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One undeniable fact about all successful businesses is that they’ve created a strong brand. If you want to add your business to the long line of successful enterprises, you’ll have to start with developing your brand. Otherwise, you’ll be adding it to the much longer list of businesses that no one remembers.
Branding is All-Inclusive
Strong business branding is about defining your business, positioning your company in the marketplace, and creating and maintaining your business image. It’s a lot more than a logo and a tagline. Branding affects not only how you market your business, but how you conduct your business. It represents the “personality” of your business.
A strong brand is essential to successful marketing, because it helps prospects formulate their impression, how they feel about your business, and how they’ll think about it days and weeks after they are exposed to it. Regardless if you intend to market with pay-per-click ads, neighborhood flyers, or promotional items, prospects have to know who you are, what you do, and why they should care. Does your brand do that?
What about when you answer the phone, or deliver service? What about how you follow-up and fix problems? Do you live up to the “big ideas” that you use to draw customers to you?
Core Branding Concepts
Thousands of experts have studied branding and produced a number of tips and suggestions for today’s business owners, so don’t fly by the seat of your pants when figuring out how to present your business to the world. The key steps to developing a successful brand are as follows:
- Clearly define what you are going to brand
- Thoroughly research the market (and your competition)
- Identify a position for your brand in the market
- Identify and define your specific audience
- Write a brand definition
- Develop a brand identity or image (logos, taglines, etc.) aligned to the audience, definition and market position you have chosen.
Here is another way of tackling each of these points:
- What exactly do you do for customers?
- Who is your competition and how do they serve customers?
- Are cheaper, better, more effective? How do you fit into your market space?
- Who needs your service? Who is an ideal customer?
- What’s your pitch? Describe what you are and what you are not.
- What are the colors, images and words that capture your essence?
- Is your business supposed to be fun or more serious?
- Are you trying to be cutting edge or conservative?
- Are your ideal customers older, younger, more affluent, budget shoppers, experts or novices?
All of these kinds of questions need to be crystal clear in your own mind, before you can expect prospects to be crystal clear about who you are and what you do (and whether they care).
Once you have these core elements refined and in place, you’ll have the foundation you need to build your business and your marketing efforts. Each of these elements, if properly prepared, can be refined, adjusted to market conditions, adapted to different audiences, and used in a variety of ways to engage your customers and build your business.
Leveraging Your Brand
If you do your branding well, you’ll have all the tools you need to make your marketing efforts count. Your logos and taglines will give you instant identity for your advertising and on your website. You can use that identity to reach customers with promotional efforts, community sponsorships and conventional advertising because it’ll convey the most important ideas about your business in a snap.
Your brand also sets the tone for your employees. They are your primary brand ambassadors, and they will have a clear, easy-to-understand plan of how you want them to represent your business. They’ll also have something to be proud of, which is always a feeling you want your brand to evoke for you and everyone in your company.
If you thought branding was just a way to use a variety of gimmicks aimed at getting attention, you’re missing the point: A good brand carries the weight of an entire business.
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