We’d like to offer 10 Steps to Building a Powerful Small Business Brand. These 10 steps are a simple, common-sense overview of how to build a brand. The order in which they’re addressed is fairly flexible, but the very first on the list—finding clarity—should definitely be the place to start. Begin there and avoid the temptation of moving into design and marketing too quickly.
Let’s take a look at each step:
- Find Clarity
- Be Authentic
- Define Your Core Values
- Play to Your Strengths
- Differentiate Yourself
- Align the Interior with the Exterior
- Create a Distinct Visual Language
- Be Consistent with Your Company Voice
- Establish Your Brand Standards Guide
- Be Seen and Heard
1) Find Clarity: Get honest about yourself and your team.
Clarity is the conscious knowledge of the character, feelings, motives, strengths, weaknesses, and desires of your business. You want to explore and define your goals by asking some of these questions:
- Who is your ideal client?
- What are the personal strengths of you and your business team?
- What are your weaknesses?
- When do customers most need you?
- What problem(s) do you want to solve for your customers?
- Why or how are you uniquely qualified to solve these problems?
In short, finding clarity in your brand is taking time to better know yourself, your team, your customers, and your competition. This self-awareness helps you focus on creating services which add genuine value to customers’ lives, differentiate you from other businesses, and allow you to communicate effectively with your Ideal Buyer Persona.
2) Be Authentic: Don’t fake it until you make it.
Some may argue the more popular phrasing of “fake it ‘til you make it,” but bear with us. We realize this strategy is legitimate if what you are faking falls within your natural strengths. In other words, it’s fine to take on a challenge you’re not sure exactly how to tackle, but you have a solid idea of what is needed and you know where to find the talent to help you succeed. However, it’s never a good idea to pretend to be something you are not. (I know about basic copyright laws, but I would never provide a client advice about them as if I was a copyright lawyer.) The truth is if you feel you are deceiving your customers, you probably are. There are plenty of businesses faking it and not making it. Authenticity will be your success.
3) Define Your Core Values: Establish a set of principles which guide your decisions.
Seeking authenticity as a business will ask you to determine the principles you value. Perhaps you are passionate about fair wages for your employees. Maybe you feel strongly customers should always be informed about possible ways to save on their purchases. Or you might be adamant about never missing a deadline. Whichever and however many core values you have as a business, be sure to document them clearly. They will be a valuable guide for you and your team.
4) Play to Your Strengths: Stick to what you’re great at.
Playing to your strengths takes discipline. It’s very tempting for a business to add a service because it simply looks good – and not necessarily because it’s entirely possible. Trust us. When you are truly successful at a specific service or particular product, customers will notice and reward you by recommending you to others. On the other hand, doing a mediocre job on a looks-good-on-paper aspect of your business may sour the whole experience for a customer, and that bad news will travel fast. Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever expand your service offerings. Just be sure you’re ready to commit to them and plan to make them great…or don’t add them at all.
5) Differentiate Yourself: You be you, and the competition will be irrelevant.
Know the company Toys-R-Us? They were impressively coined the “category killers” because they were so dominant in their industry for nearly fifty years they had virtually no competition. Want to know how their success began? They stopped selling baby furniture and focused solely on toys. By narrowing their focus on just who they wanted to be, they gained strength, and they left their competition far behind.
Of course, differentiating yourself is easier said than done. After all, how different can one CPA be from another? You’d be surprised.
Here are a few strategies to consider:
- Narrow your market.
Strategize like Toys-R-Us did and narrow your focus. More services or products doesn’t always equal a better business.
- Solve a specific problem or offer a turn-key solution.
Whichever your focus, offer something of true value.
- Provide “wow” moments.
Any business can be good. You want to be excellent. You want to provide a superior experience and a “wow factor” for your customers.
- Be original.
Think of innovative ways to package your product or offer your services. This is especially successful if your unique approach solves a problem better than your competition.
- Create irresistible offers or guarantees.
Make the value of your product/service so obvious that not purchasing what you have to offer would seem positively ridiculous.
- Brand yourself as an expert.
Write a book or informational “whitepaper.” Participate in speaking engagements and create videos showcasing your talents. If customers can see you as a thought leader, they’ll consider you an expert.
- Be authentic and transparent.
You are a unique spirit – so let your natural self shine through in your business! If your industry is full of uptight, cookie cutter competitors, your down-to-earth, personable approach might be just what people need and want.
- Focus on your ideal client.
It’s unlikely you can serve everyone in the world, so be selective about the customers you’d like to have. Determine your Ideal Buyer Persona and focus on making products and services that fit that customer perfectly.
6) Align the Interior with the Exterior: Make a promise as a business and keep it.
Walt Disney promised his theme park to be “the most magical place on earth.” Therefore, everything about it delivers that message: the rides, the shops, the live characters roaming around, the landscaping…even the fireworks! The non-tangible visuals are also carefully crafted in that regard: the attention you receive from the manager in the gift shop, the cheery greeting of the waitress in the restaurant, or the patience of the customer service representative on the phone. These visuals (the exterior) are in alignment with the promise of a magical experience (the interior). Like Disney, your company culture, training, and mission should always be working to align your interior promise with your exterior offerings.
7. Create a Distinct Visual Language: In your marketing lies your power.
The visual language of your business is every brand-related marketing piece your customer sees. Although there are no official figures, it has been estimated the average person encounters 6,000 to 10,000 ads every single day. This means that competition for the attention of a consumer is fierce. Average graphics simply can’t stand a chance. Highly creative marketing pieces reflecting innovative design and pleasing aesthetics are in high demand because the market is saturated with visuals. If you want to create a powerful brand, create a powerful visual language.
8) Be Consistent with Your Company Voice: Coordinate your visuals with your message.
Your company voice represents the personality of your business–its tone, style, and values. This voice could be inspiring, witty, fun, powerful, or any number of other possibilities. As you define your voice as a company, be sure to coordinate it with your visual language. Aim for everything to be in sync.
9) Establish Your Brand Standards: Create some rules for visuals and stick to them.
Once you’ve defined your brand and all its key attributes, you want to document these in what’s called a Brand Standards Guide. This document provides a solid framework for designers, writers, and developers to follow and maintain a consistency in the visuals they’re creating.
Your brand guide should include rules and guidelines for how to use logos, typefaces, colors, videos, phrases, and key brand messages. In addition, you want your brand guide to document your mission, vision, brand pillars, and positioning statement. Basically, anything and everything that should stay consistent in your visuals should be included in your Brand Standards Guide.
As a business owner, you should also keep in mind your brand standards should be designed for the long haul. Naturally, brands will evolve with time, but major changes are always a risk. Take the time to carefully design brand standards which you plan on sticking with for some time. And remember changes should occur based on strategic goals, not a creative muse. Customers definitely don’t see your brand as frequently as you do, so consistency and repetition in the visuals is key when they do see it. This is the very foundation of brand-building. Yes, creativity is necessary, but consistency is critical.
10) Be Seen and Heard: Have a varied approach to marketing.
Needless to say, advertising and marketing are necessary for any business to exist. But specifically in regard to brand-building, being seen and heard is the key to building credibility and holding an active presence in the marketplace.
The good news is there are plenty of options these days for getting your business name out there. Whether you’re doing your own marketing or hiring a professional, here’s a quick list of strategies:
- Social Media
- Email Marketing
- Pay-Per-Click Advertising
- Virtual Networking
- Traditional Networking
- Print Advertising
- Television Advertising
- Radio Advertising
- Direct Mail
Marketing opportunities are endless, so identify several that you want to try and get your powerful small business brand out there! If you would like to learn more about how to win loyalty from clients, read 8 ways to win loyalty from clients.
Is it Time to Build Your Brand?
If you’re ready to start working on your brand but you’re unsure where to start, check out my book Create Your Brand & Lead. It’s a straightforward step-by-step guide and workbook filled with easy-to-follow branding exercises. If you’d like to explore the possibility of working with us on your small business brand, schedule a 30-minute call. We’re happy to answer all your questions and share ideas.