What makes your company different? Unique? What qualities do people think of when they hear the name? In other words, what is your brand? And moreover, why does it matter?
At its core, your brand is your most valuable customer connection. It's a promise—a promise to deliver not only products and services, but also emotional benefits to your customers. Like people, brands have distinct personalities that either resonate, or don’t, with customers and employees. After all, why do consumers choose iPhone over Android or Google over Yahoo? Beyond the functional benefits, it is a matter of how people feel about the brand and what it represents. Brands are powerful. In a sea of alternatives, your brand and the things it stands for inhabit a unique spot in the mind of the consumer, creating an emotional connection that can last for a very long time. Thus, branding (creating a unique brand identity) is the best way to set yourself apart and grow your business.
So now what?
Do some research. The most successful brands thoroughly understand their customers' and targets' needs, interests and aspirations. Knowing what they value, beyond just what products or services they want, can guide decisions on branding, as well as messaging and marketing. With the prevalence of social media and online surveys, there is no shortage of ways to learn more about your current and potential customers and what matters to them.
Be unique. Branding requires standing for something distinct. It doesn't have to be revolutionary, but it does need to set you apart from the crowd. How is your business different? Are you a business that supports charities? Is environmental sustainability core to your DNA? Maybe your clients want to help their teens with skincare solutions and you're the perfect "mother-daughter" spa. Each approach has the ability to help you stand-out in the crowded marketplace and guide the kinds of services, products and promotional programs you offer. Most importantly, be authentic.
Have a brand strategy. Once you have established your brand identity, own it. Reinforce your uniqueness at every opportunity from your logo and color scheme to the content you post on social media and the names you choose for your services. Most importantly, be consistent. People develop expectations of brands just as they do with their friends, and undependability is not particularly welcome.
Once you have researched, decided upon a brand identity that sets you apart and built a strategy around it, keep going. There is always more to learn about your customers and ways to fine tune your brand to keep it relevant and part of their lives. A well-developed, consistent brand is a great way to build long term customer relationships and long term growth.
I have always loved helping things grow. After successfully building many Fortune 100 brands and businesses, I am excited to blend my experience and passion for helping "the little guy" through small business marketing advice and personal branding for students applying for college, internships and first jobs.