by guest author nicole leedham
I have a bee in my bonnet at the moment – and it is the one that start’s the word “Branding”. I can’t even begin to tell you how many micro a small business clients come to me for public relations, marketing communications or advertising advice and have no idea what their brand message is.
Sure, they may have a logo (or, to put it more correctly, a clip art image they call a logo) but a brand is so much more than a logo. And the other mistake they often make is not considering how their brand will translate across different platforms – print, web, social media, signage, uniforms and more. None of these should be developed in isolation.
I know I’m here at build a little biz to be the PR and advertising expert. But I can’t help you with those - and you shouldn’t even be considering them - until you have your brand right.
Think of your brand as your business “personality” and that personality needs to appeal to your target audience. And please remember, having access to Microsoft Publisher and a laser printer may mean you CAN design and print your own marketing communications, but it does not mean you SHOULD.
So, what makes a robust brand? And what do you need to consider when developing – not to mention maintaining and strengthening – it? These 10 steps will help:
1. Have a quality product or service
Well, duh. But you wouldn’t believe how many times this is skipped – especially in those scammy online get-rich-quick scenarios. Spend time developing and researching your product or service before even thinking about branding.
2. Define your target market
Please don’t say your target is “everyone”. It is not. Yes, everyone may eat cake, but not everyone wants high-quality, hand-made and decorated children’s cakes starting at $150 each. So in this scenario, your target market might be “women aged 25-40 with young children who want – and have the disposable income for – unique birthday cakes”.
3. Know what drives your ideal client
Sit down and put yourself in their shoes. If your target is mums who use cloth nappies, then they are likely to be driven by family values and environmental concerns, rather than by money or recognition. Once you’ve worked this out, the way you communicate to them should come easily. This blog is a case in point – informal, relaxed, maybe even a little rebellious. It is obvious it is not targeting middle-class, middle-aged business men!
4. What’s in a name?
Have a think about the emotion you want people to feel when they hear your name. What image it conjures up, or what value it reflects. Do plenty of brainstorming, look up quotations, check out names of competing (and complementary) businesses, ask around, get a feel for what works. The name Black Coffee Communication came to me after doing a brain dump on what I wanted my business to portray and then I came across the Anne Morrow Lindbergh quote: “Good Communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after”. Bingo!
5. A strong logo
Please, do me a favour, don’t just grab some random image off the web, add your business name and call it a logo. At the very least, this is unprofessional, and at worst, it could infringe on someone else’s trademark and you could find yourself up for civil damages. A good designer, on the other hand, will research your target audience and your business “personality” and come up with something just right.
6. What colours or typography to use
Not just in your logo but across all written material, uniforms, signage, website palette more.
Different fonts and font sizes evoke different moods, as do different colours. And whatever you do, make sure you stay consistent throughout.
7. Consistent message
Like your colours and typography, your message also needs to be consistent. This helps you to develop rapport with your audience and set yourself up as subject matter expert. Again, build a little biz is a perfect example of this. People don’t come here expected to be beaten over the head with the boring business stuff, they come here to learn how to make the boring business stuff work for them.
8. Price and positioning
This reflects what end of the market your product or service is aiming at. If you are aiming at the high end of the market – people with plenty of disposable income who are likely to spend $50 on a handmade child’s outfit, rather than $15 at Target, then your message needs to speak to them, and needs to be heard in the right places. This means not using words such as “only” $50, or “just” $50, and not being seen at “bargain” markets or outlets. On the other hand, if your business is high volume, low profit margin, you need to ensure you don’t put off your target by appearing more expensive than you are.
9. Frontline service
This comes down to the nitty-gritty, like how your phone is answered, what your email signatures look like, what state your staff’s uniforms are in. One bad customer service experience and you could damage your brand forever. Good customer service, however, strengthens the brand, even when people can find your product or service cheaper elsewhere.
10. Your brand “promise”
It’s a good idea to have a brand promise – overnight delivery; money-back guarantee, first consultation free. But don’t have a promise you can’t keep, because this can destroy your brand quicker than not having a promise at all. In fact, not only should you keep your promise, it doesn’t hurt to exceed expectations where you can.
There you have it, my 10 steps to developing and strengthening your brand. And here’s a bonus one – ongoing analysis, evaluation and repositioning. A brand is not a stagnant thing, it needs refreshing from time to time - remember when KFC was Kentucky Fried Chicken?
Oh, and don’t forget that if you truly want to protect your brand, then you must trademark it.
The best thing about getting your brand right, is that it makes my job of getting your public relations and advertising message heard so much easier. Which is why I’m about to launch a slight refocus of my business to give my clients the chance to have a professional project manage all their marketing material – from the branding, to the designing, SEO, trademarking and more.
As a special offer for build a little biz readers, if you request a quote by the end of August, and accept it within 5 business days, I will take 10 per cent off any copywriting component.
Nicole Leedham is the owner of her own little biz: Black Coffee Communications. She specializes in helping small to medium businesses with writing, editing, marketing, public relations and media.