Branding is essential for businesses that want to stand out from the competition. Here are the fundamentals to effective branding, along with some tips for establishing your unique brand.
In essence, branding is the marketing practice of developing a symbol, name and/or design that differentiates a company from competitors. On a deeper level, however, branding is a promise made to your customers. It tells them what they can expect from your products or services. It should also tell customers what they can expect from your salespeople and customer service professionals. In simple terms: your brand is who you are and how you want people to see you.
This may sound simple, but it can actually be one of the hardest parts about establishing a brand. Since you will need to project a consistent message, you need to settle on a clear, concise message you can repeat over and over. At the very least, you will need to be able to answer these questions:
What is your business's mission?
How can your products or services benefit your target customers?
What - if anything - do customers currently think about your company?
What traits do you want customers to associate with your brand?
To answer these questions, you will need to know your customers well. This means doing a lot of research about their needs, desires and habits. Once you've clearly defined your brand, you need to start letting people know. There are a number of different strategies and channels that can help with this. At bare minimum, however, you will need:
A unique, flattering logo: Make sure it projects the type of image you want and looks nothing like that of another company.
A tagline: You should develop a short, meaningful, memorable statement that projects the meaning of your brand.
Full integration: Your brand needs to saturate every level of your business operations. This includes the behavior and clothing of your salespeople, how your receptionist answers the phone, the signature in your emails and anything else that involves business-to-customer contact.
Create a voice: You should develop a consistent way of communicating with your customers, based on your products and the customers, themselves. Should it be sophisticated, laid back, conversational or friendly? This all depends on what you are trying to project. Whatever you decide, make sure to incorporate your company's voice into emails, your website, print materials and any other communications with customers.
Marketing materials: You should design templates and develop brand standards for all of your marketing materials. They should always include the same look and feel, with consistent logo placement and color schemes.
When it comes to effective branding, consistency is key. If you change your course midstream, you are likely to confuse customers. You will also lose a significant amount of progress and investment. Many times, business owners feel tempted to alter their logos, voices or mission statements weeks, months or years after they began the branding process. To avoid this type of situation, make sure to take your time when developing a branding strategy. Avoid rushing into a decision and do your research, so you can confidently move forward without second thoughts.