Your business brand is responsible for cultivating first impressions, building recognition, growing your reputation and authority, and securing the trust and loyalty of your clients.
Without a strong brand foundation, it can become difficult for your business to stand out from the competition and lead to rough travels on the road to entrepreneurship.
When starting out, your resources may be limited and unfortunately, most small businesses end up missing some of the most important steps or altogether skipping the brand process, which is, in my book, a mistake.
Let’s talk about some of the hazards of not having a brand…
Having a shaky or non-existent brand
Most entrepreneurs think they can either skip branding all together or go somewhere cheap online and get a logo and set up a quick website and they are ready to roll.
What do you think when you are handed a self-printed or templated business card? What happens when you visit a website that looks outdated or DIY?
You risk your potential customers judging your ability to provide a solution to their problem and others defining your brand for you. So, you can either let your brand be developed through online customer reviews or you can take the wheel and drive your business brand yourself.
When you don’t start off with a brand, it makes it hard to be consistent with your business and online marketing. You won’t have a foundation to refer to and therefore you’ll appear haphazard or even unprofessional.
One of the most important factors for business success is consistency across every marketing channel: your print materials, your website, your email and social media marketing, your social media image and posts, and your blog articles.
By being consistent, your customers can become more familiar with your brand and therefore you can slowly establish recognition and trust.
Having a copycat brand
When developing a new business, it might be tempting to look at other companies for inspiration, including competitors and entrepreneurs you admire. But in doing so, you take a chance of looking and sounding just like them.
Differentiation is the key to a profitability and sustainability. When potential customers see brands as interchangeable, they make purchase decisions based primarily on price. That means lower profit margins for you and a more difficult time charging what your services are actually worth.
By determining what makes you different, you are able to stand out from your competition and charge premium prices.
Forgetting the message
It’s easy to think branding is all about the visual elements such as the business name, logo, tagline, and color palette. When it comes to your website, you might have the look down, but a lot of entrepreneurs make the mistake of either sounding like their competition, being all over the place with their message, or worst yet, they provide too much information.
However, without a strong, clear and concise brand message, you run the risk of your potential customers not being able to determine why they should choose you over your competition.
Not identifying a target audience
Many entrepreneurs start out thinking it’s better to cater to everyone. What a better way to get more business, right? Wrong! When you try to communicate to everyone, you end up with a message that resonates to no one.
Determining a target market helps you hone your message and tailor it to those you really want to work with. The goal is to make it easy for your potential clients to determine if you are the right fit. This saves you both a lot of time and trouble.
Not narrowing focus
Chances are, if you’re really good at something, you’re also probably pretty good at other things too. Most people know a lot of stuff and think it is a good idea to sprinkle all sorts of services into their offerings. I’m sure you’ve seen them. The ones that have a website full of a multitude of services.
So, what happens when you visit a website like that? I can’t speak for everyone, but personally I get lost rather quickly in the sea of credentials and services. After I start to glaze over, I typically leave the site and go back to search for another specialist that’s got a clear service page and an easy way to work with them.
When you specialize, it helps you stand out and be remembered. Not only does that help you to be seen as an expert in your field, it also assists with word of mouth referrals. The more you specialize and are seen as the go-to expert in your market, the easier it is to charge premium prices for your services.
Still concerned that narrowing your focus is going to hurt your chances? Maybe this will help...
Your potential clients are busy and self-involved, and they’re not looking to spend lots of time figuring out what specific aspect of you is relatable and interesting to them. If they don’t believe that you can help them or they can’t figure out why to hire you over the competition, they won’t hire you. Plain and simple.
In conclusion, a successful business launch requires more than just a minimum effort. Just like coming up with your business idea, name, and services; investing in your brand foundation takes a good amount of time, thought, and preparation. It might cost money you don’t have readily available or think you should spend on something else, but in the long run, you’ll have much smoother travels if you begin with your brand foundation.
VAROOM! Brand Design offers brand foundation assistance with their brand design packages. Find the right REV UP package to fit your needs here.
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Back in the day, branding consisted of a snappy business name with a custom sign and possibly a logo. The purpose was simple: to let potential customers know what goods or services you had to offer. There wasn't much competition and there wasn't much need for more than one of the same type business in a particular town.
Boy how times have changed! There are so many choices out there. In order to stand out, you have to distinguish yourself and your business and that can be a challenge. That's where branding comes in.
What Is Branding Anyway?
Branding is the way an entrepreneur or business builds their reputation. It is the process of building awareness and creating customer loyalty. In more simpler terms, it is about making sure your business if visible and expressing why someone should choose you over another.
Gain The Lead
The quickest way to gain the lead on your competition is to resonate with your ideal customer. In order to do that, you have to be on point with your brand strategy, messaging, and visual identity. You also have to communicate and develop a relationship with your customers.
That's where original content creation comes in.
In It For The Long Haul
Creating content delivers long-term value and it's one of the best ways to invest in your business brand. All you need is your time!
The reason it delivers such value is because it's the cheapest way to demonstrate your expertise. What better way to create a strong connection with your potential customers than to share your knowledge in an article or blog? I mean, there's only so much room on the home page of your website, right?
Every piece you write adds to your brand voice, your brand message, and your overall brand foundation. Creating original content forces you to establish your unique point of view and paves the way to your ideal client. By the time prospective clients get to you, they're already interested!
Cut To The Chase
Less is more. If you have a lot of ideas running around it's better to have shorter articles than one long-winded one. You don't have to explain everything all at once. You can build on an idea, point of view, or topic in your industry over time in multiple articles - all with your own personal twist. Make sure you are speaking to topics that are relevant to your business and brand.
Pass The Time With A Story
To increase your engagement get personal. People are driven by their emotions, so for every article you write, tap into an emotion and tell a story which connects with your target audience. People buy from people and as a small business, this is an amazing way to build credibility and get your brand noticed.
Take The Scenic Route
It's one thing to write original content, but it's quite another to hit the road without taking the scenic route. In other words, add engaging imagery to your blog posts.
The truth is, the message is not enough. Not in this day and age where people have the attention span of a toddler and there's so many flashy new things to catch their attention. Not only do they have a very short attention span, but your audience is lazy and wants information fast. They want to be able to get to the nitty gritty quick and find what is of value to them.
Images are what lure them in and provide support for your content, taking it from a jumble of words on the screen, to an exciting story they have to read (or at least skim).
Be sure that the image is relevant to your content. Don't just throw up a pretty scenic image when you're talking about SEO rankings. Every image used needs to add something to the article. And don't go crazy with images either or you'll end up with it looking more like a photo gallery. A good rule of thumb is one main image and depending on the length of the article, maybe one or two smaller images sprinkled throughout the copy. Or you can use other things to break up the copy.
Make Sure to Take Pit Stops
Just like when you are traveling long distances, the reader needs to take a break and stretch their legs every now and then. You can use imagery to separate points, call out some important text in a large, bold font, or add sub-headlines to make it easier for the reader to digest.
No Fuzzy Dice Required
Creating original content is one of the best ways to build a brand over time and the images you use in your articles tell a story, just as much as the words do. You should think of images the same way you think of the overall concept of the article. With imagery your content will be more unique and your story will be stronger. Increasing brand awareness takes time, effort, and a lot of experimentation. You won't see results immediately - very few pieces of content go viral, and shaping your brand voice takes time, but it's so worth it!
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Amanda Johnson Young is a brand designer with over 20 years experience. READ MORE
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