Updated: Aug 30, 2019
Branding can feel daunting, especially if your resources are limited or you're just started out. But even on a shoestring budget, there are ways to build your brand without breaking the bank. All it will cost you is your time and in the long run when your business begins to grow, that time will be well spent when you begin to see the ROI for your efforts.
One thing to remember about branding is that you are building a foundation to which becomes the basis for all that you do in your marketing. So, it may be wise to say that branding is the first stage of marketing ... and perhaps the most important piece. Without it, your run the risk of not being clear in your message, or in who you're targeting.
Branding is where you develop your organization's identity, giving it a voice, values, mission, and principles. It is the basis for how you will bring awareness among consumers. Use the following guide to get you started and help alleviate some of the burden when building your brand.
Step 1. It All Starts With Your Potential Customers.
Knowing and understanding the wants, needs, goals, problems, and buying behavior of your target audience helps you to tap into their buying motivation. You want to make sure that you are reaching them on a personal, deeply emotional level and on media platforms they use. You must become the key to solving their problem, fulfill their need, or grant them what they desire. Plus, knowing your customer is the most effective way to develop your brand.
Some questions you can begin to ask about your ideal target audience are:
1. What is their demographic? (Gender? Age? Geographic location?)
2. Characteristics? (Hobbies, interests, affiliations?)
3. What's their major problem or need? What's the thing that keeps them up at night?
4. What motivates and inspires them emotionally? (Status? Being the best? Safety? Great health?)
Then Comes Your Value Proposition.
Now that you've answered some key questions about your audience, you need to know how your business can alleviate or address their problem, need, or concern. The real value of what you offer comes in the form of what it is you do to solve those problems or frustrations.
Make a list of all the key benefits your business or organization can deliver.
Step 2. Developing Your Identity and Voice.
Now you can begin to form your brand identity, which is what makes you recognizable to the public (think Starbucks, Disney, Target, etc.). When it comes to your identity, I'd like to mention that if you are a business owner, realtor, doctor, lawyer, creative artist, or entrepreneur, to name a few, you must remember that YOU are your brand and in many cases, especially on social media, your audience will identify with your headshot (a professional photo that best represents you professionally). I'd like to stress the word "professional" here. Selfies don't cut it in this day and age of highly competitive business. So, invest in yourself with a strong image, just like you will invest your time in building your brand (I hope).
If your own image is something you haven't really thought about, here's an interesting article on why not having a professionally done headshot could hurt your business. I really like this photographer's work. In terms of creating an identity, the way he shoots and the final image he creates is so inviting that it would make you want to do business with his subjects. Selfies are the furthest thing from making your brand credible and do more harm than good. Work with a professional to capture the right image whenever possible.
Your brand voice is the piece I'm most interested in because it is the tone and word choice used in all your copy and content and as a writer, that is my area of expertise. So, how do you identify your brand voice? It's not unlike the steps you took to identify your target audience. But now you'll be answering questions about your brand such as:
1. What are its values?
2. What does it represent?
3. What is the tone of voice? (Serious, fun, lighthearted, etc.)
4. What do you want to be known for?
5. How do you want people to be talking about you?
Step 3. Get Social.
Social media is not a once-size-fits-all when it comes to promoting your business. It goes without saying that your audience is on social media. But when there are so many platforms out there it seems impossible to dedicate time to them all. So how do you choose which to make priority? To make your life a little easier, and save you time and frustration trying to figure it out, check out Pew Research Centers Demographics of Social Media Users.
This great resource will tell you the specifics of who is using which platform based on demographics, focusing mainly on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Consistency is key.
Choosing the platform/s that are right for your business based on what you know about your target audience's key demographics serves your ROI much better than trying to be present on platforms where you may not be reaching your ideal prospect. That means, by zeroing in on the best place to invest your time, you can be more consistent. The key to being successful on social media is being consistent and relatable. Being relatable starts with knowing your audience well enough to know what they may be thinking about and then sharing relevant content that would interest them. That's also how you get them coming back for more, staying interested in you, and SHARING your content with others.
Step 4. Get Blogging.
Blogging is a dual-machine. First, it connects you further with your audience. Next, it's helpful with SEO. When writing, make sure that your content is optimized for the searches your target audience may be looking for. Not only that, writing blog posts gives you more to share on social media. It's a win-win.
Blogging may be time consuming. The best way to keep yourself on track with new posts is to set a goal for yourself. How often can you realistically pump out new content? And let's be clear about this: your content must be GOOD content. I've said it numerous times before that quality is what matters when it comes to content. You get the best rankings on search engines when they recognize your content as the answer to what's being searched for. Don't produce poor content. THAT will most certainly be a good waste of your time and since time is money, that too. Instead, have a plan. Perhaps you are best at writing one post per week, or one a month. And maybe that's all your audience needs depending on the product, service, or business you're in.
Bottom line, only plan for what you realistically can commit yourself to. And if you still find that you have too much on your plate, then outsource it to a professional. But remember that blogging is an essential component to branding. You certainly don't want to run the risk of launching your brand, gaining traction, and then being forgotten just as quickly because you failed to keep your audience engaged. Just like with keeping up your presence on social media, consistency is the key with the blogging as well.
Step 5. Above All, Be the BEST at Service.
We've all been the victim of a bad customer experience. It's a total turn off. You remember never wanting to purchase or do business with the provider again and you want to rescue the next guy from the same fate. And on the flip side, you are delighted when someone goes above and beyond for you and you can't wait to share your great experience with friends or family, encouraging them to see you and ONLY you the next time they need what you offer.
Point being - word of mouth is still the most influential marketing tool out there. And since just about everyone is on social media, it's even easier to get referred to your business by current or past customers/clients ... or not.
The real question is, how do you want to be talked about? Do you want to be remembered for excellence, or disappointment? And just remember, each of those experiences spreads to at least ten other people who could be potential customers. You get what you put out there. If you want great clients who appreciate you and become loyal to your brand, then set a high standard for service.
Lastly, Enjoy the Process!
Building a brand with staying power takes time, effort, creativity, and fun. Yes fun! Don't forget to enjoy the ride and always learn from mistakes. There are no setbacks here. Only learning experiences that help to take you where you want to be. Getting stressed about branding will only make you stressed in other aspects of your business. Have a plan, set some goals, and stick with it. Don't be afraid to ask for help or change course if necessary. In fact, changing direction midstream may just mean that you have an even clearer vision than you started out with. And that is OKAY! Whether you're just starting your business or rebranding, these five steps should get you going and kick start your momentum to building a great brand.
To your success!
About the Author
Would you like help in making LinkedIn one of your most powerful business marketing and professional networking tools? I'm on a mission to help entrepreneurs and business professionals better leverage their LinkedIn profiles and make the most of their connections. I start by transforming underperforming, uninspiring, unattractive LinkedIn profiles into SUPERCHARGED, scroll-stopping marketing tools that make you and your product or service stand out from the crowd.
You can start by connecting with me on LinkedIn.