10 Simple Steps to a Winning Brand Strategy
Many mistakenly think that a brand strategy is limited to designing a nice logo or creating a catchy tagline. That couldn’t be further from the truth!
In reality, your brand encompasses all the things that make you stand out from competitors as different. Everything from your visual identity to your messaging to customer experience. Not to mention the way people perceive your business, including all of the thoughts and emotions they associate with your brand.
Because branding is so extensive, developing a strategy that works takes both time and careful planning. To help with that planning, consider some guidelines for creating an effective brand strategy for your business.
How to develop your brand strategy
Developing a long-term plan for building your brand can seem like an overwhelming task. Where do you start? There are 10 steps that can give you a solid foundation on which to build.
1. Pick your niche(s)
Catering to a niche market may involve offering specialized services, serving specific audiences, or limiting your focus to certain products that best serve the needs of your customers. Why can “niching down” be a smart strategic move?
- More time and energy to focus on creating the best possible products, services, and experiences for your customers.
- Reduced waste of resources (including money).
- The ability to charge a premium for your specialized expertise.
- Differentiation from competitors who appeal to different or more general audiences (perhaps with different or more general offerings also).
Rather than spreading your resources thin trying to be all things to everyone, you can allocate them where they’ll do the most good.
That’s not to say that you must focus on one narrow audience, service or product, though. Businesses can successfully cater to several different niches.
To lay the foundation for your brand strategy, determine where it would be most worthwhile for you to focus. Considering what you enjoy most and excel at will give you a good start and put you on the path to a dialed-in brand image that supports your marketing strategy.
2. Define your business and marketing goals
The whole point of a strategy is to reach a goal (or goals). So, in developing your brand strategy, you can’t forget to consider your short and long-term goals.
Think of where you want your business to be next month, next year, and in a few years from now. Would you like to increase your customer base by a certain percentage? Is establishing a customer loyalty program in the cards for you? Do you eventually want to open another location?
In any case, keep your core objectives front and center as you decide what brand strategy will harmonize with your marketing efforts and get you to your goal.
3. Conduct brand research
Building a brand strategy in a bubble is a bad idea. It’s important to understand how your competitors and other businesses your audience engages with are branding themselves.
Of course, you don’t want to be a copycat. However, you can learn a ton from what’s working for them, how your audience responds to certain tactics, and even what your competitors aren’t doing in their branding. Looking at existing brands can give you both creative inspiration and strategic insights to help you set yourself apart from the crowd.
4. Spotlight what makes you different
Even if what you offer isn’t truly unique or one-of-a-kind, you can still stand out as different. How? Your brand messaging is one key.
Take, for example, the commercial coffee chains Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. Both sell similar products, but their brand strategies convey different messages to very distinct audiences. And both brands are successful. The same can be true in your case.
You can customize your brand strategy and differentiate your business with:
- Mission and vision statements that are personal to you
- Core values that are at the heart of what you do and that are shared by your customers
- A crystal clear description of the unique way you solve a common problem
- A crystal clear description of the way you solve an uncommon but notable problem
- A focus on an uncommon or unique characteristic of your target audience
- The unique customer experience you create for your customers
Let’s say you own a pizzeria. Yes, there are lots of other pizzerias out there. However, yours is unique in that you serve authentic Italian brick-oven pizza in a setting that takes your customers straight into the heart of Sicily. Your purpose isn’t just to make tasty pizzas; it’s to deliver an authentic Italian experience that locals can’t find elsewhere in the area.
Now substitute your actual business type in place of the pizzeria. The main question remains the same. What can you offer customers that they can’t get from your competitors?
5. Think of your business as a person
Every person has a unique personality. So does every business. In both cases, though, not every personality is memorable. To prevent having a forgettable brand, it can help to envision your business as a person (real or imagined).
Ask yourself: If my business were a person, what kind of person would it be? What traits and characteristics would make it appealing, influential, or memorable? How would others describe their voice, tone, and style?
This exercise can help you visualize the attributes of your business you want to highlight in your brand strategy and the best way to go about doing that.
6. Craft an exceptional customer experience
Customer experience is the great equalizer of businesses. Sure, a competitor might offer the same products or services at a cheaper price, but if they treat their customers poorly or fail to address small but significant details, it won’t matter. People are willing to spend a little more money or time for a better experience.
Plus, satisfied customers can become mini-marketers for your business, spreading the word about their positive experience, writing customer reviews, and recommending you to others like them.
So think beyond how you can deliver a decent experience or even just a slightly better one than your competitors do. Deliver the ideal experience for your customers.
What additional bases can you cover to show your customers that you truly stand for what you say you do? What aspects of your brand can you translate into action when it comes to communicating with, serving, and supporting your customers? Additionally, how can you make it easy for your customers to share their positive experiences with you, especially online?
7. Get involved with your community
Embracing your local community can do wonders for your business. People love to support local businesses and often make the conscious choice to frequent them over large chains. Plus, in contrast to larger companies, you make it possible for people to put a face to your brand, making it more appealing and human.
Personally connecting with customers has a twofold advantage. One, it’s an excellent way to build relationships, establish a great reputation, and turn loyal customers into brand advocates who willingly share their positive experiences with your business. Two, the more you engage with your customers, the better you’ll understand their needs. The insights you gather will allow you to provide more tailored solutions, which means happier customers!
What are some ways you can get involved in your community? You could connect with other small business owners, attend local events, feature your best customers on your social media pages, or even sponsor children’s sports teams from nearby schools. All of these strategies will bring you closer to your customers while incentivizing them to support your business.
8. Create and maintain a high-quality blog
A well-maintained business blog can bring many benefits including increased online visibility and an increase in sales. Yet, it can also be a surefire way to develop your brand.
As mentioned, branding is all about making your business easily identifiable in a crowd and blogging happens to be an excellent way to communicate the unique personality and intent of your company.
Just be sure to choose topics that are relevant to your audience and make your posts easy to read, adding images to hold attention and improve user experience. And don’t be afraid to add some personality to the information you’re relaying. Think about how you would personally converse with a customer about your business or a specific piece of advice, and try to maintain that conversational style when writing your posts.
9. Develop your visual identity strategically
Strategy is just as key when deciding on visual branding as it is when crafting your messaging. For example, choosing brand colors is not solely a matter of personal preference. Color psychology should be a guiding factor. After all, research has shown that between 62% and 90% of snap judgments made by customers are based on color. Why?
Different colors elicit different emotions and responses, which you can use to influence the way people view and interact with your brand.
For example, consider the “vibes” associated with some colors:
- Blue can convey dependability and trust, among many other things, making it the most popular and meaningful color by far.
- Purple is another favorite and it’s associated with royalty, creativity, and optimism.
- Red brings to mind passion, excitement, and boldness, along with several opposites including danger (so be careful with this one!)
- Green often represents concepts such as growth, health, and safety.
- Yellow is associated with warmth, brightness, and optimism.
- Black and white can both be used to convey class, confidence, and simplicity.
And this is just a taste of the many positive and not-so-positive connotations associated with various colors and shades. There are many nuances to keep in mind so, from your logo to your website design and beyond, be sure to choose your brand colors wisely. Only if you do will your visual branding support your larger brand strategy and bring you more business.
10. Unify your social media accounts
Besides your website, your social media accounts are among the most easily accessible representatives of your business online. In other words, your accounts provide a prime opportunity to distinguish your brand from the start of a potential customer’s engagement with you.
Whether you use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or other platforms, maintain a cohesive voice and visuals. This will ensure that your followers and potential customers are being met with the same consistency and reliability they’d expect if they were to do business with you.
Why put the work into your brand strategy?
Your brand starts with you but, ultimately, it ends with the perception people have of your business and the actions they do or don’t take as a result. (Actions like filling out a form—which is a first-party data collection tool that will become increasingly important in a cookieless world.)
By shaping every aspect of your brand purposefully, you can have a positive impact on the perception and response of your audience, not to mention supercharge your advertising.
Whether your business is large or small, old or new, prioritizing your brand strategy will pay off in more ways than one. Do you want stronger relationships with your audience, a better reputation, more exposure, and increased revenue? If so, put the work into this invaluable part of your small business plan.
Ten steps to an effective brand strategy [recap]
We covered a lot in this post, so here is a list of the ten tactics we provided to help you develop a winning brand strategy:
- Pick your niche(s)
- Define your business and marketing goals
- Conduct brand research
- Spotlight what makes you different
- Think of your business as a person
- Craft an exceptional customer experience
- Get involved with your community
- Create and maintain a high-quality blog
- Develop your visual identity strategically
- Unify your social media accounts