Do you know what your brand is? Do your customers? This 7 step approach will help you to get clarity on how you want to be perceived and how to apply it to everything your customers see and experience.
Having worked in-house for SMEs, with small businesses as clients and from observing others, I’ve noticed there are not many people who can define their brand or even explain what it means. This includes many marketers! It’s one of those mysterious marketing phrases that everyone knows they should understand, and many probably think they do, but it can get confusing. Not least because there are so many definitions and ways of looking at a brand.
A common misconception
A brand is a logo: This is sort of right, except that it’s only part of the story. A logo is merely one of many ways of representing your brand visually. There’s so much more to it, and a logo is at the end of the process of understanding your customer and how you can connect with them. In fact, the term branding comes from the old practice of branding cattle so that a farmer can identify them, so its roots are actually visual. However, as time has marched by and business has become more complex, so has our understanding of the psychology of buying behaviour, as has the subject of branding.
My favourite definition
The way I like to describe branding is that it is how you connect with your customers’ expectations. It’s a promise you make that you can fulfil these expectations and it taps into emotions, fears and ambitions to build trust that you can make them a reality through your product or service.
So how can you define your brand?
Step 1: Look around you – What industry are you in, who are the main players and how do they stand out? Decide where you fit in and how you stand out (or could potentially)
Step 2: Profile your customer – Look at them in detail, from their demographics (age, sex, profession, income, etc) to their needs, wants and desires. What’s their ‘pain point’ or the biggest problem or hurdle that’s holding them back from professional or personal goals?
Step 3: Find your value – What is the single most valuable benefit that you can offer your customers to address this problem? Ask current customers for feedback to help with this
Step 4: Your role – What is your role in helping your clients to reach their goals? How can you prove that you can deliver it? Tell them how you deliver it and get some testimonials to back it up
Step 5: Language – What words and phrases will resonate with your audience? List them out, use them to allude to key wants and desires and make them stand out consistently
Step 6: Visual cues – Thinking about your target customers, what images, colours and styles will stand out to them? Do they prefer photos or words? Professional or fun? Bright and energetic or calm and relaxing? Think about how you present yourself in person. What will you wear? How will you greet people? How do you want to come across?
Step 7: Consistency – Think about where your customers will see you – on your website, on social media, in person, on printed material. Ensure that the messages they care about are prominent and consistent across everything you do. Have a 1 page brand policy that you can refer to whenever you communicate with customers.
What should be in your brand policy?
A formal brand policy isn’t usually necessary for small businesses, but I advocate having a 1 page document that helps you to ensure consistency across everything you do that the customer sees. Why not put one together and stick it on your wall?
- What we stand for – a paragraph that continually reminds you why you are in business and what your key benefit to customers is
- Keywords and phrases for marketing communication – what must you include in all communications? What are the ‘pain’ points for customers that you can address? Think of the words that will grab their attention. Think SEO as well
- Logo and colours – How can your logo be used? Colour only or black and white? What are the specific corporate colours that you can use? Get the correct colour references (pantones). This can also be referred to as your ‘style guide’ for when you use designers or printers
- Face-to-face – plan out the key messages to use in your 60 second networking pitch, for when someone asks you ‘what you do’ and for when you kick off a meeting or presentation. Think about details like a smile or a handshake
If you refer to this regularly and, for instance, before you send out any communication, it will help you to stay focused on your audience. If you want to do a separate one for different types of communication – social media, advertising, leaflets or PR, for instance – then even better, but this should cover most eventualities.
A few more visual cues
Personally, I decided to make a deep pink part of my brand. Not just in my logo, but I like to wear it, it’s on my business card and my website and I even have a pink crocheted iPhone case. Cool eh?! This says a lot about my personality, my approach to my business and my mostly female customer base. I’m not saying you have to do this, but it’s easy to make consistent and makes me memorable to the right people for the right reasons.
I also like to bring a bit of fun through little gifts. My newest idea is to give all of my clients a little gift every time we meet for a one-to-one. It’s only a little one, but it’s a sweetener (that’s a clue) and it makes sure they remember me in a positive way and might just tell their friends too.
Finally, as you saw in my previous post, I’ve recently had some new photography done. Part of my brief was to come across as warm and friendly, but professional. I use one photo consistently across online profiles so that I’m easy to spot and depending on my audience, I have a few less formal and a few more serious expressions to submit when I have a speaking gig. Think about what a photo could say about you.
Does that give you some ideas?
OK, let’s talk logos then…
So most people see a logo as a brand and I have to say that designing my logo was an important job. Not least because of what I do, but it also has to say a lot about me and grab the attention of the right people. So when you’re getting your logo designed, make sure you think about everything discussed above. It’s not just about your name in some nice lettering. Use it as an opportunity to say so much more without having to spell it out. I’ll perhaps do a separate post on logos, as it’s such as important part of a brand to many people, despite only being part of the whole branding picture.
A job for you
If you’ve got your branding all crystal clear and sorted, then great. If not, or if you think you’ve missed the mark or need to revisit it, then use the steps above, get a 1 page policy together and see how much clearer things are to you and, most importantly your customer.
So, just for fun, how would you explain your brand in 5 words? I’ll start:
Fun, approachable, knowledgeable, supportive and engaging
Now it’s your turn – pop your ‘big 5′ into the comments below. This should get you thinking!
Until next time…