“Once I’m up and running, I’ll invest in building a brand.”
Sound familiar? This is a common mindset among small business owners who focus on marketing and selling but forget that their company is both a business and a brand. While you may feel like you’re saving time at the moment, ignoring your brand identity only causes more headaches in the long run.
Foregoing branding means your messages may be getting through loud and clear, but produce undesired results and create long-term problems. While not immediately apparent, the impact from this approach will rear its ugly head all too quickly and painfully in various ways: you’ll get more questions than sales, audiences won’t be clear on what you’re all about, and potential customers will buy from your competition.
2. Create assets
Once the research phase is done, the fun can begin. It’s time to translate all your learnings into visuals. Here’s a quick list of common brand assets:
- Color palettes.
- Photography and graphics for marketing campaigns.
- Style guide that explains appropriate logo usage and tone of voice, among other things.
As you’re building your brand assets, think about the 3 Cs of branding and how they can help:
- Clarity: It’s your job, not your customer’s, to figure out your message. If they have to work to interpret something you’ve created, your brand isn’t clear enough yet.
- Consistency: Your billboard needs to have the same voice as your website, which needs to have the same voice as your Twitter account. Why? Consistency in your brand inspires confidence and discipline.
- Commitment: We want our ads to go viral, and the minute they don’t, we get discouraged and shift directions. Don’t forget that great branding takes great time.
The 3 Cs of marketing (create, capture, and convert) can also help once you move deeper into asset creation specifically for marketing campaigns.
1. Research, research, research
You can’t create a brand identity that resonates with your customers if you don’t understand your customers to begin with. So, first take the time to truly learn about your primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences. Develop personas that define their likes and dislikes, hobbies, and values. Once you have a deep understanding of your customers, move on to competitive research. How are other companies in your industry positioning themselves in terms of visual elements, personalities, and themes?
And finally, don’t forget to interview the people closest to your current brand: your employees. They have an important point of view on how the company should be portrayed, and what has and hasn’t worked in the past.
3. Define your brand story
Cement your brand identity with a brand story. This isn’t necessarily your origin story, although it will have components of why you started your business.
The goal of your brand story should answer these questions:
- What does your brand believe in?
- What pain points does your product or service alleviate?
- How does your business solve those problems?
- Why did you decide that your business should alleviate those pains?
- Where do you see your business going?
As you’re crafting your brand story, remember that it’s not just the elevator pitch you give to people when they ask what your business is. It’s about how your brand relates to people and why it exists.
4. Iterate and refine
Your brand identity may change over time, and that’s okay. Once you have created your initial brand identity, analyze and refine it based on customer feedback. Test new strategies and tactics to see what works best. For example, you could A/B test different taglines on your homepage to see which story resonates best with your audience.