This is a very thoughtful guest post courtesy of Chris.
Branding yourself (at least in my book) really boils down to knowing who you are, both as an individual and as a business and communicating it clearly.
It’s ultimately a way of differentiating yourself from the pack, in a way that’s real and resonates with your people.
Do it well, and you will reap the rewards.
Don’t bother or do it half-assed and… well… you will reap those rewards too. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
Brand identity can be one of the most important assets that your business has when developing your marketing campaign, but many business owners fail to take advantage of it.
Whether it is because they don’t know its value, they don’t know what it is, or they don’t realize they’re failing to articulate it, fully utilizing your brand identity can give you an edge over your industry competitors.
Who Are You?
Particularly for small businesses, brand identity is often strongly tied to the company owner or founder.
Their personality and priorities will inform the way the company behaves and the way that it interacts with customers, employees, and the community at large.
Consider the following questions to gain a better understanding of your brand identity and how it should influence your future marketing decisions.
1. Who are you?
It can seem both difficult and silly to try to describe your brand identity, as it would if I asked you to sum up your personality in a few sentences.
Still, having a clear idea of how you want to be perceived by the public should be the starting point of any marketing campaign.
Are you a cutting edge tech startup who will revolutionize something that the rest of us take for granted? Are you a restaurant that specializes in comfort food or local ingredients?
Who you are as a company is as much defined by what you do and the need that you fill, as it is who you are as a person.
Having a simple, jargon free statement of those critical facts will keep your marketing on track and ensure that you are consistent in all of your ad materials.
2. Who are your ideal customers?
Nothing should influence your marketing quite as much as knowing who your ideal customer is, and that will be determined in part by your brand identity.
Use market research and customer surveys to understand the demographics and motivations of the consumers who are most likely to become loyal repeat customers.
While our hypothetical tech startup and our local restaurant may want to draw in the same customers, they’ll need to reach them in very different ways, because they are trying to appeal to very different motivations.
Trying to understand the thought process that leads these star customers to your business will allow you to tool your marketing materials to most effectively appeal to them.
3. Where will customers find you?
How you intend to reach your customers will be influenced by and factor into your brand identity.
Whether you’re trying to move foot traffic or web traffic, understanding where your customers were right before they came to you, how they discovered you, and what lured them in is the most effective way to improve your marketing.
Gathering this information on visitors to your physical location can be labor-intensive, but customer surveys and an engaged staff can provide the information that you need.
For online visitors, customer surveys are useful but web analytics software will allow you to see exactly where your customers come from and what elements of your advertising they’re exposed to before they reach you.
4. What sets you apart from your competitors?
Each business owner strives to provide a better choice than their competitors; it is simply the nature of doing business.
Offering a better product or service is only one aspect of competition.
Do you offer your customers innovation, affordability, or a responsiveness that your competitors do not?
Try to put yourself into the mindset of a customer and understand why they would choose you over the other guys, or why they wouldn’t.
5. How do you fit in to your community?
More and more consumers care about the way that your company impacts the communities that it is a part of.
This is true regardless of the size or scale of your business, and while you may be able to get away with zero community involvement or questionable ethical practices for a while, when an alternative arises you will be vulnerable to sudden and severe churn.
Cashing in on Your Identity
Once you have a full understanding of your brand identity you can begin to optimize it in your marketing materials and on site or in store choices.
It should be reflected in your advertising, social media, and physical décor. The way that you do this will depend on the way that you answered the questions above, and keeping them in mind will allow you to remain consistent across channels and over time.
Be creative and try to relate honestly to your customers.
Emphasize your stellar customer service by including actual customer reviews in your advertisements. Highlight your youth and humor with guerrilla or viral marketing online.
Take advantage of community involvement or corporate volunteerism by turning pictures and materials into custom wallpaper for your commercial décor.
Where ever customers see your logo or brand name, they should see something that reflects who you are and how you want them to see you.
Over to You
Do you have a clear picture of your brand and how you want to present yourself to your clients and customers? Has getting clear about it grown your business in a measurable way? Or is this an area you’re still struggling with? Do tell in the comments below.