The more conferences, expos, seminars etc. that we attend, the more we hear that, due to other distractions, small & medium enterprises (SMEs) ignore the development of a brand strategy. In this post, we’ll look at some essentials of developing a brand strategy, focusing particularly on start-up businesses and SMEs.
Most business people appreciate that funds are tight for start-ups and that the focus is on obtaining, and converting, leads into customers. However, a total focus on the operational side and a failure to differentiate your business from competitors is a big mistake.
With all that’s involved with the setting up of a business, it is understandable that marketing might get the least attention. In O’C&K, we have a process that may be of assistance to you, in this instance. We use a six-step brand strategy process when advising customers and we break them into two stages:
Determining business values (so as to attract an audience with similar values)
Determining vision, mission statements and a USP (for consistency and authenticity)
Developing a visual brand identity (for uniformity of communication)
Determining a brand story
Identifying a target audience
Establishing an online content plan
If you are lucky enough to have a business idea that is different from all other businesses out there – great! More than likely, however, your idea is not an absolute original one so you will need to make people aware of just how different you are. This presents another challenge – how do you raise awareness above the plethora of other marketing messages that people receive every day.
In this post, we don’t intend to revisit the importance of storytelling, but when Aidan and myself meet start-up businesses for the first time, we try to ascertain their story. Having completed Stage 1 above, it is the story that becomes the thread for all communications. How you tell the story must resonate with your customers and/or prospects. It is also the basis for the establishment of your content marketing activity.
Whatever your marketing purpose, be it an awareness campaign, a brand promise you want to bolster or simply a portrayal of brand values – a reiteration of the brand story will help deliver consistency. That being said, the over-riding brand strategy that start-ups need to pursue initially (if not always) is over-delivery of their brand promise. Doing so will build word-of-mouth, authenticate the brand story and eventually deliver loyal customers.
Make Your Brand Stand Out From Others
As a start-up, more than likely, you will not be able to spend loads of money to get your message seen over and over again, based on repetition. Alternatively, you will have to rely on standing out by connecting with an audience emotionally.
Some element of intrigue will be needed. This could be ‘not doing something in a normal way’ e.g. a mobile afternoon tea service (Social Bee) or ‘having unique expertise and authority’ (RazorSocial) or ‘over-delivering on service’ (Ariel House), are good local examples that we are aware of.
The point is if you are intriguing people you won’t have to spend as much on marketplace exposure as your competitors. People like talking to friends about things that intrigue them and this is the best type of unpaid-for, marketing. Can your brand afford to not stand out?
Here are a few other ways that we find help your brand to stand out from others.
- Have a 3-second description of what you do ready to integrate into conversations (forget the elevator pitch)
- As an SME owner, you must be the chief storyteller (tell your stories all the time)
- Make sure that everything you do and say communicates your brand values (live them)
- Your brand message should be consistent and clear (and customised for different channels)
- Use influencers you know e.g. Bloggers, Tweeters, Facebook and LinkedIn group members
Tips and Timesavers for building a brand strategy
There are many relevant questions that you might have asked yourself, read about or have been asked when building a brand advantage. It is always useful to review same, especially as a start-up in the first few years. We have mentioned a few above, but here are 7 thoughts for you to mull over:
- Have we tightly defined our target audience / customers?
- What does our brand stand for in our customers’ minds (unique value proposition)?
- What is the awareness of our brand amongst our audiences (do we share values)?
- What is it that our customers like about our brand (do we surprise and delight them)?
- Does our brand engage with our customers in meaningful ways (varied customer touch points)?
- Have we determined our brand story (with customers consistently depicted as the hero)?
- Do we present our brand in a consistent manner to the public?
A good brand strategy can build awareness of values, create likeability, raise your business’s credibility and gain trust from a targeted fan base.
Before you start creating your brand – research your target market. Then, as alluded to above define your brand so as to differentiate it from competitors by giving it a voice. Get an identity designed by a professional and build brand awareness online. Above all, be innovative. SMEs have a lot more flexibility to be creative with their marketing and to have a brand that is memorable and unique.
As mentioned in many of our blog posts in the past – people are more likely to buy from a business when they recognise the brand and know the story behind it.
“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.
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