Branding is all the things — words, colours, qualities — people associate with your business. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that brand strategy is only for big business. The opposite is true. A brand strategy will boost your small business by helping you stand out, attract new customers and keep your existing customers coming back.
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What is branding?
Branding isn’t only about your logo, tagline (e.g. “The burgers are better at Hungry Jack’s”) and website. It’s much more than that.
Your brand is everything your customers think, feel, know and experience with your business. It’s what they say about your business when you’re not in the room.
A brand identity helps to convey all that you are. It creates a look and feel that makes it easy for customers to recognise and remember your business. You reflect your brand through colours, voice, personality and photographic or video style.
For example, the Coca-Cola brand identity is so well-established around the world that viewers only need to see a part of it’s iconic imagery — that exact shade of red, the outline of the original bottle — to immediately recognise it. This is the ultimate goal of every brand strategy: at-a-glance recognition.
6 steps to building your brand strategy
Here are six steps to building a business-boosting brand strategy:
- Understand your ideal customer.
- Research your competitors.
- Define your brand attributes.
- Choose a brand name that's easy to remember.
- Create a brand style guide.
- Be consistent.
Not sure branding is worth the effort? Keep reading to learn the long-term benefits of a strong brand.
1. Understand your ideal customer
Ask anyone in business, and they'll tell you: the key to success is to know your customers inside out. They're the reason you went into business in the first place, right?
Understanding your ideal customer means knowing:
- How they think, feel and talk
- What motivates them
- What attracts them
- What their needs are
- What keeps them awake at night
- What problems they need solving and how you can help them
With this insight, you'll improve your chances of finding and attracting new customers to your business. You'll also know how to nurture your existing customers and keep them loyal to your business.
Create buyer personas to capture your key insights. They’ll be handy for informing your brand’s efforts with your customers.
Ready to learn more about your customers? Check out this post for details on how to gather information.
2. Research your competitors
Building a brand strategy involves knowing what competing businesses are doing, then using this information to your advantage. In addition, checking out your competition gives you a better understanding of what makes your business unique and how to best present your product or service.
When analysing your competitors, consider the following:
- Where are they located?
- What do they offer customers?
- What marketing strategies do they use?
- Through what channels do they offer customer service (phone, chat, etc.)?
- Do they have an online or social media presence?
A great way to use this information is in a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis. By filling out this simple diagram, you can uncover fresh opportunities and sidestep growing threats you otherwise wouldn’t be aware of.
3. Define your brand attributes
Brand attributes are the physical characteristics and personality traits of your brand in the minds of your customers. Listing them will help you create your brand identity.
The key to creating a useful set of brand attributes is knowing your ideal customer, so don’t skip step one.
According to Arek Dvornechuck, Creative Director of Ebaqdesign, there are six key branding questions that business owners need to ask:
How would your community describe your business?
Examples: innovative, customer-focused, adaptable
How would you describe your customers?
Examples: time-poor, adventurous, resistant to change
How do you sound to others?
Examples: quirky, formal, confident
How do others feel after interacting with you?
Examples: relieved, motivated, happy
What tangible impact do you have on others?
Examples: saving time, saving money, more organised
What makes you radically different?
Examples: reliable, enjoyable, convenient
Check out the top eight attributes of the world’s most successful brands — they’re not that different from what we look for in lifelong friends.
4. Choose a brand name that’s easy to remember
Whether you’re naming your whole company or just one product line, make your brand name easy to spell, say and hear. You don’t want customers forgetting it or having no clue how to find your business online. Ideally, your brand name will help your customers quickly pick you out of a crowd.
When choosing a brand name:
- Keep it simple
- Be unique
- Use words related to your product/service creatively
- Don’t make it so specific that it will limit future growth (e.g. rather than Sheri’s hairbrushes, go for Sheri’s beauty)
Before you get too excited about a name, check to make sure it's not already in use. Search the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) business name register online.
Don't forget to check the domain and social media name availability. For example, a business named Smitty’s that uses SmithEnterprises.com.au for its web address will only confuse customers.
5. Create a brand style guide
Congratulations on reaching step 5! You’re doing great. Creating a brand style guide is the fun part. Use the brand identity work you’ve done to give your business a visual identity. You’ll need to decide on:
- A logo, including dimensions and placement
- Colour palette
- Fonts or typeface
- Photography style
- Basic writing guidelines
- Brand voice
It's a good idea to check that your choices align with the brand attributes that you’ve chosen. So for example you wouldn’t choose a cursive font if your brand attributes include “rugged” and “outdoorsy.” The font, the colours, the photo style you use — all should match your brand personality.
Your style guide should list each of these, telling you (and your team if you have one) how to use your logo, what fonts to use in communications and more. Whenever there’s a question, simply refer to the guide for answers.
6. Be consistent
As humans, we buy from brands we trust. Whether it's your visuals or the tone of voice in your website copy, consistency is the last piece of your branding puzzle. Without it, you don't have a brand.
When your brand is consistent, your business is instantly recognisable. Customers know what to expect every time they visit your website, your social media platforms and your store.
But consistency isn’t about being static.
Your brand should grow and adapt to the needs of your customers. Brand consistency is made up of many moving parts, and it's only achievable if you’ve taken the time to work through these six steps.
The benefits of branding
If you don’t know what your business stands for and why people should work with you, then nobody else will know either. A good brand strategy will help your small business:
- Create a unique and memorable identity
- Set your business apart from competitors
- Help expand your reputation
- Attract new customers
- Improve investment opportunities
- Boost employee loyalty and satisfaction
- Help establish authority and build trust in the marketplace
It will also support your marketing efforts by creating a set of rules, so your colours, language and style always look like ‘you.’
Get started on your brand strategy
You don’t need to pay big bucks to a marketing agency to create your brand strategy. If you’re a sole trader or a small business owner, you can use this guide to create your own strategy.
A great brand strategy consistently used over time will boost your business. Just ask Coca-Cola.;