Building a brand is one of the most important things you can do for your business, whether you’re a full-fledged corporation or a freelancer trying to grow your client base. Often mistaken for a logo, a brand is the set of perceptions and expectations the public has about your product or service – perceptions that you’ve (hopefully) carefully cultivated.
The question is, how can you control the narrative surrounding your company? To get this right from the get-to, follow this list of 9 straightforward steps to build a memorable and cohesive brand.
Identify your target audience
A key first step in branding, and the step that makes or breaks your brand’s success, is to pinpoint the audience that your business is geared towards. The whole point of branding is to foster an emotional connection between your audience and your company, but in order to do that, you need to know how to engage with your audience.
For example, a midwestern small business owner and an adrenaline junky who loves extreme sports aren’t necessarily going to respond to the same messaging, and you need to take the nuances of your target audience into account before you start branding. So, create a detailed profile of your potential customers, by conducting market research and drawing up an outline of your ideal buyer. Down the line, this “audience avatar” will help you understand exactly what it is your audience needs – and will pave the way for you to fulfill it.
Establish your brand’s mission
If your audience is the “who” of your brand, your mission statement is the why. Why did you start your business? Which values drive the company, and how does your product or service add value to the lives of your customers? Narrow the purpose of your business to a sentence that you can articulate clearly – and then write it down. By understanding exactly what your brand stands for, you’ll better be able to convey that message to your audience in the steps that follow.
Create a logo
Creating a logo is an absolute branding must. While a logo isn’t your entire brand, it is a symbol that is meant to visually represent your brand. If designed well and with intention, your logo will convey a specific set of emotions to your customers, based on the colors, fonts, and icons you choose. These emotions will help your brand become memorable to your audience, and hopefully give them a reason to keep coming back to your business (rather than going to your competitor).
There are a number of free websites out there that can give you design inspiration, and when you’re ready to create your own, there’s a slew of logo design builders that can help you design a logo on a budget. As you create your logo, remember to have your audience in mind; again, you’re aiming for a design that resonates with the people you’re trying to draw in – not one that necessarily looks good to you.
Own your personality
Your brand mission and logo speak to an overall brand personality, or the consistent “human element” of your brand.
This is the part of your brand that forges emotional connections with customers, so it’s important to understand which types of personalities will resonate with your audience. As your audience will come to rely on your brand to deliver a specific type of behavior, be it quippy one-liners or motivating posts, you’ll want to make sure your personality is consistent – from the tone of voice you use on all of your messaging to the colors and fonts on your branding materials.
Think about what your brand would look like and sound like if it were a living, breathing person, and then make sure that all of the messaging you put out is consistent with those characteristics. Just like people can be predictable once you get to know them, so to your brand should operate with similar dependability.
Develop your brand message
For this step, consider the brand mission you outlined in Step 3; how did that translate into the message you want your customers to take away from your brand? Like your brand’s overall personality, this message should repeatedly show up in your branding efforts and constantly be emphasized to your audience. Have in mind that anyone who comes in contact with your brand should love it – even those who aren’t buying.
Then, plan how you want to communicate this message; is it through your blog, your social media accounts, your website, or a combination of the three? Try to come up with creative content ideas (posts, images, videos) that will help you transmit your brand message to your audience over time.
Make yourself heard on social networks
Social media is a key tool for creating connections with your audience, finding new audience members, and most importantly – branding for free! Having a strong presence on social media is one of the strongest ways you have at your disposal to help you spread awareness about your product and infuse your brand personality into every communication with your customers. And, if you have money to sink into advertising, you can also use your social media channels to run paid campaigns to try and gain more exposure for your brand.
If your brand is geared toward an older population, make sure to have a Facebook Business Page set up. Instagram and Pinterest work best for a highly visual business (think art, design, travel companies, etc.), and a LinkedIn profile will help you foster connections with other professionals. Regardless of the media you choose, make sure that every piece of content you put out into the world supports your brand personality, voice and message.
Develop a consistent website
Your website is the online home of your business, and it’s likely going to be the public’s main connection to your brand. In other words, it’s a branding must. Choose a domain for your website, preferably with a .com extension if there’s one available. Try to find a domain name that matches your business name and is simple for customers to remember.
Then, create a website (you can use a website builder if you don’t have any technical know-how), and make sure to brand your site with your logo and taglines. If you are using a website builder, try to choose a website theme with a fast user experience; it will help your site load faster and reduce the risk of potential customers leaving your site before exploring what you have to offer.
Align customer service efforts with your brand
Customer service is an element of branding that is often ignored – but shouldn’t be. Your brand values should also seep into your communications with your customers – whether through your voice, tone, images, etc. – to help paint a cohesive picture of what your brand stands for. For instance, if you pride yourselves on putting your users at the center of your products, you better show that to your users themselves when they appeal to you for help!
Keep in mind that with customer service, your reputation is at stake; the way you talk to your customers will almost certainly influence the public’s perception surrounding your brand, especially if they have a bad experience. (For better or worse, consumers are more likely to be vocal about negative interactions with brands than positive ones).
Make sure everything fits
Although these steps seem simple enough, you shouldn’t underestimate their impact on your audience. Though it may seem like you’ve finished building your brand, branding is a constant process that can change with time as you become more attuned to your customers’ desires and needs. That said, you’ll want to be absolutely sure that the foundation you’ve laid for your brand is sturdy and cohesive; you can always make changes later, if need be.
Make sure that every element of your brand works together – that your logo and color palette represent your brand personality, that your content reinforces your values and messaging, and that your audience is at the center of it all. Stay consistent, and your business will grow from a new company into a memorable and successful brand.