When you’re starting out in business it’s easy to focus on the urgency of what needs to be done in the short term rather than face the ‘what do I want my business to look like in 5 years’ time?’ question. But thinking about your brand as well as brand building and how you are going to develop it is an essential part of your initial business plan. Over time your brand will become part of the value of your business and will differentiate you from your competitors.
What is a brand?
Your brand is the promise you are making to your customers when they deal with you. How do you want your customers to describe you? It includes the values and character of your business, not just your logo and font, and extends across all the touch points a customer has with you e.g. how you answer the phone, your email signature, your website and social media posts.
A strong brand means customers will know what to expect when they deal with your business. It can also attract new customers without the need to spend money on advertising – a bonus for businesses with limited resources. Therefore, brand building is massively important.
You don’t need the marketing budget of Apple or Disney to get involved in successful brand building but the same marketing principles can be applied. Don’t be afraid to be bold.
Brand Building Tip 1 – What do you want your business to be known for?
Is it excellent customer service? In-depth technical knowledge about a subject or products? Value for money? For a small business or sole trader this normally stems from the vision of the owner/s and is built into the fabric of the business from the outset. There’s no point in trying to be something that you don’t believe in or can’t deliver – you will end up with disappointed customers.
Brand building Tip 2 – Do your research
Who are your core customers and what are they looking for from a brand? This should form part of your market research when you’re putting your business plan together. You need to match the demand to what you want your business to be known for.
Also ask your existing clients and employees what they think of your brand. It may be they’ve spotted some strengths (or weaknesses!) which you hadn’t thought of.
Brand Building Tip 3 – Write your mission statement and tell everyone what it is
Your mission statement allows you to define your brand to all of your stakeholders. Try and include some of the key words which you’d like to be known for (without it turning into a list of buzzwords) and then weave it into a story which helps connect customers to your brand. It should be clear, concise and easy for people to remember. Unum has put together a list of the 24 most inspirational mission statements.
Once you have the final version, communicate it as widely as possible. Make sure it’s on your website and that all your employees know it (and they can tell other people what it is).
Brand Building Tip 4 – How does the brand translate into your business?
Once you’ve defined your brand and your mission statement, what you stand for has to be visible in your business.
One element is your visual identity – giving that vital first impression and bringing your brand to life. At this stage don’t try and cut corners and design a logo or branding yourself, if you want to look professional then you need to invest in design expertise, but if you use a freelancer then it doesn’t have to be expensive.
You also need to think about the physical elements of your brand. If you’ve decided that you’re going to be known for amazing customer service then you will need a website that is easy to navigate and buy from, a quick response to customer queries and top notch after-sales care. All of this will communicate your brand consistently to your customers.
The tone of voice you use should also reflect your personality. As a small business you can be brave here as these small businesses with a killer tone of voice demonstrate. This should be consistent across your website, emails, social media posts, adverts and brochures.
Brand Building Tip 5 – How will you protect your brand?
Successful brand building takes time but all that hard work can be quickly undone if a customer has a bad experience and takes to social media to air their complaint. Monitor social media for any mentions of your company, and respond to any negative reviews by asking them to get in touch with you personally.
Remember, as a small business you have the freedom to be bold when it comes to branding, so take advantage of the free resources available (there are loads of brand building videos on youtube) and make yourself stand out from the crowd.