8 Steps to Successfully Branding Your Business
By: Hillary Lacouture, President
January 25, 2024
Branding your business will be well worth every minute you spend on it. In a nutshell, your brand clarifies what your company stands for and why. It also guides “brand experience,” which means how people in your target market think, feel, perceive and react to everything from your direct marketing efforts, website and ad campaigns to social media and promotional products. Properly executed branding communicates the unique value you offer, spells out your solution, and crafts emotional connections with customers and prospects in everything you do.
Branding your business may seem like a daunting task at first. But it all falls into place and becomes sustainable if you follow this step-by-step method and get branding help along the way.
Step 1: Identify your Unique Selling Proposition
Your unique selling proposition (USP) is the unique benefit that makes your business or product better than the competition. It is a short sentence or two specifying the clear benefits that make your business stand out in your market. Your USP should quickly answer a potential customer’s most immediate question when they encounter your brand: What makes this company’s products and services different from the competition?
Step 2: Define your target market and audience
It’s important to understand the difference between your target market and target audience. Both terms refer to a group of people who are interested in your brand’s products or services, but a target market is one broader group of ALL the people you think will be interested in your brand. For example, in practice, your overall target market is a foundational building block of your entire digital strategy. In contrast, your target audience is a more focused, specific group. You might have several target audiences that are the focus of different campaigns, advertising strategies and even distribution of your promotional products, like branded apparel or other swag.
To determine your overall target market, start by identifying the problem you’re solving for your target customers. What do they like and dislike? What do they value? What interests and hobbies are they passionate about? The answers to those and other key questions will get your journey of branding your business off to a solid start.
You should also consider who makes up your primary, secondary and tertiary target audiences, considering demographics like age, gender, geographic location, and interests. A primary target audience consists of the group of customers who are most likely to make a purchase. Customers in secondary target audiences may occasionally purchase a brand’s product or service, but not as regularly as the primary audience. Tertiary target audiences represent individuals who may be interested in what a business offers but are unlikely to commit to buying it right away.
It may also be helpful to develop a buyer persona, a fictional profile of your ideal customer based on market and audience research. In other words, it’s an imaginary person that embodies the most important characteristics of your target audience.
Conducting some competitive research is useful too. How are other companies in your industry positioning themselves through visual elements, personalities and themes? You don’t want to inadvertently duplicate what they’ve created. Embracing what makes you unique will help you stand out in the crowd and find the place in your market to differentiate yourself.
Step 3: Create your brand identity
Your brand identity encompasses your logo, tagline, brand colors, fonts,and other standard graphic elements. It also represents the culmination of how your brand looks, feels and speaks to customers. Your brand identity influences the entire customer experience and ultimately defines how others view your business. Every company should have a brand style guide to help employees and vendors understand how to use their brand identity correctly.
What kind of brand voice, message and brand identity will ensure that your audience feels emotionally invested in your company? Should your brand inspire affection for past events and the warmth of nostalgia? Should it have a playful, personality? Or should it be buttoned-up, with copy and images designed to speak to a no-nonsense audience?
By adopting the right strategy and focusing on consistent communications, your branding can directly convey a message that your product is more effective, easier to use, better tasting, cheaper, classier, cooler or more environmentally sound than its competitors.
Step 4: Ramp it up with a brand story
Your brand story shouldn’t necessarily tell your company’s origin story, meaning details about why it was started, when it was started, how it was started, who started it, where it was started, etc. Your brand story should simply explain what compelled you to start your business. It’s more about how your brand relates to people and why it exists. A good brand story evokes emotion in your audience.
The goal of your brand story should be to provide these answers:
- What does your company believe in?
- What pain points are you alleviating for your customers?
- How does your business solve those problems?
- What made you decide to take on this mission?
- Where do you see your business going in the future?
Step 5: Get help to create your brand assets
You’ll often hear all of these elements of your visual identity referred to as brand assets:
- Color palettes
- Photography and graphics for marketing campaigns
- Brand guide that explains appropriate usage of the elements above
A strong visual identity is an essential piece of branding for your business. Your brand assets should accurately represent your business and provide continuity throughout your website, social media and marketing campaigns and materials.
At this stage of branding your business, you’ll want to find a professional designer or creative team who can guide you through finding the best colors, typography, and visual elements to communicate your brand message. Here another question beyond brand voice that you should discuss as you delve into getting branding help: How adaptable will our brand’s visual identity need to be across various mediums–digital, print, etc.?
Step 6: Make sure your website mirrors your brand identity
The popularity of online shopping makes your website an important storefront for your business. Everything on it, from design and visuals to content and copy, should reflect your brand voice and identity.
Your website’s colors and typography should follow your style guide. You’ll also want to check for any readability issues and address them before you launch a new website or update your existing one. If your brand color is blue for example, using a blue background could make reading difficult. Instead, go with a clean, white background, or another complementary color, and add blue design elements.
In addition to visually aligning your website with your brand identity, the tone of writing throughout your website should reflect what you want people to associate with your brand. A casual, fun and lively tone on the web works well for a brand that wants to come off as playful. Companies in more traditional businesses should aim for a more formal approach and tone online.
Step 7: Craft your social media messaging
Social media can be an especially powerful tool for reaching your target audience. Start by choosing the platform your target audience is most active on. And don’t forget that you should use consistent brand visuals and messaging across social platforms too.
Your company’s social media profiles should clearly tell people who you are and what you do with a brevity of words. Choose profile pictures, showcase your logo and select cover images that match your brand’s visual identity. Make sure to use language that matches your brand’s voice in every post or caption.
Check out this article for step-by-step instructions on building a social media strategy for your business.
Step 8: Align paid promotions with your brand’s voice
Many new businesses and start-ups give their brands a jump-start through paid promotions. To ensure these campaigns reflect your brand, choose the promotion and channel that are most likely to help you reach your target audience.
Start by researching the behavior and preferences of the demographic you’re targeting. Where do they consume the most content? If they primarily use social media, which platforms do they frequent? Use these findings to choose your paid channels.
If you’re targeting a younger demographic, partnering with a relevant social media influencer might be more effective than ads. The influencers you choose should have values that align with your brand identity.
Whether you’re running ads on Google, Facebook, or LinkedIn, your ad content should also strongly align with your brand identity. This could be the first opportunity to shine with a potential customer, so you want them to understand what you stand for and how you meet their goals right away.
Once you’ve created your initial brand identity, analyze and refine it over time based on customer feedback. Test new strategies and tactics to see what works best to appeal to your target audience and maximize your customer experience.
Going forward, your brand will evolve and adapt because change is inevitable as your company grows. But along the way, remember that consistency is key. If you don’t get the kind of immediate gratification that comes when posts go viral, don’t get discouraged or second guess your strategy and shift directions. Remember that great branding takes time and depends on all your marketing channels supporting each other.
Also remember that branding is an investment in an asset. Many experts advise designating 12-15% of your initial investment for branding. Use this budget to work with a branding strategist, graphic and web designers, copywriter, marketing expert, social media expert, and others. Intangible aspects of your investment such as brand equity, including long-term consumer awareness and loyalty, can be difficult to value. That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t invest in business branding right from the start.
You should always also rely on your internal resources. As you develop your brand identity, interview your employees, the people closest to your current brand. They have an important point of view on how the company should be positioned and what has and hasn’t resonated and worked in the past.
Branding can be a fun process that generates renewed excitement for why you went into business in the first place. The more you enjoy the process, the more you’ll feel great about the results.
No one is better at helping you start and refine the process of branding your business than our team at Wrathbone. Get in touch if you have questions about these eight steps, start a conversation with us, and find out how we can help you grow and prosper.