BRANDING YOUR BUSINESS: PUTTING THINGS INTO PRACTICE

 

It’s not unusual to think that branding is a luxury, or something unnecessary – an airy-fairy concept designed to keep marketing consultants highly paid, but the truth is your brand is far more valuable than you think.

Having a brand means giving your company a personality; something customers can relate to and remember you for. Given the value this presents, it makes sense to devote some time to branding before you put your marketing plans on the road.

It’s something we all understand instinctually anyway, which is why it’s so effective. You know when you buy a fragrance from Chanel or a car from Mercedes that you’re getting something rather special. You know it before you see the product, because you know the brand. That’s how you want your customers, past, present and most importantly future, to feel about your brand.

In addition, a strong brand guides other marketing decisions that fuel your company’s growth, including where to advertise, who to partner with, and how to price your product. Those decisions are anything but fluff: they are the lifeblood of your business.

Want to know more about the importance of your businesses’ brand as the core part of a wider marketing strategy? Register now to attend our fully funded brand workshops in your area.

WHAT ARE ALL THE ELEMENTS OF BRANDING?

Here are a few top things to consider when putting branding into practice:

You’ll want to think about a logo, a tagline, some design elements and some basic descriptions. As well as figuring out who your company is you need to figure out who your customers are, which is part of the branding process.

Put these things together and you have a ‘brand strategy.’ Your brand strategy should show you how to work from your conception of your business and what it stands for all the way to how your customers feel about you and carry the same consistent message at every step. Miss a step and the message doesn’t get transmitted – great website? Fantastic, but who’s seen it? Pick the wrong step and you’ll waste time – great blog? Fantastic, but do your readers ever buy anything?

A solid brand strategy will be a roadmap so when you have a new product, some news to announce or you want your customers to fall for your special offers hook, line and sinker, you know how to go about it: it’s all laid out there in front of you.

Start by describing your company and what you do. Before we move on to loftier things like a mission statement or a tagline, you need to have this basic description down cold. Write a basic description of what your business does and who it serves in an easy-to understand sentence or two, with no marketing hype. Run this by a few people who know nothing about your business and see if they ‘get’ what you do and whom you do it for.

Standard company descriptors will be a useful tool for your business. There’ll be lots of times you’ll need to provide someone with a short description of your firm: for a trade show program, an ad link on a partner site, a direct mail piece, web directory, local small ad or whatever. You’re often bound by space and character constraints, so it’s helpful to prepare 25-word, 50-word, and 100-word descriptors in advance. Many folks will also use this verbiage as the basis for the ‘About Us’ page of their website.

Then, do the same thing for your products. In a table or grid, list each product or service you offer and how much you charge. If you offer packages, note these and write down everything they include. If you’re a retail shop or online store with many items, list a representative sample of items and the price ranges for each. The idea is to get a feel for where in the market you fall and what kind of customers you hope to attract. This is something you should come back to as you’re doing your market and location research.

Finally, it’s time to talk Mission and Vision. If there’s an element of branding that sounds like the emperor’s new clothes, this is it – but, again, we can strip away the marketing jargon and find something very useful. Your Mission and Vision don’t have to be a pile of ‘passion,’ ‘driving,’ ‘creating,’ and all the rest of it. What they should do is answer the question: Hey boss, why’d we come to work today? What are you in the business of doing, and where would you like it to develop?

Avoid mission statements like: ‘To provide the best customer service and product quality.’ They say nothing if they are too generic. Try to put your mission statement in the context of what you do, while still leaving room to expand your offerings.

WHAT IS YOUR BRAND POSITIONING?

We all think we make our purchase decisions in a rational way, but the evidence says otherwise. In fact we make emotional decisions based on how we feel about a brand or a product. One such decision is deciding on value, while another is deciding on whether something’s ‘for us’.

Think of a brand like Barbour. They make traditional country clothes and the quality is undisputable – they belong to a certain segment of the market; one that thinks nothing of spending over a hundred pounds on a waxed jacket. If Barbour tried to sell a budget, economy jacket, it wouldn’t shift – however cheap it was. Why? Because in people’s minds, Barbour = quality = expensive. Most people would never look at the price tag. That’s brand positioning and you need to do the same thing with your brand.

Do you represent high-end lasting quality or cheap and disposable? As customers interact with your business in hundreds of different ways, they will form opinions and tell their friends.

Next it’s important to list the main benefits and differentiators you want to tout in all of your messaging. This is how you tell prospective customers what you have to offer that’s unique and makes you stand out.

You’ll want to list:

• The company’s overall, high-level value proposition,
• The main benefits the company offers,
• The main capabilities that support each benefit claim (how do you provide that benefit?),

The main proof points or features that support each capability (what proof do you have that you can do what you say you can do? Why are you able to offer that capability?).

Listing your benefits and differentiators will ensure your employees (if you have them later) as well as hired writers and designers are clear on what your business offers to customers and what you feel is most important. It also helps you understand your business better. You can build this out of your Mission and Vision statements and your descriptions of your company and product.

A bulleted list of your differentiators can quickly bring someone up to speed on the main ways you’re better than your competition. The list will make ad development and copy writing easier, and is another way to practice clarity and consistency in everything you do. Rather than let a writer, an employee, or even a partner decide their own interpretation, you create a master list from which everyone works to ensure all communication vehicles emphasise the right points. Who and where is your audience? How can you find them?

If you don’t know your audience intimately and make them real, you’ll be shooting at a moving target. Often, business owners say: ‘Everyone is my target audience.’ They’re afraid to exclude a particular group, because in certain situations, that person could feasibly buy something from them. Yes, in the big picture, anyone may buy anything, but you need to focus your attention and effort on the ones most likely to buy. We aren’t talking about to whom you’re willing to sell: we’re talking about where you’ll spend your limited time and money on attracting the lowest hanging fruit. Think about your ideal customer, not your average customer.

WHAT ARE YOUR ‘BUYERS PERSONAS’?

The real key to effective branding is identifying a clear picture of your ideal customers and developing a benefit or value-driven message that speaks directly to their needs.

A common strategy to identify your target customers is using ‘buyer personas.’ This sounds more complex than it is. You know what kind of person spends the most and comes back most often to stores like yours. That’s your target audience – high-value, loyal customers. So make up a typical one. Give him a name that would fit one of your customers, a backstory – make him as real as possible.

Give him a name, pick a photo off the Internet that looks like the kind of person you want to sell to and put a ‘persona card’ next to your computer on your home office desk. Every time you make a business decision, think, ‘how’s Jim going to like it?’ If it’s the kind of thing your fictional buyer persona – Jim – would love, you’ve probably got a winner.

Want to find out more about branding and how it fits into your overall marketing strategy? Get in touch with the team and gain access to specialist support from our expert marketing advisors.