This post is a guest post by Joe Lyons
If you think about your brand for a moment, what comes to mind? Do you see your company logo? Perhaps you envision the color scheme you’ve printed on your business cards or the imagery on your website. Maybe you have a catchy jingle or a mascot of some kind.
While these are undeniably important elements of branding any business, the essence of effective branding goes even deeper. It all comes down to this:
What message do you want to be sending to your target customer, and is that message is clearly and consistently conveyed across ALL channels of communication?
Unfortunately, for many small business owners, consistency in branding can be a challenge. For business owners who have only recently transitioned into an online representation of their business, for example, they face the challenge of taking the message they’ve been relaying to their real life customers and appropriately translating that to an online audience. Depending on the industry, the online audience could be slightly different from the real-life customer base. In this instance, business owners must take care to cater their message to the appropriate audience without losing authenticity (or their current customers!).
Another common problem for small businesses is a lack of attention or budget focused on the visual development of their brand, particularly with website design and blog integration. This can result in a couple of different undesirable issues for customers:
- Identity Crisis: Inconsistent marketing materials confuse customers, making them question what your business is about and whether they can trust you. Does your blog look completely different from the rest of your site? Does your site look completely different from your printed materials?
- Lower Perceived Value of Products and Services: Having a generic website template or marketing collateral that is obviously outdated sends potential customers the message that your services and products maybe also be outdated, inconsistent or unreliable.
Thankfully, getting a really solid brand identity across all channels of marketing and communication for your business doesn’t have to be expensive (though the sky is the limit if your budget allows!). Here are a few tips to help you follow the path to a clearer, more consistent branding strategy:
Out with the old, in with the new – Don’t be afraid of an overhaul if you need one. Try to let go of older branding strategies if they weren’t giving you the results that you were hoping for, and don’t be afraid of a new design for your website or blog to keep you current and competitive.
Hire outside help – we’re often too close to our own material to be able to be objective. Not only hiring but trusting an external firm or professional to help you rebrand your business will free you from taking the time out of the things you’re best at to attempt to develop your brand on your own.
Know your customer through and through – don’t rely solely on hunches and whims when it comes to your brand. Know your customer’s needs, and know who they are, how they shop, what language they speak, what they like and don’t like, where they live, etc. You can’t know too much about your customer when it comes to developing your brand! For online customers, use analytics tools, A/B testing and social media to get concrete evidence of what works and what doesn’t with your customer base.
If you keep these three tips in mind as you move forward with your branding strategy, you should be well on your way to not only improving the face of your company to your target customers, but consistently communicating your most important message – who you are and what you have to offer.
Joe Lyons is the Creative Director at Spin350 Creative Inc, a Boston-based design cluster that is an alternative to a Boston ad agency.