Branding strategy — what it is and why you should matter as a business owner
What does branding mean for businesses and individuals? How does branding work, and how can it be used to build customer relationships and strengthen trust, engagement and loyalty? How does a branding strategy influence business results, growth and sales?
These are just a few examples of frequently asked questions from my clients when they start working with me on their branding strategies. Branding is invaluable for both new services or products, and those already established on the market (rebranding). In today’s article, I will share my thoughts on the importance of branding, and how you can use this process to achieve your business goals faster and more efficiently.
Every person has a brand, and so does every business
Our brand is all about our characteristics: our name, the way we communicate with others, our values and beliefs, our personal style, or simply the way we behave when interacting with people.
Our daily choices represent the set of beliefs we have and share — intentionally, or not — on a regular basis, which ultimately combine to create our image and influence how others perceive us. They determine whether others can relate to who we are and what we believe in, and whether they want to become our friends, partners or business partners. We all group with each other based on the common values we share. In order to showcase what we are all about and why someone should trust us (and eventually build and maintain a relationship with us), we first must present ourselves in such a way that will allow us to get their attention. Once we are able to gain positive attention from people in our lives — attraction, interest, curiosity — we start to see a connection being established, and the relationship is strengthened by finding a point of convergence. Moreover, we have to be authentic to maintain relationships built on trust.
The same rules translate into the business world
To start building an honest and reliable business brand identity, you need to think about the ways you want to present your services or products, and what is required to make it congruent with your business’s core values.
What is the purpose of your new product? Why is it important to you? What are your values? What are your main goals, and why do you want to achieve them? Why should your customers trust you? What do you do differently than others? How do you want to communicate to your target group to gain their attention, build engagement and increase loyalty?
Your answers to these questions will help you to identify the best approach for your branding, and take the first steps toward designing your desired brand identity.
In short, a brand identity is a key component of all your business efforts. It is a tangible representation of how your target groups experience you — what they think and feel when they encounter your brand no matter the channel.
Brand identity includes all possible aspects your clients will come across when your brand is presented to them. The visible elements of your brand — colors, design, logo, typography, language — shape the way your brand is perceived. This determines whether it receives a positive or negative reaction: leading you to achieving your goals, or making your business fail.
When used strategically, the value of branding is unquestionable. It has the power to support and promote the core values of your business, and thus help achieve your specific business goals. However, without a proper strategy in place, businesses and individuals lose the chance to obtain a strong position on the market, attract proper customer segments, and grow their audiences according to their objectives.
Whether you are selling your services or launching a new product on the market, having a unique, strong brand shows that you know who you are, what values you bring to the table, and how you stand out. Your brand helps to visually communicate each of these elements to your audience.
Branding strategy — the planning process
Where should you start? And how do you identify your opportunities when creating a branding strategy? Below, I point out four necessary steps of every branding planning process.
1. Market research
Knowing your competitors means knowing your own strengths and weaknesses. Investigate what others in your field do, how they communicate, what values they share, and what their main offerings are. Highlight their advantages, and then point out opportunities you have to do things differently. This allows your business to stand out from day one.
2. Business goals
A list of your main business goals is your guiding light. Write down all the objectives you have — short and long term. Think about what you specifically want to achieve, your timeframe for your goals, and your step-by-step plan. What is required to accomplish this list of goals? What would make it easier?
3. Know your target group
Understanding your audience is the key to success. At the end of the day, you rely on customers for your business to thrive. You need to know in detail who your target group is, what their expectations and needs are, and the most effective ways to communicate with them. This will allow you to get their attention, maintain it, and ultimately keep your business running.
4. Know your own personality
Knowing your audience is crucial, but recognizing your own values is even more important. Authenticity, sincerity, and transparency always come first. You need to know what you do, why you do it, and what your core values and beliefs are, in order to connect with your audience. If you are consistent in maintaining this image, you will eventually begin to see people building trust toward your brand.
The strategic approach to branding is essential
To establish a strong brand presence on the market (one that people will grow to trust and that will benefit your business results and long-term market position) you need to employ a coherent, multi-level strategic approach. Every element of your brand identity has to correlate with your business’s message and goals. You must ensure that customers experience exactly the same emotions every time they come in contact with your brand.
Branding speaks more than a thousand words, and it is worth all the effort you put into it; it has the power to support you in establishing a unique image and attracting the right clients. All you need to do is figure out exactly who you are and translate that image into an attractive and consistent package for your audience. Branding doesn’t begin and end with your logo: it is your physical or digital storefront, the colors of your office furniture, the fonts and design on your website, and the imagery used on social media.
It is said that it takes us just a few seconds to make a judgment on an experience. You want to make sure that split-second decision by your customers is a positive one. Be strategic about how you present your brand and take this opportunity to grow your business.