If you’re a new entrepreneur, then you’re all too familiar with the hard work, time, and sacrifice that goes into starting a business. A key part of the process — branding — can be fun, but it can also be just as hard as setting up shop. The same elbow grease you used to start up will be needed when it comes time to market and build your brand.
The Cheat Sheet spoke with business branding strategists Juntae DeLane, digital brand manager for University of Southern California, and Jasmine Smith, owner of Jasmine Smith Company, to get tips on how to build a brand that no one can resist. Here are some pearls of wisdom from our chat.
1. Your logo is not your brand
One misstep that new business owners tend to make is letting their logo do all the work. However, this is not a wise business move. Know that your logo cannot do all the talking. A lot of effort needs to go into making your brand work hard.
“One mistake is adopting the mindset that having a logo means you’re branded. A logo is an identifier, not ‘the’ brand. You can have the coolest logo in the world, but if customers have bad experiences whenever they touch your business and they tell others about it, then all you will have is a cool logo and an unsuccessful business. Instead, make the investment in brand development, which essentially is your business personality. Once you’ve done that, spread it throughout each of the areas within your business: communications, customer service, and leadership,” said Smith.
2. Have a clear purpose
What does your business truly stand for? It’s important for potential customers to get a clear picture of what you have to offer and how you can make their lives better. This is essential to building a strong business brand.
“There’s nothing more attractive than having a purpose in life. Consumers are becoming more purpose-driven and this drive may influence the businesses they chose to patronize,” said DeLane.
3. Start branding early
As soon as you have decided on a direction for your company, don’t delay with putting together a marketing campaign. Act now, and use all of your newfound passion and energy to breathe life into a powerful new brand.
“Once you have an idea and you’ve solidified it as an idea that is viable, then start developing your brand. As your idea progresses and you start developing your product or services, you will want it to have an identity or persona that aligns to your vision, mission, business goals, and values. That’s how you create a brand,” said Smith.
4. Get human
Your audience does not just want to engage with your product; they also want to engage with you. Show them that your business has a human side. Interact with your audience in a way that demonstrates there is a person on the other end who cares about delivering the best product or service possible.
“Brands are starting to engage with consumers in ways in which they wish to be engaged. The days of one-way communication are done. The relationship begins when both the brand and consumer are on equal footing. The only way this is accomplished is if a brand becomes more human and more personal. You know, the stuff that built the great relationships people have today. This process is no different,” said DeLane.
5. Cultivate your customer
Think about your customer and their needs and wants. Really think about how your product affects their daily lives.
“The process of tailoring products and services to match market demands has become the impetus of many startup companies. They have seen success by creating a strategy around customer cultivation while failing companies focus on customer service. Simply put, a company can have all the tools and technology to manage customer relationships but will fall short if they are set up to market products rather than cultivate customers,” said DeLane.
6. Don’t neglect social media
The availability of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube make it easy to consistently deliver your message to both current and potential customers. Make an effort to learn how to use these digital tools effectively.
“You don’t have to be a big brand to foster lucrative relationships with influencers. Twenty years ago, key influencers were movie stars and athletes. Today, they’re bloggers, podcasters, and YouTube celebrities. With the proliferation of social media, there is no better time to leverage influencer marketing to grow your brand,” said DeLane.
7. Remain consistent
Consistency is a key ingredient for branding success. Without a consistent message, your customers will get confused and not be sure about what to expect from you.
“Be consistent in your communications and in the delivery of your product or service. Each time your business touches the audience, it has to use the same persona, tone, message, and values. The same is true for the delivery of services. Be a brand of your word and deliver on your promise consistently. If you don’t, your large audience is going to tell the world about it and that’s branding because branding is not about what the company says about itself, it’s about what the customers say about the company,” said Smith.