Have you ever wondered why some products are synonymous with particular business brands?
We’re looking your way, Hoover.
Having a strong brand image can:
- Boost customer recognition
- Give you a competitive edge in the market
- Enhance the credibility of your business
The more people trust your brand, the higher your customer loyalty is, and you can enjoy a high overall conversion rate.
If you’re struggling with your brand strategy, don’t despair.
We’ll share everything you need to know about branding a business and share the best tips to help you get started.
What is a brand?
A brand refers to the positive connotations a company wants to create and associate with their products, services, and the company overall.
If you’re asked to think about a soft drink brand, Coca-Cola is most likely the first company that springs to mind, right?
To put it bluntly:
You should consider the branding of a company as its reputation, that’s managed through a branding strategy.
A successful brand:
- Is remembered by its target market
- Shares the values of its audience
- Has a long-term plan for brand building
Why is branding important?
With successful branding, you can show your company and your products in the right light for your customers.
No matter how good your services or products are, first impressions matter. It’s how potential customers decide whether your business is worth their interest, time, and money.
And when a brand makes a good impression, people are more than willing to talk about and recommend the product or company to their family and friends.
Branding is important, because:
- Customers are at least 3 times more likely to recommend a brand if it’s emotionally engaging to them
- You’ll have 60% to 70% more success selling to an existing customer base than new clients
- 92% of customers consider price and value as the reasons they’re loyal to brands
- 43% of customers specifically spend money on brands they care about
- And a whopping 70% of consumers recommend brands that offer good loyalty programs
Brand loyalty affects the way customers perceive the value of your product. Loyal customers will be willing to spend more on your brand because they know they will get their money’s worth.
High-end names like Chanel or Apple do exactly this: they work on boosting their product appeal using brand prestige.
Brand strength is beneficial from a financial standpoint, too.
After all, 82% of investors are willing to support companies with a strong brand. It only makes sense, since a strong brand is more likely to have an engaged and active customer base.
Learning how to build a brand is a long-term investment that benefits your business in the future.
How to build a strong brand
Brand building boils down to a solid brand strategy and a clear brand identity.
Small businesses often overlook the importance of branding, but business branding really isn’t as complicated as you might think.
Creating a brand identity starts with:
- Researching your competition
- Knowing your audience
- Having real and measurable goals
- Creating a brand style guide and logo
- Having a marketing strategy
- Gathering testimonials and reviews
- Being active on multiple platforms
- Giving your brand a unique personality
Go the extra mile and invest in building a brand and having a real brand strategy. You’ll eventually see noticeable growth in sales, lead generation, and profit.
Step 1. Research your market and competitors
Start things off by doing market research and studying your competitors.
Take note of their branding approaches. Use these insights to make adjustments to your branding strategies for both online and offline channels.
Look at how the market leaders in your field market their products:
- Do they have a strong email marketing strategy?
- Or are they focusing all their might on having an outstanding content marketing plan?
- Maybe they are active on social media and have a huge Facebook following?
- Do they pay for advertising space in search engines?
- Do they have ambassadors who endorse the product to the wider public?
- Or do they always have a well-designed landing page for a seasonal offer?
- How well are the brand’s mission and values integrated into the overall brand messaging?
- Does the brand look the same in all possible marketing channels?
The data you collect will tell you what customers are interested in with your competitor brands. This will help you better understand which methods of brand marketing work in your field or if something needs improvement.
Maybe you’re struggling with getting a good ROI (return on investment) on your email marketing efforts. Analyzing your competition could help you notice, that your target audience actually never reads emails. Instead, they’re all on Instagram and much more engaged with competing brands.
Use analytic tools such as Ahrefs, Buzzsumo, or iSpionage to continuously research the market. By assessing relevant keywords and content, you can see what strategy will deliver the most conversions and most sales.
When researching your competition, it’s important to understand the difference between different types of competition.
Types of competition
If you haven’t already, identify your direct, indirect, and replacement competitors.
Direct competitors are businesses that target the same demographic as you. They offer similar products or services to your company.
When researching your direct competition, pay attention to:
- Company background. Find out about the date of establishment, essential events, locations, business descriptions, and product lineup. Evaluate whether you can consider them a competitor.
- Annual revenue. By observing revenue patterns, you can measure the growth rate of your competitor.
- Market shares and sales trends. This data will give you a rough sketch of the size of your rivals and the impact they bring to the market.
- Customer persona. You can determine which segment to target by knowing potential customers that might buy or use a product – more on this later.
Burger King and McDonald’s are direct competitors in the fast-food market specializing in hamburgers. They sell very similar products to the same demographic.
Indirect competition, on the other hand, targets the same customers or aims to satisfy the same needs. But, their products or services are slightly different from yours.
For example, McDonald’s is an indirect competitor to Pizza Hut. They both provide food services, but their products (burgers versus pizza) are different enough not to be in direct competition.
Replacement competition, in turn, refers to the companies that offer new solutions that may replace your product or service.
Think of online transportation services like Uber and Lyft. They offer an alternate solution to taxis and public transportation, so they can be considered replacement competition.
Once you’ve gathered all the relevant data, you can organize everything by filtering aspects of the market, like product quality, customer service, or pricing to gauge your business’ competitive edge in the market.
You can also conduct customer surveys to see what real people think about existing competitor products and services.
Step 2. Know your target audience
Now that you understand the market you’ll be competing in, it’s time to get up and personal with your target audience.
All good selling and branding should be based on problem-solving.
You want to offer people something that helps to solve a challenge or problem that they are facing in their day-to-day life.
In order to do this, you’ll need to collect data to better understand those who would find your product useful and create a buyer persona.
A buyer persona refers to a fictional user of your product or service.
You can have multiple personas if you’re selling to different types of audiences: an online fashion store might have a user profile for an archetypal woman and another one for a man, for example.
Personas give you insights into your customer’s decisions and attitudes when choosing a product or service.
When creating one, include:
- Quantitative data like age, gender, income, and location
- Qualitative data like interests, behavior, and lifestyle
Buyer personas help you form a brand voice that speaks directly to your target customers, in the environments and channels they prefer using.
For example, single parents are likely to spend time in a different realm of the internet than teenage girls or business executives. And chances are that you’d address and speak differently to college students than pensioners, too.
When you tailor your approach based on your customers, you build trust and eventually attract more buyers.
Step 3. Set real goals that can be measured
Once you have a good understanding of your market, competition, and target market, you need to create a SWOT analysis.
SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats and gives a good idea of the health of your business. It’s widely used to highlight both internal and external factors that you can control and anticipate.
As a visual aid, it helps you organize all the information about your market into a general overview of your company’s market position.
From there, you can create a brand positioning plan, helping you articulate how you align your competitive advantages with what the target customers expect from your brand.
Understanding your brand’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and threats helps you set realistic goals for your marketing and sales efforts.
Aim for goals that aren’t totally unrealistic, but aren’t too easy to achieve, either. Good business goals can also be measured.
There’s no point in setting a goal for the month or quarter if you have no real way of measuring whether you achieved it or not.
Maybe the overall fastness of your brand is a major competitive advantage you have over your competition. Maybe you’re aiming to offer the fastest customer service in your field, too?
Then make sure that you can measure how fast your customer service team is able to solve customers’ queries.
Perhaps your customers’ questions are answered in 2 business days. A measurable goal could be setting out to improve the reply to speed to just 1 business day or even 12 hours, and so on.
Step 4. Design a brand
Next, it’s time to lay down the foundation for your brand identity.
This includes deciding on a business name, a logo, as well as creating a brand style guide, a brand identity, and a brand voice.
The rule of thumb is that the branding of a product should always be in line with the overall branding of the company.
This way, your message will be controlled and you’re showing a united front, on all fronts. This helps to build trust with your customers, which is essential for your brand-building process.
Your business name should be:
- No longer than 2-3 words
- Easy to pronounce and spell
- Related to your field of business
- Unique and not trademarked
A style guide is the foundation of a high-quality brand.
A style guide is a document that outlines the way your brand should look. It defines the fonts and color palette for your brand, and sometimes different versions of your logo, too.
You might want to have a certain typeface for the brand name or the headline of a landing page, but a smaller font for the actual body copy. Or you might want to have a contrasting color for any call-to-action buttons, for example.
Step 5. Have a marketing strategy
After you’ve created a unified look for your business, it’s time to move onto the next thing on your brand building journey: your marketing strategy.
Your marketing strategy will depend on how your customers behave, and how much money you have.
Traditional forms of marketing (print ads, radio and TV jingles, and billboards, to name a few) are valuable to most businesses but expensive.
Digital marketing channels, on the other hand, are much cheaper and something of a favorite among small business owners.
Many small businesses focus on having a good website and a blog as part of their content marketing strategy.
You could also consider using email marketing to reach your customers, or build a following on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram.
Most importantly, you should advertise on the channels that your audience frequently uses.
Content marketing revolves around creating, publishing, and sharing content that’s relevant to the buyer’s buying journey.
That means having eye-catching copy on landing pages, downloadable content like case studies, or free online resources available for a potential customer who needs that final nudge to make a purchase.
Most businesses also rely on a blog for organic traffic and even inbound marketing.
You can use a blog to promote your company while simultaneously building your brand identity. You could share tips on how to best use your products, or let visitors behind the scenes of your production processes.
Creating engaging content and making sure it’s search engine optimized is a great way to show up at the top of the search results. Build your brand around good SEO practices and you’ll get noticed quicker than you think.
Just keep in mind that the articles should be relevant to your business. A regular and consistent blogging schedule helps to increase the traffic to your website, too.
If you’re short on time, or a little rusty with your words, use an AI Writer to create content related to your industry. Use the tool’s suggestions as ideas and outlines to get those creative juices flowing.
Especially if you have an online store, you should integrate emails into your brand building.
Emails are a great way to keep in touch with your audience in a more personal way.
You can drive traffic to your website with seasonal offers and campaigns, or make it a place of sharing tips and resources with a more engaged group of people.
Just make sure you understand how spam filters work, and you are collecting the email addresses in a transparent and consenting way.
You definitely don’t want your brand identity to be synonymous with a spammer.
In email marketing, you can make between $35-45 for every $1 spent. That’s an ROI of 3400.
So don’t throw away your email list: instead, use it to further build the brand.
If you don’t have an email list, a newsletter subscription is always a great way to collect customer emails. Place newsletter subscription boxes on your website, and on your ‘Contact us’ page. A simple form that collects the basic information (name, email address) is enough to get you started.
Social media marketing
Some brands blew up because of their Facebook page.
Innocent, the UK-based smoothie brand, took both Twitter and Facebook by a storm by creating funny, relevant, and relatable content.
A small business owner, too, can use the power of social media in their advertising.
One of the ways to build a brand presence on social media is to create a business profile and engage with your audience. You can also pay for advertising space if you have the resources.
The key to a successful social media presence is to post consistently and really replying to comments and direct messages. Think about ways of encouraging people to share your social media posts: this way, you’ll reach an even wider group of people.
Step 6. Display testimonials with pride
Branding is all about trust.
In fact, consumers trust online reviews so much that having just 5 reviews per product can increase the likelihood of purchases by an impressive 270%.
Brand your business as trustworthy by collecting and displaying reviews and testimonials on your website.
Start collecting reviews by offering an incentive, like 10% off the next purchase or free shipping, to your existing customers.
If you primarily work with other businesses, ask for honest feedback from your clients, and build a case study or two around successful partnerships.
Brand ambassadors are also effective for marketing and branding your small business. Entrepreneur Media Inc notes that you should be creative and transparent when it comes to ambassador marketing, especially when looking for suitable faces for your brand.
Some companies even brand a product after the celebrities that are known to endorse it.
While a small business might not have the resources to go after A-listers, you could look into social media influencers in your niche and approach them for an ambassadorship.
Just remember to check that the people you approach share the same values as your business and your overall brand message.
Step 7. Be where your customers are
To make sure you’re reaching as wide an audience as possible, look at ways to constantly optimize your digital strategies.
Digital platforms like social media and various news platforms allow you to easily target the right segments. This means that you can engage them with the right content at the right time.
You can also track campaign progress and data live, meaning that you adapt quickly to the potential market changes.
There’s a good reason why 86% of people use social media to keep in touch with brands. It’s fast, easy, and effortless to both consumers and companies alike.
To be successful in your digital world domination, you need to make sure your brand’s presence and voice are consistent throughout your online interactions.
You can integrate social media feeds and buttons to your blog, so your audience can connect with you directly. Use images and videos in addition to text-based content. Videos are particularly useful, considering that 64% of consumers purchase a product after watching one.
Also, try to build online brand authority by associating your company with other reputable names in the industry.
They might be your rivals, but they can help your brand visibility by proxy. Plus, healthy competition with a touch of mutual respect is beneficial in the long run.
Step 8. Give your brand a unique personality
Since the ultimate goal of your brand is to establish a proper connection with your audience, it’s essential to give your brand a human touch.
You should focus on branding your business as a unique, problem-solving, and consistent entity both online and offline.
There is no one-size-fits-all formula, but you can always start by weaving an authentic narrative based on your goals and values.
Since 90% of consumers look at authenticity before supporting a brand, it’s crucial to build a human personality.
However, it’s easier said than done, since less than half of brands actually come across as authentic.
To create a real and unique personality for your brand, your story should be straightforward. Assure your consumers that you’re just like them, and understand their needs.
Use the ‘Contact us’ and ‘About us’ pages on your website as places to share your brand’s story with your customers. Celebrate milestones with your audience as part of your marketing campaigns, and include photos of the people on your team on your website. This way you’ll sprinkle that human touch all over your brand.
Your products and services are meant to solve your buyers’ specific pain points.
Take Patagonia, for example. As a brand for outdoor and adventure gear, their primary mission is to create durable products that allow their users to connect with nature.
As such, while their brand personality is rugged and adventurous, it’s also environmentally conscious.
Aside from proving your values through actions, you should communicate your brand personality consistently across all platforms to avoid any confusion.
Another important part of building a brand persona is relevancy. You should speak in a way your customers can understand and relate to.
For instance, if your core customers are teenagers, avoid using a formal style of communication and approach them more casually.
Wendy’s sassy Twitter persona is a brilliant branding example that appeals to younger audiences, focusing on delivering entertaining engagement.
Brands like Microsoft, on the other hand, present themselves as serious, reliable, and competent, which makes sense considering their professional target audience.
Build a brand with a purpose
Your vision, mission, values, and customers are the guiding elements of branding; brand personality is that collection personified.
If you’re not sure where to begin, checking out the Aaker brand personality model might be a good start.