It’s a busy, noisy, overwhelming world out there for customers, so now (more than ever!) it’s important that your brand stands out from the crowd. But very few small businesses have a clear brand strategy – and it shows in their marketing and customer service activities.
Inconsistent or undeveloped brand representation makes it harder for customers (and potential customers) to recognise you, and means your valuable marketing resources have to work harder to cut through and have an impact.
But, let’s take a step back….
What is a brand?
A brand is the sum total of experiences a customer can have with your product or business, combining to create a consistent and lasting perception and reputation. It’s more than just a logo (although many people mistake a logo for a brand) – it’s the way your brand is represented at every touchpoint. So yes, the visual identity makes up an important part of your brand, but so do your brand values, your brand voice (including personality and tone), your messaging and the way your staff interact with customers.
A good brand distinguishes your product or business from your competitors. It creates a strong emotional connection with your customers and adds value to your business.
Building your brand should not be left to chance – it requires a compelling strategy that aligns with your company’s overall business goals and resonates with its target audience. And that strategy has to be implemented consistently.
What is a brand strategy
Your brand strategy acts as a blueprint or guidebook – a detailed plan that outlines how your brand will connect with your target audience.
A brand strategy typically includes:
Your brand strategy is how you bring your company vision to your customers – and should be aligned with the impact you want to make.
Your brand strategy is designed to connect your product / services / business with your target audience. So it’s important to know who your target audience is – their demographics, behaviour, challenges, interests and what inspires them. Understanding your target audience is crucial to create a brand and messaging that appeals to them and engages them.
Your brand values are the guiding principles that direct your behaviour and decision-making. They are the non-negotiables that should be seen in everything the brand does.
Unique brand attributes
These are the qualities that distinguish your brand from your competitors. They make it easy for customers to identify with – and choose – your brand over others. They can include both tangible and intangible elements of a brand, such as product features, design, customer experience and brand personality.
Personality and Tone
This is where you bring the brand to life at every touchpoint. So think: if your brand was a person, what would they be like? How would you describe their personality? What tone would they use when communicating? When outlining the personality and tone, make sure it aligns with the need of your target audience. If your audience is looking for authority and security, you wouldn’t want to have a brand personality that’s flippant or too irreverent. Equally, if an audience is looking for connection and fun when it comes to your product, you wouldn’t want the brand to be too serious or bland.
Think about how you want your audience to feel about your brand – and then develop the personality and tone to achieve that feeling.
Visual brand / design elements
Your visual branding is often the first impression of your brand – and is the visual trigger that enables customers to recognise your brand among the visual noise of marketing platforms. An eye-catching visual brand with consistent design elements (colour palette, fonts, graphics, imagery, photographic style) makes it easy for customers to build a connection with your brand and sets it apart from the rest of the market.
These visual elements should be consistent across all brand touchpoints, including your website, social media profiles, advertising, signage, packaging, and marketing collateral.
These are the key messages that differentiate you from your competitors, engage your target audience and compel them to take action.
Why does every small business need a brand strategy?
Without a brand strategy, our brand and marketing activities can be haphazard and left to chance. While a brand is the result of the actions we take, and the way they’re perceived by our audience, a strategy guides us to intentional decisions and actions that mean we have greater control over the perception we create.
A brand strategy helps you to:
Differentiate Your Brand:
In today’s crowded market, it is challenging to stand out from the competition. A well-defined brand strategy helps you differentiate your brand, strengthen your position in the marketplace and leave a lasting impression in the minds of your customers.
Be clear in your direction
With a well articulated (and documented) brand strategy, everyone in your team understands how to communicate. It also enables greater efficiency when outsourcing / working with contractors – there is less guesswork and time is saved as it’s quicker and easier to get everyone on the same page.
There is strength in consistency. It helps you build a strong and recognisable identity – which helps your marketing efforts go further. With a clear strategy, every touchpoint reinforces the brand in the minds of your customers.
Build customer awareness, recognition and loyalty
We all have that friend we recognise from behind, even in a crowd. We know them so well, see their hair/clothes and recognise them straight away. That’s how we want our customers to feel about our brand. Whether they’re scrolling social media, going through their email inbox, looking at our website or seeing/hearing our ads – we want them to instantly recognise our branded content among the noise and clutter.
With a consistent brand identity, your customers don’t have to use their valuable energy to figure out who the message is from – so they can use it to absorb your message and take action.
That brand awareness and recognition builds trust and security (they know what to expect from your brand), which leads to loyalty & repeat business.
Increase customer engagement
By understanding your target audience’s needs and preferences, you can create messaging that resonates with them and motivates them to engage with your brand. A well-crafted brand strategy can help you create a community around your brand and build strong customer relationships.
Increase business resilience
Anyone can copy a product or service (and in almost every industry, copycats are rife!!) It’s way more difficult to copy a well-established brand.
“Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.”
Steve Forbes, Editor in Chief of Forbes Magazine
Take the time to create your brand strategy, and you will be strengthening your marketing and your business overall.