A Promise to your Customers
An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in that sea of competition. But what exactly is a "brand?" Simply put, you're making a promise to your customers.
- It tells them what to expect from your products and services
- It shows how you are different from your competitors
- It tells who you are, who you want to be and how you should be perceived
Are you the industry innovator or the go-to for experience and reliability? To an extent, your brand projects if your products are high-cost, high-quality or low-cost, high-value. It can't be both, and it can't be all things to everyone. Who you are should be based to some extent on who your target customers want and need you to be.
Build a Solid Foundation
Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages. Where you advertise is part of your brand strategy. Your distribution channels are also part of your brand strategy. And what you communicate visually and verbally is part of your brand strategy.
Consistent, strategic branding leads to strong brand equity, which means the added value brought to your company's products or services that allows you to charge more for your brand than what identical, unbranded products command. One of the most obvious examples is Coke vs. a generic soda. Because Coca-Cola has powerful brand equity, it can charge more for its product, and customers will pay that higher price. In fact, they'll buy almost anything branded "Coca-Cola" over a smaller, lesser known brand.
The added value intrinsic to brand equity frequently comes in the form of perceived quality or emotional attachment. For example, Nike associates its products with star athletes, hoping customers will transfer their emotional attachment from the athlete to the product. For Nike, it's not just the shoe's features that sell the shoe.
Defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer these questions:
- What is your company's mission?
- How skilled are your customer service reps at customer service?
- Does your Website reflect a legitimate brand, or does it only say "we have a Website"
- Is your product packaging attention-grabbing and easy to understand?
- Do you value customer feedback, how inviting are your communication channels?
Research and Reach your Target Audience
Do your research. Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don't rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.
Once you've defined your brand, how do you get the word out? Here are a few simple, time-tested tips:
- Get a great logo and place it on everything!
- Write down your brand message. What are the key points you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should be aware of these.
- Integrate your brand and mission statement. Branding extends to every aspect of your business - how you answer your phones, what your salespeople wear, your e-mail signature, everything.
- Create a "voice" for your company that reflects your brand. This voice should be applied to all written communication and incorporated in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off. Is your brand friendly? Be conversational. Is it ritzy? Be more formal.
- Develop a tagline. that is a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand.
- Design templates and create brand standards for your sales collateral. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. It doesn't have to be fancy, just consistent.
- Be true to your brand. You won't get repeat customers, and they certainly won't refer anyone, if you don't deliver on your brand promise.
- Be consistent. This tip involves all the above and is the most important tip on this list. If you can't do this, your attempts at establishing a brand will fail.