Owning your own business can sometimes feel overwhelming. You created your business to spend more time doing what you enjoy, not trying to master everything else to keeping it running smoothly. The thought of branding your company may sound like a daunting task on your never ending to do list, but I'm here debunk that myth. At it's core, branding is all about a story, more specifically yours.
What is a brand?
A conceptually smart and cohesive brand identity extends far beyond a logo. It’s a combination of tools that share your passion and tell your story in a way that connects with your customers and motivates them to work with you. It includes pieces of the story that represent who you are as a company and encompass the vision of where you are going. While some of the pieces of your brand are tangible elements such as your logo, your website, and your marketing materials, your brand extends into every part of your business including (but not limited to!) the quality of your product or service, how you interact with your customers, and the types of images and words you use to communicate.
To sum it up, a brand identity is designed to affect how others perceive your company.
How it Works:
If Apple says “we want people to perceive us as the most innovative and trendy tech company in the world” but then only share photos of people only using the iPhone to make calls and iMacs to use Microsoft Word the message that their customers would perceive would be totally mismatched from their actual goal.
The reason this does not happen is because Apple has a brand strategy. From the design of their products and their storefronts, to their customer service and advertising campaigns, Apple has a vision for their company that includes who they are and who they serve, and their brand strategy is cohesive and reflective of that vision.
Don't worry, you don't have to be a multi-billion dollar business to need a brand strategy. Chances are, you're a small business owner, like me! Branding is just as important for companies like Apple as it is for companies like ours.
How to Create a Brand:
Every business owner wants their company to be positively perceived by others. To start developing your brand strategy, we first have to have a clear understanding of three major components:
The first step in developing a strong brand identity is to have an understanding of why you have created your business. Having a clear set of values, a mission statement that explains why you conduct business in the manner that you do, and a set of goals that you are aspiring to achieve through your work are a few great places to start when beginning to develop your brand strategy.
Secondly, you need to clearly identify what you offer and how it positively impacts the lives of your customers. By being able to write out how your company will make your customers life better, you are creating a positioning statement that you can expand and emphasize to create a purposeful and profitable business.
The final step is to understand your customers, more specifically your ideal customers. By being able to explain details about your ideal customer, you gain a stronger understanding of their needs and preferences. This knowledge can be used to help make decisions when it comes to how you will interact with your customers to help build confidence and loyalty about your company.
Once you understand these three components about your business, you can confidently build a strategy that is true to why you started, accurately represents what you offer, and appeals to your customers. From your logo design to what you post on social media, every decision that you make within your business should reflect those three pieces. Gaining a full understanding of each of them takes time and may change as you grow, but will help you develop a plan to create a strong cohesive brand that shares your passion and tells your story.
Here are 8 questions that a successful brand strategy answers. These will help you identify your Why, What, and Who.
What makes your company unique?
What does your company value and believe in?
How do you want others to describe your company?
What do you offer and how does it positively affect your customer’s lives? Both functionally and emotionally.
Who is your ideal client? Can you describe them in detail as a single specific person?
Based on your description, what kinds of problems and preferences do they have?
What kind of words, phrases, and images would best communicate that your company has a solution to those problems and appeal to their preferences?
What is your company’s story? Based on your answers to the questions above, begin drafting the story of your business and how it uniquely solves your customers problems.