There are a number of things that contribute to a great brand—a cohesive brand identity, compelling logo, and killer website, to name a few. But there is really only ONE thing you need for a successful brand. That one thing, my friend, is a brand strategy.
A brand strategy is simply a plan for developing and managing your business’s reputation (i.e. brand). In a nutshell, your brand strategy outlines what you do, how you do it, who you do it for, and why you do it. Pretty simple but so, so important!
There are five key pieces to a brand strategy...
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The goal of any business is to make money, but a business started for that sole purpose isn’t sustainable—you won’t find fulfillment and your audience won’t be able to connect with you. So what’s your higher purpose? You could have started any business; it’s important to know why you decided to start THIS business.
As a small business owner, you are integral to your business. Your passions, skills, wants, and needs all come into play. What excites you? What makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning? Focus on what you love to do and what you do best. Then determine what your promise to your clients is.
For example, Nike didn’t start their business solely to sell athletic apparel. Nike’s purpose and mission is “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world” because their co-founder, Bill Bowerman believed “if you have a body, you are an athlete.” (Source) They promise to inspire you to find your greatness.
One of the most important things you can do to build a successful brand is target the right people with the right message. To do that you have to find your niche—the small group of people who your business provides the most value to.
It may seem counterintuitive to narrow your client base, but it’s crucial to not try to appeal to everybody. As we all know, you can’t please everybody and if you try, you’ll just end up watering down your message and your brand. You want your people to know that you truly “get” them. They want to know that you understand their frustrations, their desires, and their industry.
To do that, you have to get laser-focused on your target market. Go deeper than basic demographics (age, gender, race, income, etc.) and get as descriptive and specific as possible. You should be able to describe this person like they were your best friend. What’s important to them? What magazines, books, or blogs do they read? How do they talk? How do they dress? You get the idea.
Now that you know who your people are, you need to position your brand to appeal to them. The best way to do that is by triggering an emotional response. You see, we humans are not wholly rational beings. (As much as some of us might hope.) We typically make emotional decisions and justify them with logic. Why else would we choose a more expensive product over another?
The commercial Budweiser ran during this year’s Super Bowl is the perfect example of brand positioning and target market. They’re very clear about who their people are—hard-working, no-fluff American men and as they plainly state, it’s “not for everyone.” Even though I’m not their target market (‘hard-working’ and ‘American’ are the only traits that apply, plus I like fruity beer), I still feel an emotional response when watching that ad. I mean, it just feels badass and awesome, right? Like it’s something you want to be a part of.
To determine your brand positioning, refer back to your target market. Determine what values are important to them and how you can connect with them through emotion. The best way I’ve found to do this with my clients is by determining their brand archetype. Brand archetypes are 12 personalities with distinct characteristics, like the Hero, Rebel, and Innocent. (The Hartford has a fantastic article covering all the archetypes, here.) Select the one that would appeal the most to your target market and build your brand around that character. How would they speak? How would they act?
COMPETITION ASSESSMENT & ADVANTAGE
It’s important to understand your competition so that you know what your advantages and disadvantages are so you can then promote the good and resolve the bad. But don’t copy everything they do. Learn from what they’re doing. What looks like it’s working and what doesn’t? Stay true to your brand and you will stand out from your competition.
Everything else we cover in the brand strategy leads to this final piece. This is the biggie! Your value proposition is the promise of the value you’ll deliver—the main reason someone will want to buy from you. Essentially it’s a succinct statement about your offering (your product or service), who it’s for (the more specific, the better), and why it’s valuable to them (why should they care enough to buy it?) Don’t try to get fancy by using big words and fluffy adjectives (“amazing,” “best,” “such wow”).
Once you have your brand’s value proposition, use it on your website and all other major marketing outlets.
Ready to create your brand strategy? I made a worksheet that makes it easy with the 20 questions every entrepreneur should answer when developing their brand strategy. Get your free copy by entering your info below!
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