Everyone’s doing it. Going out on their own. “Hanging out their shingle.” Opening their own business. In one respect, it’s good news for you, the burgeoning business owner.
Because there are so many of you out there, a lot of support exists. Companies are creating more tools, more software, more communities and advice for the growing legion of small business owners.
But the downside of “everyone’s doing it” is that it is so hard to stand out from the crowd!
Maybe you know that you sell the very best, most healthy, organic dog treats. You probably do! But with all the other gazillion dog treat companies out there, how will you stand out? How will you catch the attention of your potential customer?
You do this by branding.
Branding is a word that gets bandied about a lot (hey that almost rhymes!) but the correct definition of branding is —
“The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.” (Source: Entrepreneur Magazine)
The key component to that definition is ‘differentiation.’ Basically, you want to differentiate yourself from the sea of competition and then get your customers to associate your brand name with that important, impressive distinction.
And then you want to psychologically attach your logo to that differentiation.
Big names like Nike and Coca Cola do this well. The Nike swoop conveys motion and fitness and the Coke logo says “refreshing” to most people.
Branding, done right, can even give you ownership over a category.
I’ll give you a few good examples. Granted, they are extreme but even on a smaller scale, you can strive to accomplish the same brand potency.
For instance, consider what we call “searching online” these days. We don’t call it ‘conducting an internet search.’ We call it….Googling! (Not Yahoo-ing, much to that brand’s chagrin.)
We call tissues Kleenex. We call photocopies Xerox’s. That’s branding gone wild. That’s the best case scenario of branding!
But you don’t have to be an international company to brand yourself successfully. To get you started on tightening up and successfully marketing your brand, here are a few tips:
Step 1: Define Your Brand
This is a bit more difficult to do than you think. Defining your brand should be a slam-dunk but oftentimes, once we get down to analyzing what are brand is…it can actually seem a bit muddy at first.
Mainly because, as struggling new business owners, we often try to be more than one thing to one market. In our effort to appeal to as many people as possible, we lose our identity. This can really weaken and dilute our brand.
So let’s start to define your brand. Asking yourself a few key questions usually does the trick.
What does your current customer think about your company? What do they already think you do, and don’t do? What are some words that define you? Make a list of these words. Write them all down.
Now that you have determined “what”, how would you like your customers to view you? More of what, less of what?
What makes you different from your competition?
Pull together key people in your company and ask everyone to answer those questions. Then meet and share all of your notes. By the end of your session, you should have a strong idea of what your brand is. And isn’t!
Step 2: Write Up Your “Brand Promise.”
Once you launch your official brand, you need to stick to it. By asking your customers to think of you in a certain way and to depend upon you to deliver on that brand promise.
For instance, if part of your branding is that you offer ‘the lowest prices,’ you might want to rethink that. Because all it will take is one competitor sale to make your branding inaccurate!
So write your promise carefully. Your customers will hold you to it!
Step 3: Get a Great Logo
Many business owners think their logo IS their brand. Not true. A brand is so much more, as you can tell from the steps above.
But a logo is a symbol of your brand and as such, it should reflect your brand. If you already have a logo, look at it through the lens of your new brand promise.
Does it communicate your branding well? If not, it may be time to commission a new one!
Once you have a logo you love, use it — everywhere! Your logo should be on your social media efforts, your content, in your email signature. Your logo is a simple distillation of your brand, so make sure it accompanies all your communications!
Step 4: Create Your Tagline
Taking your logo one step further, you need to develop a tagline. Your tagline should summarize what your brand is all about, in just a few words.
Just like your logo, you should really take your time creating this. Because, just like your logo, you should use it a lot. If your logo is your brand’s ‘crest’, then your tagline is your battle cry.
Step 5: Train Everyone
Your employees and partners are no longer just staff. They are now “brand ambassadors.” Your customers first, last and probably only interaction with your brand is likely going to be via one of your staffers.
So make sure that each staffer doesn’t just know what your brand promise is, but is actually enthusiastic to deliver upon it!
For instance, if you pride yourself on your lightning fast customer service, make sure whomever is working your customer service lines is, well, fast!
You might have to move some folks around.
If you have someone answering your phone who is personable and smart, but a little slow moving when it comes to customer resolutions, you might want to think about moving them over to billing, or PR, or anywhere else that doesn’t require anything that’s “lightning fast.”
Step 6: Announce it!
Now that you have put so much time and energy (and training!) into building your brand, it’s time to announce it to the world. A new look and feel to your business is exactly the kind of things that press releases were made for.
So send them out. Crow about your new look, your new brand promise, your new commitment to your customer’s satisfaction.
In this release, explain why you re-branded and how your brand is different than the competition. Talk about why you chose the logo you did, what your tagline means to you.
More importantly, mention what your renewed commitment to your new brand means to your customers. What changes can they expect to see? Was any of your re-branding in response to a customer question or concern?
If so, tell them that, right in the release!
Remember – the trick to getting some media coverage of any kind is to not have it be “all about you” and instead, talk about potential benefits to your customers. AKA their readers.
(That said, even as you make your release customer-eccentric, remember to still plaster your logo and tagline all over the release!)
You can email your press releases to relevant trade magazines. Send it to bloggers who have written about your industry before. Get everyone talking about your exciting new brand!
So how’s your branding going? Do you have a great brand promise and does everyone in your company know what it is? List your brand promise or your branding questions in the comments below!
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