Who are you as a brand? Establishing a brand that customers identify with and feel connected to is an important part of achieving small business success, and it’s not as easy as a catchy slogan and an attractive logo to slap onto your products and business cards.
Think for a moment about the various brands that you engage with on a regular basis. If you're like most consumers, you give your business to brands that have earned your respect and trust through offering goods and services that truly speak to you.
From Apple to Zappos, major brands have worked hard to earn their place in the consumer market — but how did they get there, exactly? Is it possible for your business to do the same? Read on to learn how you can establish, nurture, and maintain a brand that will foster attraction, loyalty, and recognition in the years and decades ahead of you.
1. Set Up a Firm Foundation
Although very basic, the foundation of your brand rests upon the little things like establishing uniformity in logos, signage, websites, social media presence, etc. You want your customers to recognize your brand right away. This means that your logo needs to be unique to your business, relevant to what you do, and consistent throughout its usage.
Regardless of where it appears — whether on a product or on a blog post — there need to be rules about the appearance of your logo, including its format and coloring. Web and blog layouts should be uniform as well, and you'll need to stick with a "voice" that best represents your brand.
2. Communicate Your Value
No, we don't mean that you should be spouting off what you think your company and its goods and services are worth. Instead, the leading brands are able to convey what they do, what specific problems they solve, and what sets them apart from other companies. These are the things that truly demonstrate and express value to consumers. Brand slogans and logos should easily resonate with customers on these levels so that consumers immediately know what to expect from your brand.
3. Let Customers Peek Behind the Curtain
It's important to let consumers get to know the person or persons behind the brand. Interactions with owners and other key figures that are affiliated with your brand make customers feel appreciated and even more invested in the business. It also enables you to remain in-tune with consumer needs so that you can ensure that your brand continues to resonate with your market, even when changes occur.
4. Get Your Name Out There
Sponsorship is a great way to enhance your brand’s status. Get to know your customers — where they go, what they do, what they like, how they spend their time. If they like bike racing, sponsor a bike race. If they like art galleries, sponsor an art show. If they like wine tasting, sponsor a food and wine pairing. Events like these aren’t huge moneymakers, but that’s not what it’s all about. It’s about associating your brand with the things your customers care about.
Get involved in the community, too. Put yourself out there and get your hands dirty as you give back to the very people that made your business successful. Donate some of your proceeds to charity, encourage your employees to give back in the community, and partner with fun runs and other charity events.
5. Harness the Power of Social Media
Social media has completely altered the way in which brands are able to engage with their current and prospective customers. Instead of being some mysterious entity, brands can have a face, a name, and a voice.
Your brand can establish personal relationships with customers as you talk with them and "listen" to conversations in real-time. Again, be sure that your social media platforms reflect your brand's unique voice and message to create a uniform experience for all consumers.
Don’t forget that trends change. If you want to appeal to your customers, you’ll have to keep up. In recent years, there’s been a bit of a changing of the guard when it comes to social media. TikTok was launched in 2016, and it already has 500 million monthly active users. Snapchat has gone from 46 million to nearly 200 million users in the last five years. Twitch has more than 15 million daily users between the ages of 18 and 34.
These new social networks and apps aren’t for everyone — if your target market is middle-aged women, you probably won’t reach many of them on Twitch, a site dominated by young men. But if your customers are using the latest and greatest social media networks, you need to be there with them, engaging, sponsoring, and influencing.
The Bottom Line
Branding is the first impression that your customers will have of your company. It’s the cornerstone that everything is built on — the things you stand for, the stories you tell, and the way you tell them.
Your brand is everything that makes your company different and unique. It’s your company’s personality, and it needs to act that way. And the most important thing? It doesn’t live on your website or within your logo— it lives in the mind of your customers. The things you tell them turn into their impressions of who you are, so it’s vital that you convey the right messages.