The first step of building a business brand is deciding why you’ll do it not what you’ll do. You’ll decide how your brand will be identified by other people – because your brand identity is a vision you have of your business. The questions, why you are in business, who you are in business for and how unique you want to be will form the basis for the growth of your brand.
Once you are in no doubt about these elements, then you can define the visual elements of your brand such as a logo, a tagline, tone of voice etc.
“But I have a marketing strategy” you may argue but, let’s face it, such good intentions will be a complete waste of time if your activity is not grounded in the brand basics, mentioned above. The point is if a business is to achieve sustainable business growth, it must be understood that your brand defines your business.
If you have neglected to develop your brand over time by catering to your customers changing needs, they may well change suppliers because they want a better experience.
Of course, everything is hunky-dory when business is good. Customers are flocking to your door, online sales are good, whatever communications channels you are using must be working etc. But what happens when the marketplace starts to change, internally and externally, and you don’t? = business unsustainability in the long-term.
I say internally because perhaps your own workforce might have changed. You may have u25-year-olds in your workforce, who have grown up in a technology-friendly environment. They might have a different attitude to customer service, as will their peers – your new potential customers. So not only may the attitudes of your co-workers be different but also your customers’ service expectations will also be changing.
So how are you going to grow your business in this new environment? By building your brand carefully and with purpose. That means pro-actively managing business change, your reputation and making your brand visible to the right people.
About being visible, you are probably aware, that somewhere between 70 / 80% of customers have already completed some form of research before actually purchasing. Usually, this is through referral (word-of-mouth) or online search.
Therefore, it’s important that wherever they do that research they a) find your brand and b) have a positive experience across all touchpoints. But, you can’t be there if you don’t know who they are!
Do you actually know who your customers are?
When did you last check-out who are, where are and how are your target audience? No matter how well you think you know your customers, all business brands should be constantly undertaking some form of research to improve brand strategy. Why?
Well, for one, better understanding your customer’s priorities / challenges will help you adjust your offering to find a solution for them. Secondly, you will find out how to differentiate yourself from competitors, thirdly, you will discover the attitudes of your staff and fourthly you can find out who your top 20% of customers really are. There is perhaps one more advantage of undertaking research – it will provide you with a base from which to measure going forward.
By building your brand carefully and with purpose you will grow your business in a changing environmentClick to tweet
As well as formal research, simple information gathering e.g. net performance score (NPS), and having an investigative attitude here are four ways to make sure your brand stays relevant to your customers on an ongoing basis:
- Tell a cohesive story across all brand touch-points that customers’ can relate to
- Every business decision should be grounded in how it will add value to your customers
- Be authentic in all your communications and build trust
- Be consistent in your branding (images, colour, content etc.) and make it user-friendly
Developing a business brand – the theory and the practice
Don’t get me wrong – developing a brand is not easy. Aidan and I have worked on both sides of the marketing fence (as an agency and a client). We understand how developing a business brand is difficult, but possible. The thing is we are also very conscious of the fact that theory can differ from practice in many ways.
With clients, we strive to lessen the gap between both by being realistic. For instance:
Having a high-level vision – of course, it is great to have an inspiring vision but bringing that ethos off the plan is quite difficult, especially for SMEs. It is difficult due to the immediacy of running the business and making a profit. If a business did nothing more than show its customers that it listens to them, evidenced by telling customer stories, then they would show that they are acting purposefully i.e. with the customer in mind.
Brand value – many accountants, and marketers will offer to explain how to calculate a brand value for your business. However, the dilemma for marketers trying to build a brand strategy on such a value is that they can’t agree on how best to arrive at a fair and obvious figure. Figures are calculated in a myriad of different ways by various specialist consultants. A brand strategy is a must – but brand value as a growth measurement is not a perfect place to start from.
Price – this is probably the hardest theory to maintain when it comes to practice. Businesses, with the best intention of commanding a premium price, when push comes to shove – have not developed the brand to sustain their high price positioning. Customers now expect good value for money which is often interpreted by businesses as ‘cheaper’ product / services. In truth, the value expected may be nothing to do with price.
Differentiation – Almost every business, I’ll wager, see themselves as being different from competitors. Whilst this may be so with regard to internal operations – the customer, often can see no difference and is just happy that somebody is satisfying their need. We believe that the difference should be reflected in a customer’s willingness to pay a higher price. This would be due to a real difference in experience and a distinction made by the brand’s communication.The intention of any business brand strategy is to grow the business and build a strong brand (in that order).
Tips and Timesavers for building your business brand.
The intention of any business brand strategy is to grow the business and build a strong brand (in that order). Therefore an effective strategy to develop a brand based on good business practices will result in a better ROI for the investment made. In our view what makes a strong brand is a positive reputation and good visibility.
Building on our thoughts above, here are six suggestions that you might consider when building your business brand:
- Determine who your audience is and what they think of you, up front
- Be authentic, have a unique voice online and offline e.g. website / trade shows / networking
- Create your own online platform – blogging, social media etc. and empower your audience to engage with you
- Be consistent in your communications and what you do but don’t try to please everyone
- Ensure that you produce more value for your customers than your competitors
- Build organic brand awareness first e.g. friends and family, influencers and then pay for it
It is only by adhering to your brand basics initially can you develop it according to your customers’ changing needs, thereafter. As a business owner, you must manage your reputation and ensure that your brand can be found. Especially when someone goes looking for something you can supply.
Brand Strength = Reputation + Visibility
Don’t get caught in the “busy work-trap”. Make sure that the customers’ experience of your brand is different to your competitors and that your communications are distinctive enough to stand out from the noise. That’s how you’ll build a brand to grow your business.
“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.
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