It's one thing to have your logo designed and to print your first set of business cards. But actively building your brand? That's something entirely different.
"Building a brand" may sound a bit mysterious, but the basic idea is actually pretty straightforward. When you became an entrepreneur you may have spent some time thinking about how you wanted your business and its products or services positioned in the minds of your ideal customers. Then, as your business grows, you cemented your brand by actively demonstrating those characteristics in every aspect of your business – from your marketing, to your customer service, to your product offerings, and so on.
However, thoughtfully building your brand is only simple on the surface level. Actually putting it into practice can be tricky, and it’s all too easy to unintentionally sideline your brand promise while juggling the day-to-day demands of running a growing business.
Luckily, building your brand as your business grows doesn't need to be (and shouldn't be) a labour-intensive side project. In fact, by keeping these three simple tips in mind you can bake brand-building into every aspect of operating your growing business.
1. Consistency and Clarity Are Key
Actively building your brand requires consistency. You need to repeatedly send the same messages, use the same visual elements and deliver the same positive outcomes for your customers. Clarity and specificity go hand-in-hand with consistency – if you try to be all things to all people, your message will become muddied and diluted. As you introduce new products and services, you'll also want to make sure they fit within the brand you're trying to build, or else risk confusing your customers.
In particular, you need to be consistent in how you and your employees interact with customers, both in-person and online. Over time, consistency in how you communicate will give rise to your brand's voice.
2. Put It in Writing and Pass It On
Simply thinking about what you want your business' brand to be is by no means a sustainable, long-term strategy for brand-building. You need to get those ideas out of your head and into writing. Doing so will give you something concrete to pass onto new and existing employees, and also provide you with a point of reference to measure whether new directions to expand your business are consistent with your brand.
Start with something fundamental – your positioning statement. Marty Neumeier suggests this structure:
“Our [OFFERING] is the only [CATEGORY] that [BENEFIT].”
Once you can confidently fill in these blanks, you’ll be equipped to drill down on other specifics, such as your brand characteristics or promise. Commit these things to writing as well.
None of this is to say that you can't modify what you’ve already committed to writing later on – in fact, you probably should revisit it from time to time. However, getting these ideas out of your head is essential for you and your employees to deliver a consistent brand experience to customers, and especially when training and setting expectations for new recruits.
3. Do as You Say
Ultimately, it doesn't matter what you tell people your brand is – your brand is the sum total of what you and your employees actually do every day.
Put differently, your business' brand isn't a mission statement engraved on a plaque that hangs on your office wall. It's the gut feeling other people have about your business. They'll see you as trustworthy if you've demonstrated that you can be trusted to deliver what you say you’re going to deliver. They'll see you as innovative if you sell products or services that offer new and interesting solutions to your customers’ problems.
And when your brand is put to the test as you grow your business, it’s your actions – not your words – that will matter most to your customers.