As entrepreneurs, you often have a vision of what your company is and what you want it to be. Here are a few questions you may want to ask yourself as you craft this vision, define the brand that fits this vision and then determine the best ways to communicate this vision to your management team, your employees and your customers.
The American Marketing Association Dictionary defines the word “brand” as “the name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or services as distinct from those of other sellers.”
In defining your brand, ask yourself the following.
• What are the key words that describe my brand?
• What visuals best portray my brand?
• How do other people perceive my company?
• Do people truly understand the products or services we deliver and what makes us unique?
• What is our niche in a crowded marketplace?
• Why use our company instead of the competition?
• Who is our best audience to reach that will have a need for our products or services?
Finding the Answers
How do you go about answering these questions? First, having an internal discussion with your board of directors and/or management team helps you identify how your internal audiences see you and how their answers match or digress from your own.
Once your team is all in agreement about what you would like the brand to be and the key words describing the brand, discuss how you think people perceive your company. To validate your conclusions, it is often helpful to conduct focus groups of existing and potential customers.
Often people only identify with one of your services or products — the one they have accessed — but have no idea of the range of services you offer. Often people think you offer services you in fact do not provide. Sometimes people who know of your company do not really understand exactly what you do or the services or products you offer.
Once you truly understand your brand and how your customers perceive your company, you are ready to start developing a marketing plan. To do this, check back with your internal team and consider some of the questions posed above.
Be sure you really understand who uses your product and service and your unique niche in the marketplace. Know whom your competition is, how your price point compares to your competition, what your delivery channels are, the efficacy of your customer service, and reasons why someone would use your service or product over the competition.
Now you are ready to develop a marketing communications plan that helps define and communicate your brand.
The Look and the Words
One of the most effective ways to communicate your brand is with a strong logo and tagline that over time becomes identified with your company and what you do. From there, your colors and graphic look are developed, and it is important to ensure that all of your graphic communications pieces are in line with your brand.
From the signage on your building to stationery, business cards, brochures, newsletter mastheads, direct mail pieces, print advertisements, and most importantly, your web site, all of these media represent you and your company. When people walk into your store or office, they should “feel” your brand — colors, décor, how they are greeted, etc. Everything related to your company should reflect the professionalism of your company.
One must always remember that it is not only your look, but also what you say about your company. The words you use to describe your company need to reflect your brand, from your tagline to ads, brochures, web copy and even your social media posts.
The message must be consistent. What product or service do you offer and what makes you unique, setting you apart from your competition?
Often it is a good investment to hire a professional marketing person or agency to help you achieve the right graphic look and the words that will define your brand. These words should differentiate your company from your competition and clearly express who you are and what you offer potential customers.
As you develop the plan to “roll out” your brand, know your audience in order to determine what combination of marketing strategies you should be using.
In today’s world of information overload, there are many ways in which to reach people, including through social media and blogs, newspaper articles, TV ads, direct mail, e-mail and so much more. Carefully knowing the way your target audience receives information is therefore essential to ensuring that you are getting the maximum return on your marketing dollars.
Always remember that all businesses need to do their research, develop their brand and be sure to stay true to that brand. I leave you with the most important marketing fact of all — the best marketing you can do to build your brand is to always give superior customer service and go above and beyond the customer’s expectations.
Bonnie K. Heneson is president of Bonnie Heneson Communications, a full-service marketing communications company with offices in Columbia and Owings Mills that provides marketing, public relations, graphic design, advertising, web, social media and event planning services. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.