This post is the second in our “How to Build a Bullet-Proof Brand” series. This series aims to introduce practical branding principles that apply in any small business or entrepreneurial business environment.
You don’t need a bank account with millions of dollars to create effective business branding. If you practice and apply what you learn in this series, you will be building a solid foundation for your brand!
CRUEL REALITY: WHY YOUR BUSINESS NEEDS A BRAND
In the first post, we cleared up some common misconceptions about branding. The truth is that building a strong business brand is a necessity, not a luxury. Having a strong brand advantage enables your business to grow and thrive in a crowded and competitive global marketplace.
Why bother with branding?
First, the bad news. You already have a brand: the images, attributes, feelings and experiences that others associate with you. If you don’t know what you do and can’t communicate it well, your customers, prospects and community won’t get it, either! You need to take control and proactively manage your brand. Without your secret brand sauce mojo, you have no brand advantage. You’re as useful and desirable as those generic ketchup bottles, soggy cornflakes and clumpy kitty litter that we talked about in the first blog post. Eeeewwww. Nasty.
So listen up. There are 5 reasons why you need to pay attention to your branding.
1. Attention is the new value in our global economy. It is a very scarce resource. Recent research compared our attention to span to that of goldfish, and the goldfish won. Our increasingly digital, tuned-in lifestyle has some unwanted side effects, including becoming more easily distracted. Ouch.
There are a lot of people out there fighting for the same customer attention span and purchasing power that you are. It is not going to get any easier with all the social media apps and opportunities that keep getting invented. It is very hard to cut through all the white noise and other people blabbering when you don’t have interesting, laser-targeted messages and desirable value propositions to catch people’s attentions.
2. You are now competing in a global marketplace for attention. Access to the Internet and social media tools have taken out many of the marketing and promotional barriers that small businesses and entrepreneurs face, making it much easier and cost-effective for them to compete globally. So you are not only competing with your usual competitors for attention and sales leads, but quite possibly with competitors who can be lurking anywhere on the Internet.
3. You have limited resources and capacity. There are still only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week to accomplish everything on your business to-do list, let alone have critical downtime for self care, hanging out with your friends and family, and sleep. Even Fortune 500 businesses have to make tough decisions on how best to prioritize spending their time and resources, and it only gets harder the smaller you are.
4. You often have multiple markets, audiences, products and services that can require a complex, multi-dimensional message. It takes discipline and practice to get beyond the “one size fits all” approach to marketing and hone in on your priority audiences and top markets.
And once you figure out your core messaging and offers to your best audiences, you need to be diligent and consistent in building and maintaining your connections and relationships. At any time, a competitor can slip in and steal your thunder and customers if you aren’t paying attention to them and giving them a little love. Some days it feels like pushing boulders uphill, all day just to stay ahead of the competition.
5. You already have a brand. It’s up to you to feed and grow your brand, nobody else can do this for you. Otherwise, you are lost in the branding woods, and the competitor wolves will be happy to eat you and your picnic lunch.
NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS.
Yes, there is good news for your business brand.
1. First of all, you already have an inherently amazing story – your values, mission and vision – embedded into the core of your organization. You don’t have to make anything up! Your brand story is already part of your business DNA. It’s what makes you so amazing and different from the rest of the pack.
This is the story that resonates so well with your customers and community, like a finely tuned radio signal that connects you with the right audiences all over the world. All you need to do is tease it out and distill it so that your audience “gets it” — without them having to work so doggone hard at trying to figure out who you are, what you do, and why they should work with you anyway.
We live in a world filled with lots of distracting temptations, instant gratification and really, really short attention spans, remember?
2. Once you have build a strong brand strategy, it helps you stay focused and prioritized. You won’t be doing marketing activities that are off-brand. You won’t be spending tons of money on marketing efforts that you know won’t attract and help you keep loyal customers.
That’s how iconic brands are able to grow and fend off competitors year after year after year. They know who they are, who their beloved audience is, and what works. They have built a proven winning brand strategy and formula, and they use it consistently.
3. You have highly motivated stakeholders (clients, volunteers, donors, partners) who can and will take your message out into the world as your brand champions. This is the essence of “viral marketing” and other models that leading companies (YouTube, FaceBook, Instagram, etc.) are using.
But in order for those people to help you, they need to understand what you stand for and why your product / service is the best. You need to provide them with your best story and brand inspiration, so that they can go out and share your brand essence with the rest of the world and get everyone out dancing, just like the Coca-Cola ads tell us to do. C'mon, you know you can bust a move with the best of them!
THE BOTTOM LINE:
If you can find out what your customer values, and deliver on your promise and values, you have a sustainable competitive brand advantage. That, in a nutshell, is what branding is all about.
Next episode: We finally start digging into the nuts and bolts of brand attributes. Brand essence, brand promise, brand soul, brand personality, whatever you want to call it. You say “toe-may-toe, I say “tah-mah-toe.”
What is that one amazing thing that your brand stands for? What about your brand makes your customers all giddy and weak in the knees? What’s at the heart of your secret sauce? Stay tuned. Things are about to get lively, as my friend Princess Aja says.
Part 1 of the branding series: https://xylinaspc.com/business-branding-tutorial-1/