In the words of Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
What is a brand though? It can be termed as the sum total of the experiences - positive or otherwise - that people have with your business. Strong brand imaging communicates what your business does and establishes your credibility and trust. It includes everything from the posts you share, to your company logo and your promotional content.
Branding your business allows customers and prospects to recognize you and get a feel for your values. Most importantly, it distinguishes you from your competitors. It is the key to growing a strong and loyal customer base and sustaining your business.
But how do you do that? Let’s take a look at seven of the most effective tips for branding your business:
1. Find Your Place in the Market
Prior to deciding on any brand building activity, it’s important that you understand the market you are in. That includes understanding your target audience as much as where your competitors stand. More than being a business that solves a particular problem consumers have, you need to find out and understand the demographics that will be interested in what you’re selling.
Your brand’s content should be focussed on the motivations and purchase behaviors of your target audience. In your bid to unlock all this valuable customer information, you may also realize the competitive advantage you have over others.
This exercise to identify your target audience will benefit all facets of your brand building process. Solidify a picture of who your potential customers are - college goers, working parents, or C-suite executives. Build what companies like to call a “brand persona” - an identity that your consumers can relate to and understand.
Take Harley Davidson and their “Rebel” persona. They’ve championed brand values like independence, freedom, non-conformity, and controversy. They are meant for the kind of people who have a fire in their eyes - a burning instinct to change the status quo. The company knows that, and they leverage that in their promotional content.
Once you’ve figured your brand persona, the next step in branding your business is developing an identity and voice unique to you.
Be introspective, and answer questions about your brand, like:
What do you stand for?
What do you want people to say about you?
You can get the ball rolling on this process by coming up with your brand positioning and unique selling points. Who you are, what you do, for whom, and how. Another good exercise is coming up a with a list of words that you’d like associated with your brand. Adjectives that describe the kind of brand you are, and that will resonate with your target crowd.
Your personality and voice should reflect in your logo, taglines, mascots, campaigns, and communications. Think about your brand as a metaphor, and personify it to help identify the qualities you want it to be synonymous with.
Nike with their iconic swoosh and “Just Do It” tagline demonstrate this point brilliantly. You can see their mission statement in everything they do. They focus on helping athletes be their best self through their products.
Consider their mission statement above. These guys take the branding of their business to the next level with that footnote as they widen their audience using such a disclaimer.
3. Have a Strong and Consistent Online Presence
So you know your personas, and what you want to tell them. But how and where can you do that? The buyer profiles you built will help you identify where your target audiences spend the most of their time online. The best way to interact with people is on their terms. That is to say on the social media platforms they frequent.
According to a study by BigCommerce, 21% of online shoppers are likely to buy something featured in a brand’s Facebook post. Another 18% would purchase an item featured on a brand’s Pinterest board. Clearly, a strong presence on social media matters.
Establish your presence on the different social media platforms that your target audience uses and maintain that presence by being active. Work on generating content tailor-made for the different sections that make up your audience. Keep in mind the platforms you are using and curate your content in accordance with that.
Remember to portray a consistent brand image across all channels - blog posts, social media accounts, marketing materials, trade shows, website, etc. Consistency matters because that leads to familiarity. And familiarity breeds trust. Brand loyalties are built of this stuff.
Just compare Etsy's profiles on various social media platforms. Whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, they’re leveraging each platform to promote what they do. Here are Facebook and Twitter.
Note their consistent use of color, font, and content to provide a recognizable look and feel to their multiple handles.
4. Provide Exceptional Customer Experiences
To an extent, this ties back into a question we asked in the second point discussed. What do you want people to say about you? For the most part, when customers talk about you as a brand, they base it on their experiences engaging with you.
If you want them to talk about you in a positive light, it’s imperative that you do your best to provide them with exceptional service. This shouldn’t be restricted to the duration of the sale. It goes beyond that. Providing top-notch and consistent post-sale customer service and support is equally important.
Let’s analyze the impact customer service quality can have on your business. Remember Time Warner Cable? They’ve long had a reputation for abysmal service and hordes of dissatisfied customers. They had to resort to a radical re-branding campaign which included a change of names to Spectrum. All in a bid to do away with the tons of negative press surrounding TWC.
Image via Google
In sharp contrast to TWC, we have Zappos. When you think of Zappos, the first thing that pops into your mind is likely their exceptional customer service. The online apparel brand was able to reach this pedestal by making customer service the cornerstone of their brand.
All of the good press they’ve generated through word-of-mouth marketing has done their brand and business wonders. So much so they’ve started leveraging some of these exceptional customer service stories to make online commercials. All based on true stories. Here’s one:
All this effort you’re putting into building a brand for your business will only bear fruit if you can improve your visibility. And the most effective way to do that might be through influencer marketing campaigns.
Influencers provide unique and credible voices to the brand message you’re trying to put across. In their social circles, they are a voice of reason that many intently listen to. Whether it’s through reviews, giveaways, or testimonials, they have their own way of convincing your target audiences to engage with your brand.
But for your influencer campaign to have the kind of ripple effects you want, you need to work with the right influencers. Collaborate with influencers who align with your brand. You can leverage influencer marketing tools such as Grin to help you find them. It allows you to zero in on the perfect individuals based on parameters like their reach, domain, and engagement rates.
Naked Juice partners with influencers to make their presence known in the beauty, fashion, and health scenes. They had lifestyle bloggers like Kate Spiers share snapshots of her daily outfits and beauty essentials. The snaps included a strategically placed bottle of their smoothies in the frame.
Another important aspect of branding your business is researching other brands that are in your niche. Now, we’re not saying you should emulate what the big players in your industry are doing.
Instead, you should be aware of their own branding efforts. There’s a lot you can learn from their endeavors. It’s not always feasible to experiment with multiple branding techniques. But you can still learn a lot about them by monitoring your competitors who have tried them.
Branding your business is all about trying to make yourself standout. And researching your competitors or industry benchmarks can help you do that. Marketing is all about learning from past mistakes - yours or someone else's.
But how do you go about doing this? I’d recommend starting by creating a spreadsheet for brand competitor comparison.
As is evident from the above sample sheet, you want to try to answer some fundamental questions.
Who are your main competitors?
What is the quality of the products or services they are offering? How are they different from your own?
What is the brand’s mission statement? Is their brand image and identity consistent across platforms?
What kind of ratings, or reviews have customers left them online? What about mentions on social media?
Where and how are they concentrating their marketing efforts, both online and offline?
7. Integrate Your Brand into Everything You Do
Here’s a pro tip when it comes to branding your business. The brand building process is a continuous process. It never stops. This ties back into the point on portraying a consistent online image. It should also translate to the physical world.
Your brand image and voice should be visible and clearly reflected in whatever your customer interacts with. Let me clarify. If a customer walks into your store or office, your brand identity should be on display. The environment as well your personal interactions should reflect your brand image.
Your logo, your tagline, your product, and even your packaging should be a reflection of what your brand stands for.
A proper brand building strategy can elevate your business to the next level. You’ll find your lead generation, sales, and conversion rates improve manifold. Not only will you become more recognizable, but your trust equity will also grow. Hopefully, these tips will help you build a solid process for your business.
Brian Mechem is COO and Co-Founder of Grin, a software solution for companies who run influencer marketing programs. Grin's software powers some of the best influencer programs in the world, providing insights on ROI and adding efficiency to the influencer marketing process.