You don’t have to become the next Apple, but your brand is an essential part of your business. Some would even say your brand is your business. Logos and mission statements are only part of your company’s brand identity. Here are 10 tips for creating an unforgettable brand that resonates with your audience.
Brands are not some intangible concept that can only be bought with enormous marketing and PR budgets. There are things that you as a small business owner can do every day to perfect and perpetuate your brand like keeping the shelves stocked and responding to service calls. Building your brand is a day to day effort that pays off in customer loyalty, business recognition, and increased sales.
If the idea of creating your brand seems too abstract, think of the steps you would take to build and maintain a strong reputation with your customers. How you interact with customers, how they feel after doing business with you, and what they say about you are all important aspects of your brand that you have the power to create and control. Think of brand management as reputation management and you’ll never stray too far from your core company ideals.
Your brand elements (logo, colors, fonts, etc.) don’t need to be complicated or change with every passing design trend. Clean, uncomplicated elements are most easily remembered and recognized by consumers. Major brands like Coca-Cola, Nike, and Microsoft haven’t made drastic design changes to their logos since incorporation and they’ve managed just fine.
Once you’ve crafted your brand elements it’s important to follow through on proper use and placement. Make sure online branding and marketing materials follow the brand guidelines you’ve created, and try not to deviate from your brand’s color scheme or design elements too often. Consistency is key for your brand. Keep muddying the waters with design changes or rebranding and consumers may lose confidence in your company.
While the visual aspects of your brand are the first interaction consumers will likely have with your business, the experience doesn’t end there. Your brand is more than a logo and a color scheme: it’s the heart of your business. It’s how you want your customers to feel when they do business with you, and what you, as a business owner, stand for and believe in. Your brand is your opportunity to prove your passion for your business.
It pays to know what consumers want. If you guess at your customer and prospect habits, needs, and desires without researching, you run the risk of missing your target audience with your brand messaging. Knowing what your customers and prospects want from a business like yours will help you craft brand impressions that align with your business goals.
This applies to both written communication and customer interactions. Is the tone you want to portray friendly and conversational or more exclusive and formal? After you’ve done the proper research on your target audience, you should have an idea of how your customers expect to be addressed and how best to communicate your brand.
Put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and list what your business stands for, the ideals it represents, and how you want to be perceived. Once you can visualize what it is you want to portray you’ll have a solid reference point to work from. Check in with a trusted outside advisor if you can to spot any inconsistencies in how you think you’re being perceived and how you want to be perceived. Then hit publish. Making your brand ideals visible for your employees and customers ensures a consistent customer experience.
For small businesses, positive customer experience is key to your brand’s success. As much as management should know how to communicate your brand, your employees on the front lines should as well. Provide them with positive and negative examples of how to communicate your brand’s ideals to customers, reward them when they provide an excellent experience fitting the brand, and ensure they embody your brand from standards of dress to the way they answer the phone.
Consumers today are educated enough to see through glossy attempts by businesses to spin their way into sales. The reason classic brands endure is because they’ve been created from an authentic perspective that perpetuates the business’ core values and ideals. Don’t try to confuse your customers into sales with jargon-y language and over-the-top imagery. Prove to them that you’re better than the competition through your actions, and treat them with dignity instead of seeing dollar signs.
With these tips in mind, it’s time to get to work on creating a brand that exemplifies your core business goals and ideals. You already have one of the best tools to work with: your knowledge of your business. Start with the basics, and your brand strategy will emerge from the work you’ve put into creating a business you’re passionate about.