When I first ventured into entrepreneurship, I didn’t know the difference between a business and a brand. I thought they were the same thing, when in fact, they are two very different concepts.
Business is the tangible aspects. Things like the name of your company and the products or services you offer.
Brand is more intangible. It’s your identity, how your audience perceives you, what you stand for and is responsible for impact and legacy.
Although different entities, in some areas your business and your brand will overlap. Before you launch anything or begin building your brand, there are some foundations you need to establish.
The foundations of an impactful brand strategy for your small business
Define your brand’s core values and personality
At the basis of any branding strategy are your core values. These are the beliefs and principles that you want to be synonymous with your brand. They explain what you stand for and help forge an emotional connection with our audience. Your product or services should reflect your values and they should be the things that come to mind for consumers when they think of your brand.
As a small business, many of us are solo owner-operators. It’s common (and totally understandable) that our personal values and brand values overlap. You may find that many of your personal values are also what you want your business and brand to be about.
A helpful way to elicit your core values is to look through a ‘master’ list of values and from there make a shortlist. You then continue to edit this list until you have around 3-5 core values remaining. It can be tricky to narrow it down to such a small number but having too many different values will become confusing for both you and your customers. Be honest with yourself about your business vision and sometimes visualising your legacy as a brand can help to clarify what your core values are.
For example, the core values for my business are community/connection, creativity and fun.
Identify your target market and ideal customer.
Knowing your target audience – i.e. what kind of people you are here to serve is ultra-important in developing successful brand positioning and overall business. Often we think it’s a numbers game and we should simply try to work with as many people as possible. And to a degree, it’s true – it is a numbers game.
You need to validate that there is a big enough customer base to service in order to maintain a profitable business. Remember, if you are trying to speak to everyone, you’ll end up speaking to no one.
When you’re nutting out your target audience it’s helpful to revert to the 4 variables used to define markets: demographic (e.g. gender, age, income, geographic (e.g. location) psychographic (e.g. lifestyle choices, personalities) and behavioural (e.g. how they engage with brands).
Using these variables, it’s helpful to create a customer avatar depicting your ideal client. An avatar helps you get crystal-clear on what your ideal customer looks like and will help cultivate your brand voice and messaging.
Once you’ve created distinct brand values and are confident in your target audience and the consumers you’ll serve it makes it so much easier to get strategic with your branding.
4 impactful branding strategies to help your business stand out in 2023
1. Know your brand vision and mission statement.
Your brand vision is a simple statement that clearly outlines your brand’s purpose. Vision statements are often short, to the point and more general in nature.
Your brand mission is the means by which you want to achieve your vision. These are the products, services and the signature way which you deliver them.
Knowing your bigger vision for your brand and how you’re going to implement this, will help you focus on the work that matters throughout your business journey. You are better able to discern what projects/activities to implement and opportunities that are worth pursuing. It also helps you to say no to things that you know won’t make meaningful change towards, or align with your values and goals.
2. Create a unique brand voice and messaging.
Your brand’s voice is the way your brand communicates with your audience. It’s the language, phrases and copy used that speak to your core values, communicate your brand’s personality and resonate with your potential customers. In larger companies, or those with professional branding – brand voice is something that will be outlined in their branding guide, to ensure consistency across platforms.
As a small business owner, you can spend time discovering your unique brand voice and refining your messaging. Alternatively, I would highly recommend engaging a professional copywriter if your budget allows.
3. Develop a consistent visual identity
Probably the most ‘fun’ part of brand design, these are elements that create the visual identity and brand image. Think: red and white with the Coca Cola script. Your visual branding assets include things like your logo design, fonts, colours, images and presentation.
Bold branding doesn’t have to mean bright colours, or loud fonts, either. There are many well-known brands with understated or pared-back visual branding but they are still have unparalleled brand recognition. Bold branding is intentional and carefully curated in nature.
Your visual branding is where your brand values, target audience and brand voice really come together.
Understanding the role of psychology in the colours you choose for your brand color palette, will enhance your brand messaging before you even speak. Different colours communicate different emotions. For example: red is linked with passion, power, energy and intensity – if your products and brand doesn’t speak to these values then it may cause a feeling of disconnection for your audience. Having defined colours and visual elements means consistency across platforms, which will strengthen your branding and help it stick in the minds of your customers.
Having defined visual assets for your brand in the form of brand guidelines also stops you second-guessing what colours or fonts to use and helps kick ‘shiny bright object’ syndrome to the curb.
4. Build brand awareness through targeted marketing and advertising.
It doesn’t matter how beautiful your brand is or how much market share you could have, your marketing efforts are going to be the ceiling when building a stand out brand. A successful brand strategy hinges on connecting with your audience at an emotional level. In order to do this, you need to implement an effective marketing strategy.
With so many different brands out there, it’s easy as business owners to get stuck in a state of analysis paralysis with your small business marketing. It doesn’t have to be complicated and in fact, sometimes the more simple your strategy, the better.
Higher reach and impact is about working smarter not harder. I’m a huge advocate for repurposing core content like a podcast into multiple pieces of content across various marketing channels. One podcast can become a blog, several emails, a linked in post and multiple posts for different social media channels. This not only will save you a buttload of time but will help with brand omnipresence (a.k.a being seen everywhere).
Having your brand elements defined will also save you loads of time by templating your different types of content and using them across multiple marketing campaigns.
Don’t be afraid to infuse your own personality into your brand.
Don’t forget to leverage your personality in building your business and brand . As small businesses, it is one of our few trump cards that we possess compared to larger companies. Large companies and corporations will usually have a brand guide that outlines how their brand can be communicated, amongst other things.
As solopreneurs we don’t have such restrictions when it comes to expressing ourselves in business. We have the unique opportunity to utilise our own personalities in building an impactful brand. This is especially relevant if you are operating under your own brand name.
We often think it looks more professional when we have a ‘serious’ presentation of our brand. The reality is, people buy from people. As consumers we often seek an emotional connection to brands and your customers will feel more invested if they know more about you.
You don’t have to share highly personal information, either. You can share simple things like foods you love to eat or clothes you love to wear. These not only will enhance your core values (if they align) but they become anchor points for your customers – keeping you front of mind more often.
As you’ve probably gleaned from this article, it’s not one specific strategy that will create an impactful brand, but rather many brand elements layered together with effective marketing strategies.
The key in building a strong brand identity comes back to consistency.
Consistency not only in your brand values, voice and visual presentation but consistency in sharing your content is what makes all the difference to the impact your business and brand can have. So often small business owners focus on being consistent only on their social media accounts – but brand consistency encompasses so much more than this! Don’t make the mistake of only focusing on social media for your marketing and formulate a multichannel strategy that won’t see you doomscrolling for hours each day.
Using these four branding strategies makes it a helluva lot easier as well to plan and share content that you know is speaking directly to your target audience and your ideal customer. There’s no confusion around what your brand stands for. And when you’re a business owner juggling all the things, we need things to feel as easy as possible.
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