This week we are talking about branding because when you are creating a business you are also creating a brand.
At that moment, as well as setting up your company and coming up with your product concept, you also have the power and ability to start to distinguish yourself from the rest of your market by your actions and words, how you look, and how you treat your customers, and share your story.
You are about to create the building blocks of your brand.
What is a brand?
Marketing guru Seth Godin defines a brand as a set of
“Expectations, memories, stories and relationships that in combination drive the decision to choose a particular company, product or service."
A brand is a combination of a unique set of attributes that only you can offer to your customers. How you look, what you say and how you say it, what you do and how you do it, the values you represent, how you treat your customers, your price and promotions - all of these aspects make up your brand and are the things that differentiate you from others.
It is your brand that helps your company build trust and a long standing relationship with your customers, which is what ensures that they keep coming back to you for your products or services, or why they choose you in the first place. This is why building a strong brand is so important.
The value of branding
The Marketing Science Institute discovered that consumers are willing to pay more for brands vs. store own label due to a combination of product quality and brand image. The overwhelming finding in their study was that even when consumers saw the product quality as the same between own label and brands, they were willing to pay a reasonable price premium for the branded product because of their familiarity with it, its imagery, or other positive associations that go beyond quality perceptions. This is the value of branding, and why it is important for big and small businesses alike.
For you to be distinctive and stand out, you need to be clear and consistent with your branding, so that your consumers and customers build up a clear perception of who you are, what you stand for, and what they can expect from you.
Consistency is key
People are creatures of familiarity and habit; they like to know what they can expect. This is especially true for products or services.
A customer buys your product or service because they believe it can meet a need that they have. They buy it and they like it - because you fulfil your brand promise to them (you do what you say you do).
This is the first fundamental building block in creating a relationship with your brand. Delivering on your brand promise is non negotiable - as with any relationship, your customer needs to know they can trust you to be there and meet their needs. And if you are there for them, then they too will be there for you.
Consistency is critical because if this customer experiences something different the next time they purchase from you, then you break their trust and they don’t know what to expect anymore.
Buying you again causes them to question will you deliver for their needs or will you let them down and not meet their needs? It is too much of a purchase risk, chances are they will look else where. Your attempts to build a brand will fail if you can’t consistently deliver against your brand promise and the expectation you are setting with potential customers.
Consistency is a must in all aspects of your brand, from logos to packaging even through to customer service and invoicing. Each of these interactions with your customer represent a way for you to demonstrate what your brand stands for, showcase your values, and add value to your customers, showing them how important they are to you.
The marketing holy grail
If you deliver consistently, over time, your customers come to know you, know what you offer, know what you stand for, and trust you.
This is when the good stuff happens! When customers talk about the good service or product they receive from you to others. This is essentially the Holy Grail in marketing - word of mouth marketing or in non marketing jargon - a personal recommendation.
According to Nielsen data sources, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.
So, just by doing what you say you will do, by being consistent in all interactions with your customers, and by staying true to your brand values you have created the holy grail in marketing and no longer need to spend as much on advertising to attract customers because they are being recommended to you by your existing customers. Doesn’t that sound good!
How to create your own brand
If you consider that every action and interaction with your business is an opportunity to demonstrate your unique brand, then you have endless opportunities to show people who you are and what you stand for. Most importantly, you have lots of chances to show customers why you are different, and how you can meet their needs in a way that no one else can, therefore adding value to their lives.
Consider the following areas, this will help you to map out your brand mission, brand values, and the things that differentiate you and your business. Be honest about what you do and how you do it, and write it down. This marks the start of building your brand.
1. Company Mission: Why are you in the business you are in? What are you aiming to achieve by selling your product and service to your target audience? These questions are about helping you to define what is your company's mission statement.
2. USP: Define your areas of expertise & your unique selling point (USP) to help you suss out the where you fit into the market place and how you are filling a unique gap in the market. If you are offering the same as other competitors, you need to work out what are you doing that is different, and therefore why customers will choose you over these other offerings. It may be the way you do things, your customer service, your prices, or your packaging that are different. Whatever it is you need a unique selling point to be able to show why you are different and better to the other offerings out there.
3. Products & Services: What are the benefits and features of your products or services? Do you have claims, or specific areas that you can highlight that are unique to you and your product or service? What are the messages you want to convey about your brand?
4. Brand Values: What do your customers and prospects already think of your company? What qualities do you want them to associate with your company? What do you stand for and how can you ensure you convey these values in everything you say and do?
5. Brand Identity: How do your customers know you and recognise you? Do you have a logo? Do you have packaging? What colours do you associate with your brand? What does your office look like? What does your stationary look like? Is your brand identity consistent throughout all these elements?
In your attempts to answer the above, you are in fact defining your brand and all of its assets.
Creating a set of brand guidelines covering the above areas, that can be used throughout your company can be a helpful way of consolidating all of your brand assets and values. So that no matter who is doing something - an experienced team member, or a new one - you are delivering consistently and helping to build your brand.
Once set, if you stick to these consistently, you will begin to build up a repeated and reinforced perception of your business that is unique and ownable.
These are the building blocks of the image you are portraying to your customers and should be revered as these are the things that create trust in the relationships you are building, and will keep your customers coming back for more.
Congratulations. You have created your brand.
Written by Lesley Stonier, Founder & Director of We Mean Business, London | Marketing Consultancy . We support entrepreneurial individuals and women in business with their marketing needs, specialising in Brand, Digital, SEO & Social Media Strategy. If you need help with marketing or you know someone who does, come and say hello.