All to often, people launch, run, and try to grow businesses without clear business and brand strategies. While some businesses eventually fail their way into success, and some get lucky, at the end of the day, it is a risk and headache that no business should ever have to deal with. And while we cannot mitigate all risks, a solid brand strategy ensures you worry less about just getting lucky, and instead puts you on a clear path to success. The following is an introduction and overview of why a brand strategy should matter to you, and a 10-step guide for creating an effective brand strategy.
As much as we wish it were the case, your brand isn’t what you say it is. Your brand is what your customers perceive it to be. It is what they EXPERIENCE. So from the moment they first come in contact with you, it is in your hands to ensure they get the right impression.
Your brand strategy is the beating heart of your business. It translates complex messaging into simple and clear communication. It builds trust and reinforces the promise of who you are and what you stand for, as well as what unique and meaningful benefits you deliver. Your brand is much more than just a pretty logo – it’s your company’s engine. An engine that drives sales and builds equity.
For an effective brand strategy, it is not enough to just look good; you also have to elicit the right response and create cohesive, consistent, timeless, and memorable experiences across all your media. Done correctly, your brand will help you weather a storm, cause customers to select your products over the competitions’, and keep them coming back.
So how is this achieved? A good strategy comes from asking the right questions, doing research and due diligence so you know the marketplace, and most importantly by aligning your offerings with the wants and needs of your customers. The better the brand strategy, the more accurately the value proposition will match what customers want.
The following is a 10-step process to develop an effective brand strategy:
1) Map out and clarify your business strategy.
A brand strategy provides direction and effectuates goals, which need first to be mapped out and clarified in the general business strategy. Without this first key step, you can only expect confusion and wasted resources.
For if you don’t understand the goals and direction of your business, your customers surely will not. And as we know, any ambiguity will be inferred in the negative. So take a step back, and paint the big picture first. Broad strokes, with clarity, are fine.
The main questions I would ask are
What is the purpose(s) of this business?
And what are the short and long-term goals?
2) Identify your target customer(s); then research and map out customers’ jobs, pains, and gains.
Once you have identified your purpose and goals, the next question is, who does the business serve? For this step, you may find a narrow niche target audience or a broad age range, gender, etc. It is important to identify these segments so that you can map out the jobs, pain points, and gains to which your value proposition must target. So what are these?
Jobs are things that your customer is trying to get done: issues and problems to solve, tasks to complete, and needs to fulfill.
Pain points are items that annoy, are costly, or are risky.
Gains are benefits or outcomes the customer would like to have.
We will dive further into these in another post. What is key to keep in mind is that more often than not, people are living their daily lives and facing all kinds of normal challenges. It is up to us as a business to identify how your products make their life better and then connect the dots. Especially considering the numerous amounts of solutions vying for customers attention and wallets. Thus the better you know the customer, the better you can align the solution.
3) Map out your products/ services and value proposition.
Now we know the goals and purpose, who the customers are, and what the issues are that we want to address. The next question is, what products and services should we offer and how do we align them with the customers’ jobs, pains, and gains?
You should create a flexible list of offerings that address these areas, but also align with the business vision and goals. And since you now understand the desired gains and existing pains of the people you aim to serve, you can design a compelling value proposition. This is a product, service, or experience that creates desired gains, or relieves existing pains or solves a need for a job.
One of the great benefits of this process is not only will you find clarity in what you will sell the customer, but in many cases, you will also uncover unexpected offerings, angles, and insights.
4) Flesh out and verify a fit between what you offer, your value propositions, and what customers want/need.
This needs to be an ongoing process of developing and evolving value propositions that are pain relievers, gain creators, and that empower and/or effectuate job improvement.
The needs should perfectly match the issues, and when the market validates this, you have a perfect fit. Meaning your product is selling! Obviously, we have a few more steps before the fit can be validated, but now, you should have a clear understanding and a competitive advantage in launching and pushing out products.
5) Develop your brand positioning
Your business and your brand, unfortunately, do not exist in a vacuum, but rather in a hyper-competitive world with a diversity of competitors, potential legal and regulatory issues, and social and political climates. As a business and brand, it is wise to complete a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) assessment to thoroughly map out the existing landscape. Done right, you should have enough information to know how and where to position your brand to both achieve your desired goals and give yourself the best chance for success. All too often we see businesses without clarity, positioned in the wrong places, and losing valuable time, resources and opportunity in a competitive marketplace. So mitigate your risks! Get the information, and make well-informed decisions for your brand.
6) Develop your key elements -name, logo, tagline if relevant, content strategy, and content.
With an understanding of where you need to be positioned, the question becomes, how do we establish our brand positioning in reality (i.e. the key elements)? To do this, you need to lock down an effective name (for more details on this read more here), and then create an effective brand identity, or more commonly referred to as a logo.
Your content and tagline need to fit the positioning. They need to be clear and created with language that empowers and effectuates your goal. More importantly, they need to build a relationship with the customer, pull them in, and be clear and easily understood. You need to show that you really get your customers so that you can stand out amongst all the noise.
Remember, even though the Internet is vast, 99% of the time, short and to-the-point wins the race. Less is always more. So know when to balance brevity, flow, and depth to create the right experience.
7) Develop your marketing strategy.
With your key elements in place and an understanding of your situation via SWOT and previous steps, you are now ready to determine and map out your marketing strategy.
In every situation, you would be wise to establish and create your digital marketing platforms, i.e. your website(s), directories, social media, and other relevant assets. But depending on your business the tactics for marketing can vary greatly. For instance, are you going to be opening a brick-and-mortar store or are you launching a purely an online business? The needs and ways to reach your customers vary from case to case. Be mindful there is no one-size-fits-all solution. So for some businesses, it will make the most sense to hire salespeople, send direct mailers, and so on, while for others, it will make more sense to focus on search engine optimization and pay for digital ads in places your customers spend their time.
While this is a short overview, the topic is immensely complicated, and process and research can be rather in-depth. But it is necessary and worth investing the time and resources, as it can and often is the difference between success and failure. And most importantly, with the clarity of the previous steps, you should be able to squeeze out huge efficiencies by matching the right fit with the marketing you execute.
8) Develop your digital strategy and website to capitalize on these findings.
As mentioned above, every business— not should — but must, develop their digital strategy and assets. Today, if people Google you and cannot find you, you do not exist. Let me say that again, it doesn’t matter who you are, if you are not online you do not exist. But it should not stop with merely being online and discoverable. You should not only have a presence, but the right branded and targeted presence should exist anywhere your customers can find you. The following are areas and assets that should be in place for most businesses:
Directories – Google, Yelp, Bing, etc.
Social Media – LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.
And while not exactly tied into listings, every business should set up and use a professional email address and solution, leveraging your brand name. You can do this easily with solutions like Google for Work (GSuite) or Outlook.
9) Expand your strategy to social media, and other relevant areas to push out.
Every business, brand, and market is different, but they have one thing in common. They all have reputations. One of the biggest mistakes brands, businesses, and people make is to fail to secure their reputation beyond just their core properties. Thus, expanding the strategy and ensuring consistency and control across all major directories, social media, and other relevant areas should never be forgotten or overlooked. And in many cases, these new arms of the brand will serve major roles in client acquisition, retention, and interaction.
Social media is the new battlefield. It offers one of the most challenging and intense investments of time and energy, but it also is one of the most powerful and cost-effective means of creating relationships and direct interactions with your customers.
10) Track, review, adjust and push out again.
While all of this is a lot to take in and achieve, the point of aggregating and organizing all this data and insight, and bringing it together into a cohesive brand strategy, is to both simplify your life and streamline processes so that you are not only positioned with the right alignment of offerings to needs, but also so you can track, monitor and review the progress of your brand, marketing, and most import sales processes. Then, you can adjust and make changes where needed to improve fit and push out and focus on areas you have achieved the right fit.
We hope that you have a better understanding of what a good brand strategy is and how much it powers every decision and facet of your business. And that how once it is done right, it provides invaluable insight, efficiencies, and understanding that ensure your business or brand has the best chance to succeed. It is our goal and hope to empower you to be among the 4% of businesses that succeed.
If you have questions or need help, contact us today to see what we can do for you.