Creating a branding strategy for your small business is a crucial task, but it may seem overwhelming if you’re a new entrepreneur. It can be helpful, however, to break down the elements of a branding plan and learn more about what makes it successful. But first, it’s important to understand the difference between branding and marketing. Then, you can establish your plan to effectively brand your new business.
Here, the Rathdrum Area Chamber of Commerce presents some steps to help you create a few goals and get your tasks in order.
The Basics: Branding Versus Marketing
First, it’s important to understand that branding and marketing–while they go hand-in-hand–are two different things. Your brand encompasses every element of your business, from the logo to the way you source materials and ingredients. It’s what customers think of when they begin to develop trust in your items or services. While you might use some of the same tools for both branding and marketing–such as social media platforms–they have different impacts.
For instance, you might utilize Instagram to run a sponsored ad for a product that allows the viewer to click through to your website, which is a great way to engage new customers. Meanwhile, on your business’s Instagram account, you can share a post that details why your business is committed to using locally-sourced materials or eco-friendly practices. These tactics use the same platform to achieve two different goals: bringing in new customers (marketing) and building loyalty (branding).
Start by Doing Your Research
Creating a branding strategy of any size requires some homework. Researching your target audience and your competition are two major elements that should be addressed right away. Narrow down and define your audience by thinking about these questions:
What age group are they in?
Do your products or services address the needs of a specific gender?
Does your audience live in a certain area of the world?
What are their likes and dislikes where your type of product or service are concerned?
Once you have your target audience narrowed down, it’s time to do some research into their habits. Knowing how to reach them is crucial, so find out whether they spend time on a particular website or social media platform, as well as whether they tend to shop online or in stores. This will help with your marketing strategy as well as your brand. Now that you know quite a bit about who will be buying from you, it will be much easier to figure out where to focus your branding elements, which include your business’s identity.
Build a Brand Identity
After you’ve gotten some information about your target audience, you can start to piece together a plan for building your brand identity. This will include visual aspects, such as a logo, memorable elements that separate you from the competition, and the overall approach to the way you sell your products or services; for instance, if your main goal is to remain as eco-friendly as possible, how will you convey that message to your audience? What are your company’s values and intentions? A strong brand identity can create a sense of trust with customers as well as build a feeling of community, so this process should be well thought-out and continuously revised and perfected over time.
Create Your Logo
Your logo and the colors you use are part of your brand’s visual identity, so they should be carefully considered. These elements help customers easily find your business and allow them to associate the design with a positive experience, so it’s crucial to keep them consistent across every marketing tool you use, from business cards to social media ads.
Creating a logo is something that you might collaborate on with a graphic designer. You can check online job platforms to find freelance branding professionals who can tackle your projects. Just be sure to pay attention to the delivery time and cost before hiring, and read reviews of their work from past clients.
If you’re concerned that your graphic designer might not understand all of your comments, then free online PDF editors could solve your problem, especially if you are conducting some of your meetings remotely. These editors allow you to add comments to specific places on a PDF. So, if your graphic designer sends you a mockup of your logo, you could circle places that you would like changed, add notes with questions, and add virtual sticky notes with overall thoughts. These comments save, so you can keep a record of your feedback in case there is ever a question regarding revisions later on.
Deciding What You Can DIY
As you build your brand identity by pulling together various elements, it’s important to think about which tasks you can do yourself and which ones you might need help with. Creating a website, for instance, can be tricky to pull off with free tools and no experience if you want it to look professional, so that’s something you can hire a pro for.
When it comes to other branding elements, such as adding an eye-catching banner to your social media pages or website, you can absolutely do that yourself; just use an online banner maker to add customized information to a template, including images or video. This is a great way to build brand awareness across various marketing channels.
Develop Your Relationship with Customers
Because your branding elements can help you create a bond with your audience, it’s important that you think carefully about how to develop those relationships. Outlining a plan for customer service is a great start, but it’s also crucial to consider how your products or services can solve a problem or fill a gap in the market. Why should your customers care about what you have to offer? Are you ensuring that your business model allows you to fulfill your promises to them? Delivering on assurances is essential if you want to create loyalty and instill feelings of trust so that your customers will keep coming back.
Use Data Analytics to Make Strategic Choices
As you begin building your relationship with customers, it’s important to keep an eye on how they’re interacting with your business. Using data analytics is a great way to learn more about your audience as they visit your website and social media pages. These data not only help you find out what their needs are, but they provide information about where your customers live, how much time they’re spending on your site, and exactly how they shop.
These resources provide insight that will help you make changes to your inventory, your marketing strategy, and the website itself so that your customer has a better experience. All of these individual elements fall under the umbrella of your brand, which is why it’s so important to get them right.
It’s also important to keep the data you collect in an accessible place so that you and your team members can easily find it; this will ensure that you’re able to continuously update your business strategies to fit customer demand.
Put Time into Your Team
Your team members are an integral part of your business, and as such it’s crucial that they understand what your brand stands for as well as how to reflect and manage it. Whether you’re training employees on daily operational practices or working with one individual on how to manage your business’s social media pages, putting adequate time into the process will ensure that everyone is on the same page and that your brand remains cohesive.
You can engage your employees in brand training by:
Teaching them about everything your brand stands for; give them reasons for why you started the business and what your goals are
Offering the same training to every team member, regardless of their role or title
Providing updated training materials continuously throughout the year
Creating a style guide for your business that includes all the details for your branding message, from the color palette to the message you want to convey to customers
Most importantly, it’s essential to make sure your team members are on board with your brand and the mission behind it, and the best way to achieve this is to make sure the team feels like a collaborative community. Ask for input and shared ideas, and follow up on them. Keep communication open, since you never know where the next great branding idea will come from.
Once your branding strategy is complete, you can focus on a marketing plan, which typically involves networking and making as many connections as possible within your field. As a new business owner, you might be tempted to jump into partnerships with other entrepreneurs who could potentially help boost your visibility, but it’s extremely important to choose carefully with whom you will work. If a customer associates a particular company with a bad experience and your brand is connected to theirs, they might look elsewhere without even giving your business a chance.
Do your research before initiating a partnership of any kind with another company. Check them out on social media and read customer reviews of their business. Do their values align with yours? Consider what both of you could gain from working together.
Create Your Brand Strategically
Starting a business and creating a brand strategy requires a lot of careful planning, starting with finding your target market and figuring out how to draw them in. By finding the right help via freelancers, assessing which projects are DIY and which ones need the help of a professional, and using free online marketing tools such as banner makers, you can build a successful brand that reflects your vision.
Looking for business support in Rathdrum? The Rathdrum Area Chamber of Commerce champions our community’s economic and cultural growth through networking, events, and advocacy. Click here to become a member today!