapter 3, as well as your mission statement, to get started, but also consider the following questions:
● What motivated me to start my business?
● How do we contribute to the betterment of the world?
● What’s the story behind my business and the way I run it?
● What does my business stand for and how does that impact how I do business?
Remember, your brand story isn’t something that’s only going to be told on your website. It’s an overall theme and feeling that will be conveyed in every email, every blog post, every social media ad, and everything your business does. It’s important to spend some time developing what the true essence of your brand is going to be.
CREATING A BRAND STRATEGY
One you know what your brand stands for, what it looks and sounds like, and specifically who you are creating your brand experience for, it’s time to put it all into action, with a brand strategy.
A brand strategy identifies where you need to be visible to your potential customers, and based on how they interact with you in their customer journey, you will identify ways (email, website, updates, packaging, events) to enhance their connection to your brand.
The brand strategy explores product launches, frequency and type of social media, the onboarding process for customers, and when to run promotions, for example.
Without a brand, your strategy will be bland. And without a strategy, your brand will be the best kept secret. Many businesses only have one or the other, and far too many have neither.
BUILDING YOUR BRAND DEFINES THE SPEED OF YOUR SUCCESS
There are a lot of pieces when it comes to building your brand. Every little detail is part of the story. Remember, it’s a work in progress. Don’t let brand building become a reason you get stalled in starting your business. Just keep working through it.
Here’s a list of some companies that have done a great job with their brand experience and brand strategy. Use them for inspiration as you get going.
• Pure Vida Bracelets
• Warby Parker
• Burt’s Bees
And, yes. Branding takes a lot of focus and self-awareness. The hardest brand to build is always our own brand. So, if you are ready, but could use some assistance, register for the upcoming Brand Mastery Mini-Training, and let’s get your brand working for you!