A great idea is not enough to sell to people. It’s a great point to start from, but people tend to need a little more cajoling to get fully on board. The cajoling tool your business needs to be armed with is a brand. But a brand does more than convincing people to become customers. It makes your business memorable, it communicates what you want more quickly, it even gets employees more engaged in the business. So, what exactly makes the brand?
A great idea is a good start, after all. But what makes a great idea for a business? It’s about the value that you have to offer to the customer. If you haven’t figured out your value proposition just yet, now is definitely the time to do it. You need to be able to say, in long-form and short, what your business offers. This includes the objective reality of it. For instance, like a shoe company showing the fact they offer certain kinds of shoes. But the subjective value is just as important. It tells people not just what you can offer, but what that offer can do for their lives. For instance, that shoe company might make sports shoes that allow them to more easily live an athletic life, or it can make dress shoes, which help them gain the look of prestige and class that helps them excel in social situations. Find the emotional impact of your brand, not just the practical.
A big part of that value and just about everything else we cover will be determined by the audience your products are aimed at. Broad strokes are a help more than a hindrance here. In those broad strokes, different demographics have different needs, behaviors, and preferences. Do thorough market research to understand your particular demographic and collect data on them all the time. That data feeds into a portrait of your ‘ideal customer’. This is a mental exercise that creates the customer who belongs in all the biggest demographics in your target market. It gives you someone fictitious to practice your marketing on.
Part of practicing that marketing is finding the voice for it. You need to have a voice that’s consistent with what it is you’re offering. A luxury fragrance-for-men provider is going to have a distinctly different voice to their marketing material from a producer of candy for kids. Finding the voice of your brand humanizes it. It gives a genuine look at the values of the business while communicating them in a way that fits the audience. Think as if you’re talking with your ideal customer. How do you phrase the value that you have to offer to them?
A brand is more than just a method of communication, however. It is an identity for the business. All identities have a certain amount of backstory behind them. Yours should, too. Many businesses build of the story of an individual and their dedication to an art, craft, or vocation, for instance. Meanwhile, other stories are about community and focused on using that community to find a solution to an existing problem. Some stories even put their corporate social responsibility first and are dedicated to using their business to combat an issue and push a cause that they share with their audience. The brand story isn’t just fluff that you use to prop up a business. It’s the passion that your audience is going to connect with on the deepest level. It turns them from someone who likes your products and services into a fan of the brand.
A Visual Style
Brands need to be recognizable. If the value of that isn’t easy enough to see, just think what immediately comes to mind when you see two golden arches, suspended by a pole and lit up on the side of the road. It’s easy to experiment with finding your visual style, using a logo maker to experiment with the core of it. Making it recognizable and different from others is important, but so is communicating effectively with it. Can it be understood in any size, for instance? Does it make use of colors that have cultural signifiers attached to them? For instance, green to many people now represents the environment and nature. Meanwhile red can be sexy, dangerous, or otherwise impressive.
This is perhaps the most important of all qualities that a brand can have. It needs to be consistent and echo through the whole business. You can’t just switch your voice from one day to the next, nor can you use a wholly different logo on different public faces of the business. A brand can evolve, yes. It can take on new visual tweaks and branch off into different offers of value. But it has to earn it. It has to either evolve with time or branch off because the business is also starting to branch off. The only other time you should be thinking about switching up the brand is because your business genuinely needs a fresh brand to re-launch itself. Otherwise, your customers will never gain that sense of familiarity that keeps them loyal.
Not that they’re going to get loyal if your brand doesn’t have some visibility to it. You have to work on your marketing and on making sure your brand gets out there. Branding your website or your office is only the start. For instance, if you’re sharing information on social media, then think about producing it as a branded image or infographic instead of a block of text. Get more involved in the community, such as producing content for other sites and blogs or setting up a branded booth at the next relevant trade show. Use your network, use the internet (including search engines) and use industry wide opportunities to get your brand out there.
When you have all of the above figured out, you need to set it in stone. The heart of your brand needs to be easily referenced every time you need to contact a potential lead or to send out your next marketing campaign. It becomes the public face of the business.