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7 Steps for Building a Brand Strategy for Your Small Business

The Best Brand Strategy Includes These Elements

From individuals developing personal brands to professionals tasked with rebranding big names like Domino’s and Taco Bell, brand strategy is an ongoing project for companies of all sizes. As a small business or startup, where do you begin the process?

For a deep dive, I recommend the book “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding” by Al & Laura Reis. But first, I’ll give you my abridged version with branding highlights for small and medium business marketing novices.

What Is Branding? Identity vs Perception

Branding is used to distinguish a product or service and keep it in the mind of a customer. It can be divided into two areas:

  • Brand Identity—An oversimplification of this is what people see and hear, e.g., the name, logo, tagline, website, letterhead or business cards. It’s what the brand wants customers to believe about its personality, reputation and promise. Brand identity differentiates the brand from its competition.
  • Brand Perception—This is what people feel and believe. It depends upon the customer’s brand experience and whether or not it fulfills the brand’s promise. Your customers control the brand perception, especially now in a social media-driven culture.

How can you marry brand identity with brand perception? The following steps will help you position yourself and meet your customer’s expectations as you develop your brand strategy.

Editors’ Note: Building your marketing plan? If you’re just getting started, check out the clip below from our webinar Marketing First Steps: Planning, Budgeting & Hiring.

7 Steps for Building the Best Brand Strategy

Here are seven basic tips for the non-marketers out there:

1. Create Your Brand Identity

Pick your name, URL and logo carefully. It’s important to both the brand identity and perception. (This is coming from a marketing guy who has twice formed companies in under 30 minutes, because the clients needed my company information to initiate payments.) There are a lot of tools to help you do this, whether you use a marketing agency or online tools that help you design a logo, color palette or typography.

2. Position Your Product

Create a strategy and stake out a unique position that resonates with your target audience. For example, being the cheapest CPA or Attorney is never a good or sustainable brand position. Someone can always be lower in price. However, specializing in an industry or specific business need can help you create your niche.

3. Focus on the Customer

Did you know that customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable? Knowing your customers and meeting their expectations is key.

If your mother or brother-in-law doesn’t like your branding, don’t worry about it, unless they are in the primary target audience. For example, my wife (also a communications pro) hates Jack in the Box restaurant’s cheeky advertising. But, she is definitely not in their target market. I, on the other hand, can easily revert to my immature past and laugh like a 25-year-old every time I see the advertisements. But I’m still not eating Jack in the Box anytime soon.

4. Professionalize Your Image

You don’t have to spend a lot to look and act professional, but you need to be smart. Find the free and low-cost options, especially if you are bootstrapping your new brand. Learn what you can do yourself and when it’s time to call in a pro. If you call in a pro, keep in mind that nothing wastes time and money more than giving poor direction and not clearly relating everything back to the brand strategy, product positioning and target audience.

5. Prioritize Your Tasks

When developing a brand strategy, keep in mind that you simply don’t have the time or resources to do everything. Pick the channels, media, programs and offers that make sense for your target audience. For example, social media is hot, but not all social media channels will be suitable for all audiences. B2B strategy will be different from B2C strategy, and social media use varies by age, gender, daypart and other demographics.

6. Test and Learn

Be open and willing to try different options. Test things to find out if they will work. When testing, always limit your costs and measure the results in order to decide if you should allocate more resources or move on. For example, if you spend five hours per week creating social media content, but you have low engagement and associated revenue, maybe spend your time elsewhere.

7. Keep Fine-Tuning

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. If you ever become unhappy with your branding, and more importantly, the brand’s sales results, it can always be finessed, evolved or changed. Sometimes, building a brand strategy costs a little time and money.

[Editors’ Note: To learn more about this and related topics, you may want to attend the following webinars: You’re Ready to Start Marketing. Now What? and Which Marketing Channels Should You Use And Why? This is an updated version of an article originally published on July 19, 2018.]

©All Rights Reserved. June, 2021.  DailyDACTM, LLC d/b/a/ Financial PoiseTM

About Scott Steer

Scott Steer is a New York-based marketing strategy/engagement/activation consultant focused on optimizing omni-channel marketing.

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