As an entrepreneur, you are who you are because you’ve decided to separate yourself from the crowd. You’ve got a good idea that you think is either totally unique or can be done better by you than anyone else. But that’s rarely enough to see your entrepreneurial dream become a reality.
Branding can be the difference maker between having a good idea and actually making an impact with customers and the market. Your brand is the perception about you and your company that’s shared by customers, partners, peers and the marketplace in general. Your brand includes the characteristics, qualities and emotions that come to mind when an audience considers your product or services.
Branding is the process of you creating that meaning. Whether you’re just beginning your entrepreneurship journey and need some guidance or you’re well along the way and want more growth-focused insights, these five tips can help you assess the next step in your brand development.
1. Define your brand strategy
Before you begin your entrepreneurial journey, have a destination in mind. Before you conceptualize the functional elements of your brand (logo, colors, fonts, maybe even the name), you should have a clear understanding where you’re going:
What is your value proposition (i.e., what is the answer to a customer’s internal question “Why do I need you”)? Articulate what unique element you offer to the market.
Who is your audience? Identify the people you want to connect with.
What are your long-term goals for yourself and your company? Understand where you want to go and visualize how you’ll get there.
Defining your brand strategy acts as a map for your entrepreneurial journey. Having a destination in mind allows you to gauge your progress, make any necessary adjustments and not get lost along the way.
2. Build an appealing brand identity
Building an awful brand identity is simple: just offer garbage products or a terrible service and your brand will make an unforgettable impression in no time at all! However, a great product or outstanding service doesn’t always stand out in a crowded market. An appealing brand identity helps you connect your product or service to an enthusiastic audience.
Building an appealing brand that a) shares the correct message and b) connects with your audience requires substantial planning and, for best results, professional guidance:
Your brand is more than a catchy name or a dazzling logo (although those are nice to have). It results from a thorough auditing process that reveals your audience, value proposition, relationship to competitors and much more. Don’t skimp on compiling a full understanding of the elements that inform your brand.
Get yourself a name, logo and look that match your messaging. If your brand is all about reliability, confidence and competent service, you want your branding to reflect those characteristics by being professional and sophisticated. If your brand is playful and creative, those elements should create a bright and energetic impression.
Make sure you’re connecting with your audience as you intend. Once you understand your brand, you can make any refinements needed to ensure your audience is staying loyal and connected.
3. Stay consistent
Branding helps create your identity, connects you to an audience and shares the answer to the vital “Why do I need you?” question. If you don’t stay consistent with your branding, guess what? You’ve wasted all that time, capital and hard work you invested, and you’re not back to square one, you’re actually further from your goal than when you began. Here’s why:
You no longer have a meaningful or trustworthy identity.
Your audience and customers are at best confused. More likely, they have already tuned you out and moved on…and you rarely get a second chance.
“Who, exactly, are you?” is the only question your audience will be asking.
Being consistent in your branding protects you from errant interpretations, customizations or just plain mistakes that confuse your audience, diminish trust and challenge loyalty. Consistency creates a more professional and competent impression and ensures your ability to stand out in the marketplace in the way you envision.
4. Be unique
“Why do I need you?” is the question customers ask internally when making decisions. Being unique can elevate the question to an exclamation: “I GOTTA HAVE YOU!” The physical elements of your brand identity can make you unique creatively and emotionally. Ensuring some element of your product or service is unique provides that extra oomph that makes customers prefer you over anyone else. Stay connected to what makes your vision unique in the marketplace.
5. Create trust and build loyalty
You understand where you want to be, you’ve created a brand identity, you’re consistent and unique in what you’re doing…now it’s time to really lock in on your audience and sustain a relationship that’s built on trust and loyalty:
Deliver on value and quality.
Focus on customer experience rather than sales. You can’t control all the variables that lead to sales, but you can manage how your customers experience their interaction with you. Nurture and optimize that experience and the sales are likely to follow.
Be known by partners, peers and competitors within your segment. Having high visibility and demonstrating leadership marks you to your audience and potential customers as someone worthy of attention.
Listen to your audience and be part of the conversation. Engagement creates a deeper, more personalized connection that will sustain you, especially when you’re just getting started. These customers will be the brand ambassadors that widen your audience.
Respond positively to negative feedback. The first question to ask yourself is: Are they right? Evaluate whether you need to make adjustments and, if so, communicate that to your audience. However, not all feedback is created equal, and there are some people you just can’t please. If they are acting in good faith, thank them, apologize that you couldn’t give them a wonderful experience and move on.
These tips are just the beginning. They’re intended to provide a big-picture look that encourages you to think about branding as a process that results in a tool: your brand. That tool is extremely useful in guiding your journey and helping you reach your entrepreneurial goals.
Are you ready to get started?