When you think of a brand, you probably picture simple factors such as company name, logo, tagline, and web design. However, the most successful brands are defined by several additional components—both behind the scenes and customer-facing—that add depth and meaning to those elements. If you’re interested in taking your brand to the next level, follow these steps to establish a solid foundation and build a brand that connects with your audience and converts.
1. Know your business’s position
Before you can build a brand that will succeed in the crowded consumer marketplace, you must fully understand where your business falls within the marketplace. This is best achieved by performing research that will help you craft a positioning statement. There are a lot of existing models out there, but in general, your positioning statement should indicate who your customers are, summarize your product or service, and explain how you differ from competitors. To build an insightful positioning statement, follow these steps:
a. Research your competition
Consider the general makeup of your product offerings and find the businesses—both large and small—that sell the same or similar items. By looking into these competitors in-depth, you can build out a competitive matrix to reference. Once you have identified your primary competitors, rank yourself against them on various factors like including price, product quality, brand awareness, customer service, and more. Building a competitive matrix will help you understand how your brand stands out from the crowd, leading into the next step.
b. Determine your differentiators
By comparing your business to your competitors, you can easily determine your niche and unique selling points (USPs) that you can use to differentiate your brand from others. To determine your USPs, ask yourself: Why would someone choose my product over another? What differentiates my product or brand from the competition? What am I offering that no one else in the market is?
Answering these questions can help you define the special qualities that live within your brand and pinpoint your niche. Your niche should be extremely specific to your offerings and highly-focused on a relevant demographic. Don’t waste time trying to sell everything to everyone; instead, focus your offerings on a specific audience.
c. Identify your target audience
Once you’ve identified your niche and USPs, it’s time to classify and research your target market. A good way to do this is with demographic data, whether through Google Analytics, social media, or even newsworthy articles about your industry. Pay attention to their values and interests, how to speak to them, and how they think. It’s important to fully understand the buying patterns of this specific target market so you can better identify selling opportunities and trends that you can jump on.
When getting to know your target audience, creating user personas—or figurative representations of your target market—can be extremely helpful. By creating 2-4 separate personas, you can internalize the way potential customers perceive the brand and how the brand can solve problems. For each persona you create, include a name, job title, demographic information, goals and challenges, values and fears, how your brand can help, and how they are likely to respond to marketing.
2. Set your business’s look and feel
Once you’ve used the above information to craft a positioning statement for your business, you will have a better understanding of what type of imagery and messaging will appeal to your audience. To solidify this strategy, put together a style guide for your business based on the specific look you want your business to present and the overall feel you want it to evoke. The end goal with your style guide is to have a go-to resource to ensure brand consistency across all channels. To compile your style guide, follow these steps:
a. Create compelling design rules
Start out by mapping out the design aspects of your brand, including your logo, typography, color palette, and graphics & imagery. If you get stuck, a mood board can be a big help. Close your eyes and think about everything that comes to mind when you think about your brand and products. Use Pinterest to find images and create a collage of all the pictures or words that you feel represent that brand. Once compiled, it’s easier to visualize how your brand should be represented online and in print and to make sure it fits with what your target audience is most likely to respond positively to.
b. Develop a definitive tone & voice
Once you have a solidified look, think about how you want to sound. Consider your brand’s voice and tone: How will you speak to your customers? Will you be fun and friendly or professional and educational? Referencing your user personas for information on what your shoppers value, want, and need will help you create messaging that speaks to them. When you’ve settled on a definitive sound, make sure that all of your messages across all aspects and channels of your business remain consistent, from marketing and sales to customer service and culture.
c. Craft a mission statement
With research under your belt and a solidified look and sound, it’s time to pull it all together with a mission statement—a short, action-based statement that defines your company’s purpose and objectives. Your mission statement will help guide your overall business activity and serve as the purpose for your business’s existence. Share it both internally to rally your troops and externally to tell your audience exactly what you will do for them and what you stand for.
3. Expand your business’s reach
Now that your brand has a well-researched position and a look and feel that speaks to your target audience, you can focus on marketing your business. That’s right—the way you market is a component of your branding strategy as well. Keep your brand attributes in mind when creating your marketing strategy with a special focus on these steps:
a. Plan an engagement strategy
Based on your positioning statement, think about which would be the best channels to use to engage with your customers, and how often you should do so. Some channels you should consider including in your engagement strategy include social media, review sites, community sites, industry forums, and traditional marketing channels like email.
Before deciding on your top engagement channels, consider what you know about your user personas, like where they typically spend time online and what kinds of messaging might be compelling to them. For example, if you are considering upping social media engagement, and your target market is Gen Z, you will probably want to put some effort into engaging videos on TikTok or Snapchat. However, if your target market is Baby Boomers, you’ll likely want to focus more on Facebook posts and polls.
b. Encourage customer loyalty
Think about the brands you connect with most and what types of actions led to and continue to enforce that connection. Do they offer a rewards or loyalty program for repeat purchases? Treat their customers like a family and incentivize referrals? Feature customers like you on their page when they share photos using their product? There are lots of ways to get customers excited about your brand and keep them coming back for more, but make sure whatever you offer ties into your positioning or mission statement. With superb quality, service, and communication, you can even turn customers into brand ambassadors.
c. Maintain a consistent presence
All of this work will be for nothing if you don’t make sure you’re presenting yourself the same way at every touchpoint. If your brand voice is playful and fun, but your social media posts are stiff and businesslike, your customers will become confused by the incongruity. Same goes for using dark-colored branding, but sending out surveys with pastel backgrounds. No matter how insignificant-seeming the communication, make sure it fits in with the brand you’ve worked so hard on.
Branding is one of the most valuable pieces of a business, whether you’re a new store or an established company looking to create a new competitive edge. When done well, branding can be the difference between a business that is fizzling or flourishing. Remember, branding is more than just a logo and company name—it’s how you want your company to be perceived overall so that you can create a loyal following.