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Branding 101: Building a Business Foundation

Branding is generally that word that many small business owners or entrepreneurs hear over and over again. But do you really know what branding means? Are you clear on what it takes to achieve a lasting, significant, compelling brand? Wouldn’t it be great to know exactly how you contribute to your brand? How this affects your customer and business growth? This article will provide five major steps necessary for the beginning stages to building your brand. 

What is Branding?

A brand is the name, term, design, symbol, goodwill, or any other characteristic that identifies your business and makes it distinguishable for another company. It is also the emotional and psychological feeling you create in your customers.  Strong brands are indelible, they elicit emotions, thoughts, a way of being and sometimes even a physiological response. As such, branding can be seen as the act or series of actions geared towards creating an emotion or a psychological attachment in your prospects and customers. When you have successfully branded your company, your prospective customers will choose you because it is the natural choice. Just think of brands like Apple, Microsoft, Cocoa Cola, or Target.

The good news is that you don’t need to be any of these large companies to receive the same effect in your customers. Start by implementing these five steps and you will certainly be on your way:

  1. Determine your target market. Your brand must be carefully molded to address the needs of your target market. As such, it is important that your brand strategy is carefully defined since this will allow you to chose the appropriate methods of marketing. Once you have carefully defined the age, demographics, likes, dislikes, interests and behavior of your target market, you will be one step closer to determining your brand.
  1. Create your message. Every successful brand has a message that is unique to who they are, what they do and the effect they would like their consumers to have when they think about their brand. Let’s take Apple for example, what comes to mind when you think apple? Is it sleek technology? Or what about words like simplified living, trendy, creative, or cutting edge? The answer is quite honestly all of the above. And this is not merely an accident. Brands must be conscious of the message they create because it is that message that will allow your target audience to see your product as the only product option for their needs.
  1. Create the visual look that will represent your brand.  Once you have determined your target audience and created the message that will resonate with this audience, the next step is to create the visual identity of your brand. The most basic form of this is a logo, including the color, font and layout. However, it is also important to note here that a logo by itself will not suffice as adequate visual branding. You must also consider elements like marketing materials, photographs, web presence, method of delivery, and even the brand association. When determining the look of your brand, you must ensure that it is consistent across all platforms. For example, if a potential customer who follows you on social media were to come to your physical location, you want to ensure that the look and feel will be the same. If your brand message on one platform is funky and hip, it then cannot be sophisticated and modern on another platform.
  1. Of all the points to note, this one is by far the one that should resonate with you. You must be consistent. It is important that while crafting your brand you remain consistent. It is important to analyze at every step of the way whether your logo, color, message, audience or materials are all in unison. Are they working together or are they working against each other? Also think about the other areas of your business, a term a like to call the “internal brand” which includes your staff, your customer service, and your human capital. When a customer has an issue with your product or service, is it being resolved in a manner that is consistent with your brand and your message? Or, are your interactions with your employees consistent with that of your brand message?
  1. Ensure that your branding is effective. There are many companies that employ great branding strategies but they forget to test whether it’s working. The bottom for all businesses should be sales. Therefore, the goal of an effective branding strategy is to increase your sales revenue. I recommend testing whether your strategy works the most direct way you can – asking your customers. If the message is effective, you will know. If the message is not effective, then you want to be able to revise this strategy to create one that will work.

There are many factors that will change your audience’s needs over time and as a brand, you will have to be prepared to change with your target audience. This does not mean that you will reinvent your brand each time there are shifts in your market. It simply means that you will adapt and modify – make tweaks. But to make these tweaks, you must know your audience and be able to know their needs and wants so your company can remain relevant.

That’s the hallmark of a great brand – its indelible, and it captures the heart of its audience time after time.

Did you find this article informative? I would love to hear your feedback and suggestions. Are there pointers that you may want to add to these five? 

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