Whether your business is an organic farm or an insurance brokerage, building a strong brand is essential to the long term success and vitality of your endeavor. Your brand tells your audience – both consciously and subconsciously – what you are all about. Making sure that you build it properly from the beginning is crucial. In the following article we will provide a step by step guide to building an effective brand experience.
Step One: Business Plan
A business plan is helpful on several levels. First of all, in order to acquire funding, apply for bank loans, or even tell your grandma what your new endeavor is all about, you are going to need to draft a business plan. An in-depth business plan is made up of the business concept, marketplace analysis and financial strategy. During the business concept stage, you will outline your industry, your offerings, your business structure, etc. Next, during the marketplace section, you will paint a picture of your potential clients and why they need you. And finally, a business plan will require that you crunch the numbers and determine just how much capital you will need to not just stay afloat, but to thrive and make a profit.
Step Two: Competitor Analysis
The purpose of competitor analysis is to simply find out what already exists. You will have already gone down this path a bit during your business plan’s marketplace analysis. So, you should have a good idea of what and who is out there already. During the brand development process though, you are focusing on your competition’s visual brand. Determine what you believe to be their strengths and weaknesses. Get acquainted with them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. What tone and messaging do they use on their website and their social media platforms? How do they interact with their followers? Are they funny, professional or totally non-existent? What does their offline marketing – if any – include? Do they portray a trendy or traditional image? Which do you prefer and what is right for you? How do their services and products compare to yours? For a great article on how to engage in competitor analysis – click here.
Step Three: Develop a Mission Statement
A well written mission statement clearly explains why you even exist. It should outline who your clients are, identify your offerings, and place you within a specific marketplace. Your mission statement should be written before you have launched your company. It should be based on your competitor analysis and have your brand goals firmly in mind. Your mission statement should not be scrawled down on a cocktail napkin. It will be used to set the tone for your entire brand. So decide whether you are going to go for humour, tradition, approachability, straight-edged professionalism, etc. And make sure you don’t put all of this responsibility on your own shoulders – get your whole team involved!
Step Four: Write a Tagline
Unlike your mission statement, your tagline or slogan is actually going to be read – and it’s going to be read a lot. Your tagline should be memorable, ideally fewer than 8 syllables, positive, and specific. Your tagline should tell your potential and existing customers what you are all about in one short yet powerful sentence. Things to avoid in a tagline are clichés, negative comparisons to your competitors, and above all else – lies. By this step, your brand should start to take shape. Before you get too far down the road, bear in mind the importance of consistency and authenticity! If your brand experience is too fractured, or too difficult to believe, your customers will simply go elsewhere. Companies that specialize in brand development are lifesavers when it comes to ensuring your mission statement, taglines, and visual identity all complement each other effectively. To read the 100 Most Influential Taglines Since 1948 – see this article by the Tagline Guru.
Step Five: Logo Design
Now for the fun stuff. A professional logo design by an experienced brand design firm can take your company to the next level. The purpose of a logo is to visually express your company brand. Chances are, your logo is the first thing that potential new customers are going to see about your company, and it is how existing customers are going to recognize and identify you in the marketplace. There are three basic kinds of logos: font based (IBM), literal illustrations (Apple), and abstract symbols (Nike). Each of these logo types have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. An experienced branding company can help you choose the right style for your company’s brand positioning. Make sure to take into account your competitor analysis during the logo design process.
Step Six: The Website
Once your messaging and your logo have been locked down, it’s time to build your website. If you haven’t called in the professionals yet, now is the time to do it! At the very least, your website needs to communicate to potential clients your services or products, some background on your company origin and how people can acquire your services or products. Your website should have a detailed and well laid out contact page that allows visitors to quickly and easily get in touch with you. Any and all social media platforms should be linked to from your website. Your website may also include a Blog, or an e-commerce option where customers can buy your product directly online. It is critical that your brand image remains consistent across your website.
Step Seven: Print Collateral
Print collateral describes any print related materials that are associated with your company. For example, business cards, stationery, brochures, tradeshow banners, promotional materials, billboards, vehicle wraps etc. It is incredibly important that your branding is consistent across all of your print collateral. Furthermore, you never know where one of your brochures is going to end up, so make sure there is always clearly detailed contact information on everything you print. For most companies, a basic print collateral package begins with business cards, letterhead, envelopes and a brochure or sell sheet.
Step Eight: Social Media Presence
Social media isn’t going anywhere – and why should it? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. are all incredibly versatile platforms that contain millions of users. Businesses today in every industry are using social media to communicate directly with their customers in the most publicly and personalized way ever. The way you interact with your followers, fans, and customers on social media speaks volumes about your business. If you aren’t already familiar with the advertising platforms available to businesses on social media, make an appointment with a marketing company to learn about your social media marketing options. Bear in mind, social media can be done right, and it can be done oh so very poorly. Make sure the content you share on social media offers real value for your target audience.
Step Nine: Everything Else
Your brand experience doesn’t abruptly end once services are rendered or the product is shipped. Everything from how involved you are in your community, to how (or if!) you answer the phone, and the message on your greeting cards will all affect how your brand is perceived. Creating a strong brand is hard work, but when done properly – a quality brand experience is worth its weight in gold.