A carefully developed and highly recognizable brand is one of the most valuable assets your business can have. While its value might be overshadowed by the monetary value of tangible assets, it’s your business’s intangible brand that drives all customer acquisition and retention. Without a good brand, your business will struggle to get good (or perhaps any) customers.
A good brand doesn’t come along by happenstance. Defining, developing and distributing your business’s essence — which is what branding is — requires forethought and execution.
What is a Brand
At the most basic level, your business’s brand is your business’s reputation. The brand reflects both how widely your business is known, and what customers think of the business. In the words of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room” — that’s also called a reputation.
Any difference that exists between a reputation and a brand lies in who guides the conversation. Reputations are primarily developed as others talk about a person’s or a business’s character. Brands are developed as individuals or businesses talk about themselves, allowing others to share their opinion but guiding the direction of that opinion.
In this manner, a brand is actively shaping a business’s reputation. You must actively shape your business’s brand if it’s to be successful. Here are some steps to guide you along the way toward creating a powerful brand that communicates your business’s story, and captures customers’ attention.
- Define Your Business’s Purpose
In order to communicate the desired message about your business, you must first know your business. Specifically, you clearly and concisely define your business.
Many business owners have a general idea of what their business is, but struggle to clearly and concisely define it. The ideal definition should explain the essence of your business in one or two sentences. Answer these questions to help you narrow your definition:
- What is the name of your business?
- What product or service does your business offer?
- What is your business’s value-add?
- What is the target customer base?
- Where does your business serve?
- What other differentiators distinguish your business?
If you’re struggling to formulate a single sentence, use the following formula:[Business name] provides [product/service] to [target customer], while excelling at [value-add/differentiator].
The resulting sentence will be wooden, but it’ll keep you from being too general or wide with your definition. You can smooth out the sentence for customer-facing marketing in the next step.
- Develop “About Us” Statements
Use your business definition to begin creating marketing assets. The first to work on is “about us” statements, not just because you’ll actually use these but also because they can help formulate actual marketing collateral later on.
Don’t limit yourself to a single about us statement, such as would be on a website. Instead, create a few different statements of different lengths:
- 3 words: Distill that definition down to its bare essence, even if you don’t use a full sentence. These words will become your business’s slogan. They’ll also serve as talking points when discussing and advertising your business’s products/services.
- 20 words: Smooth out your above sentence so that it sounds polished, and keep it to about a 20-word sentence. You can use this sentence whenever someone asks what your business does, and in any marketing material where you have a single sentence available.
- 100 words: A 100-word synopsis of your business is a long paragraph, or could be two short paragraphs. This is a good length for “about” sections at the bottom of press releases, or reporters can work with this if they cover your business in an article. You can also use a 100-word synopsis on social media profiles.
- 300 words: 300 words is a good length for an “about us” page on your business’s website. It’s short enough that people can skim (i.e. will read) but long enough that you can convey several points.
- 500 words: A 500-word piece is longer than you’ll use in most cases, but it’s a good germination for longer explanations of your company. The length can be adjusted on an as-needed basis, and you might use it in presentations, investor letters, and similar instances.
Most of these word counts aren’t exact, but the lengths should be kept quite close to these counts.
- Create a Logo
Marketing is as much about visuals as it is about statements, and you’re ready to transition to visuals with all of those about us statements written. The first visual marketing asset to create is a logo.
Your business’s logo will appear on virtually all of its marketing materials, and likely some non-marketing places as well. It’s the ubiquitous symbol that’ll ensure everything your business shows to customers is branded — possibly even appearing in places where your business’s actual name isn’t found. A good logo will become synonymous with your business, making customers constantly aware of the business’s presence.
In order for a logo to be good or effective, it must fulfill at least three criteria. Good logos:
- Reflect your business’s ethos in some way
- Capture customers’ attention
- Can be scaled for different uses
A good logo design that meets these criteria has a simple graphic, and some verbal reference to your business. Most small businesses’ logos should have the business name and slogan (developed above). Large corporations can get by with just a symbol and perhaps their letters, but small businesses don’t have such brand recognition. Customers need to know what business the logo is for, and some will also need to be told what the business does.
Additionally, keep the logo to no more than three colors. The colors should either be in the same family or complementary ones. To ensure that the graphic is scalable, get your finalized logo in a vector format (as well as other formats).
- Create Your Brand Voice
As a final step before you actually create marketing assets, define your brand’s voice. You should’ve naturally begun creating a voice as you wrote those about us statements, but the voice might need some further clarification.
Making customer personas can help you further clarify your brand’s voice. Consider who your core customers are, and draft a few personas that reflect your general customer base. You can define the persona’s names, genders, ages, incomes, interests, places of work, and anything else that may be helpful.
Next, massage your about us statements into phrasing that each of these target personas might use. Your brand voice will develop naturally as you go through this process.
The voice will also naturally extend into graphics, which are a visualization of your company’s voice. Think about what sorts of graphics your target personas would like, and begin to collect those for use in various assets.
- Make Branding and Marketing Assets
With everything in place, you’re ready to actually create branding and marketing assets. You have the components needed to create everything from the favicon for your business’s website (the logo is perfect) to full advertisements. Make emails, landing pages, web pages, business cards, physical signs, and any other marketing materials that will be useful.
Develop Your Business’s Brand
Whether you have a new business or one that’s growing, the business’s brand can undoubtedly be further developed. Go through these steps, and you’ll have customers talking about your business in the ways that you want them to. Your business will become better recognized and garner a solid reputation.