How to build a brand that customers love in 7 steps
A brand represents your business identity. Without a strong brand identity, you risk blending into the crowd, confusing your target audience and worst, being unmemorable.
But a successful brand does more than make your customers and employees happy, it boosts your revenue and profits. In fact, consistent brand positioning across all channels increases revenue by 33% on average.
Before you can launch your small business, you must strategically build a strong brand that boosts awareness and builds a loyal audience. In this article, we’re going to show you exactly how to do that in seven steps.
Table of contents:
- What is a brand?
- Step 1: Research your target audience
- Step 2: Research your competitors
- Step 3: Pick your focus and personality
- Step 4: Choose your business name
- Step 5: Write your slogan and mission statement
- Step 6: Choose the look of your brand
- Step 7: Apply your branding across your business
- Why it’s important to evolve your brand as you grow
- Wrapping up
What is a brand?
Your brand is how your customers and the world perceive and understand your business. It’s comprised of your story, mission, goals, themes, colours, messaging and more.
But the path you take when considering how to build a brand must go beyond simply choosing assets and picking a name.
Your brand identity must align with your mission, goals and purpose. And you must inject your brand personality into every single piece of collateral that you present to the world. If you don’t, you risk repelling your target audience and diminishing your standing in your target market.
So how can you build a strong brand that resonates with your target audience and builds loyalty? Here’s our step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Research your target audience
Before you can identify who you are, you need to know who you’re selling to. Otherwise, you’re shooting in the dark and relying on luck.
The last thing you want to do is campaign to an audience that doesn’t want or need what you’re selling. This could result in wasted time, money and effort with little to no return on your investment.
The remedy? A focused and targeted effort that is driven by a comprehensive, well-researched strategy.
Enter market research. Market research helps business owners define their target market and target audience within that space.
Ideally, you should conduct market research to identify demand, market saturation, market size and more before you build out your brand, but there is some overlap.
Top Tip: The process of conducting market research and identifying your target audience and customer personas before you build out your brand is called your go-to-market (GTM) strategy. The purpose of doing all this work before you launch your product is to increase your chances of success, which is key given that 95% of newly launched products fail due to a lack of preparation. To learn more about this, read our 5-step guide to building an effective go-to-market (GTM) strategy ⭐️
The main difference is that market research helps you to understand who your customers are and target audience research goes a step further to specifically define your buyer personas.
Through target audience research, you should be able to identify why your potential customers are interested in your product or service, their characteristics, where they live, their age, educational background, industry and income, where they hang out online and their purchasing behaviour.
Use these personas to guide every branding decision you make from here on out. Remember, these are the people you are selling to, so how can you best capture and keep their attention? Ask yourself that questions every step of the way.
Step 2: Research your competitors
Similar to needing to understand your target audience, you need to understand your competitors.
Gathering information on your competitors helps you to glean even more insights about your target audience. For example, by studying how your competitors’ audience behaves online and throughout their social network, you can learn about their buying behaviour, interests, pain-points, desires and more.
Further, understanding your competition helps you to:
- Identify what they are doing well, and;
- Pinpoint any missed opportunities that you can capitalise on.
This work will also help you to craft your unique selling point (USP), which you will use to get a customer to choose your business over the competition.
Follow the brands that are established in your target market and analyse how they present themselves. What words do they use? How have they designed their website? How do they manage online communities and what are the common praises and complaints within those communities?
From there, you can build a competitor analysis matrix to record your detailed findings. This will help you to stay organised and easily identify patterns. We’ve created a free matrix for you to make this process easier, full of examples that you can glean insights from.
The more you know, the better you can shape your own brand to a) set yourself apart from the competition and b) position yourself as the solution to any unresolved pain points or negative customer experiences.
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Step 3: Pick your focus and personality
Now that you understand who you are selling to and how your competitors have positioned themselves, it’s time to begin your own brand-building process.
A great place to start is with your positioning statement. A positioning statement is a description of your target market, how you want to represent your brand within that market and how your product or service will fill unresolved needs in that market.
Your positioning statement should serve as a guide that you constantly refer back to throughout this process. It represents your true north for brand development and should align with your goals and value proposition. It will also help to inform your brand positioning and go-to-market strategy as you plan exactly how you will attract and interact with your audience.
A positioning statement should only be one-to-two sentences long. It’s essentially a declaration of what makes your brand unique and valuable compared to the competition.
For example, Amazon’s positioning statement is: “To be the earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
Simple, short, to the point.
Top Tip: You’ll also need to include your positioning statement in your business plan, which you should work on in tandem with your brand-building exercises. Why? Because a business plan, similar to a GTM strategy, is all about preparation, and a business plan is one of the best tools available to you to give you a clear sense of direction. To learn more read our complete guide to writing your business plan and company roadmap 📌
Step 4: Choose your business name
Your business name will most likely influence the rest of your assets.
For example, Mailchimp picked a monkey for their logo design to match their chosen brand name. Even though they are an email marketing platform that has nothing to do with monkeys, they figured that clients love monkeys so they ran with it. Their name informed their logo, colour scheme and messaging.
Of course, you do not need to match your logo and design assets to your brand name if it isn’t as straightforward as “Mailchimp”, but cohesiveness does help to tell a story.
When choosing your name, you should aim to sum up the nature of your business, while also leaving room for growth. Mailchimp has since grown to include a variety of other services so they are lucky that their name has such notoriety that it doesn’t confuse their evolving message.
Also, consider intellectual property (IP) and website domain availability when choosing a name. You may want to trademark your assets to prevent competitors from stealing or copying your creatives, and you certainly will want to build a website with your exact name so that you are easy to find online.
We analysed data from Companies House to uncover naming trends and patterns in new companies. Here are our findings, based on the 278,325 companies formed from 1 January to 31 May 2020.
Here is a summary of our findings:
- The most popular word found in new companies registered in 2020 is ‘UK’
- Category names are commonly used, for example, ‘design’, ‘health’, ‘food’, ‘media’, ‘auto’, ‘fit’, and ‘digital’
- Positive names are popular
- Negative names are rarely selected
In all, a good business name is memorable, pronounceable, distinctive, category-appropriate, meaningful and flexible. Of course, it’s also available to use not only as a website domain but on social media platforms.
Top Tip: To dive even deeper into what makes a good business name and how to come up with the right one for your own business, read our guide to how to find the perfect name for your small business 💯
Step 5: Write your mission statement
Your slogan and mission statement represent your core business values. To come up with these values, you need to ask yourself some hard questions. Devote the necessary time and energy to get this right because they will ultimately reflect the foundational pillars of your business.
Ask yourself the following:
- What are we doing? This is your vision. It represents not just what you want to achieve but what you want your audience to achieve from interacting with your brand. For example, content marketing & SEO agency Grizzle states that their vision is to build end-to-end services that help brands achieve their growth goals while empowering their audiences.
- How are we doing it? This is your mission. It’s your company roadmap that drives every business decision. If this changes, your company messaging needs to change. At Grizzle, their mission is to create content that truly empowers people, while getting exceptional results for their clients. They want everyone to win, not just the algorithms.
- Why are we doing it? These are your values. It answers the why behind your vision and mission. It represents what drives you to build and grow your business in the first place. At Grizzle, they note that every piece of content they craft must be the most useful end-product anyone has ever seen. This includes the content they create for their own audience.
The above translates into the following:
Refer back to the what, how and why behind your vision, mission and values when crafting your mission statement. You should also refer to these pillars when crafting your slogan or tagline, as those too must directly reflect your core business values.
Step 6: Choose the look of your brand
Here’s where you get to have a little fun and be creative. Your visual identity truly represents your brand personality, more so than any other asset we’ve discussed thus far.
Your brand’s look is made up of colours, your logo, typography and imagery.
- Logo: Your logo should be simple and memorable. Mailchimp’s monkey logo is incredibly memorable. What other email marketing platform would choose a monkey? While that’s certainly extreme, it’s also an example of a risk paying off. Whatever you choose, make sure it will resonate with your target audience and help set you apart from the competition.
- Colour palette: Your colour palette should evoke emotion and generate brand loyalty. How? When used correctly, colours can create psychological and subconscious connections with your audience. As 92.6% of people place high importance on visual factors when purchasing products, it’s clear that colours influence purchasing behaviour.
Use the colour emotion guide as a point of reference.
- Typography: Similar to colours, choose fonts that match your brand personality. In addition to your logo font, you should have 2-3 fonts to use as the main text font, headline font and accent font to make the text stand out.
- Imagery: Your pictures and graphics must align with the rest of your chosen look and vibe. For example, if your target demographic is on the older side and you want to be represented as dependable and strong, you should avoid playful illustrations. Instead, you may opt for pictures that represent your target demographic so that they see something familiar when perusing your brand.
Once you’ve chosen the look of your brand, write it all down in comprehensive brand guidelines. It’s smart to create a brand book or brand style guide to make it easier to maintain consistency. Treat this like your north star; when in doubt, look to it for direction.
This will also help if you choose to outsource work to a freelance graphic designer or web designer and need to convey your desired look and feel. Or, if you choose to work with an influencer that needs unique assets to promote your brand to their followers.
Your brand guidelines should be easy to update, and consistently revisited to ensure they evolve alongside your brand. They’re also only effective if properly enforced, so make sure that they are easy to access (albeit with locked templates and brand assets to avoid tampering with) and available in a wide variety of formats and channels.
Step 7: Apply your branding across your business
Now it’s time to tie it all together into one cohesive story. This will further develop your brand strategy and help you attract an audience.
For example, reference your values, mission and goals on your website’s about page. If your business has a brand story, share it there as well (if that aligns with your story and style, of course).
Once you launch, make sure to carry your brand message throughout everything you do. Whether it be through your web design, social media posts, email marketing strategy, advertising campaigns, customer service replies and more, your overall brand theme should be present in each and every instance.
Why it’s important to evolve your brand as you grow
As your business grows, you may notice that your core values, target audience, or both are changing. That’s completely normal and important to keep front of mind.
For example, you may realise that your target audience is growing up and beginning to disassociate with your brand. If that’s the case, you have the choice to either change your brand identity to match their ageing perspective or update your brand identity based on new emerging trends to attract the burgeoning generation.
Either way, you need to keep your brand relevant and up-to-date with industry trends and your target market. There may come a day when it’s time to consider rebranding your company. If and when that time comes, take it as an opportunity to refresh your imagery and reposition yourself to strengthen your market positioning.
Top Tip: To better understand if and when it’s time to rebrand your business, read our 5-step guide to rebranding your company 🎨
Building a strong brand takes hard work and dedication. It involves asking yourself difficult questions that help you uncover your core values, what you want your business to stand for and how you ultimately want to be perceived by your customers.
Use this step-by-step guide to get to the heart of why you wanted to start your own business in the first place.
Learn all about growing your business in our marketing series:
3.1 How to create a social media marketing strategy in 2020
3.2 The small business guide to Instagram marketing
3.3 How to build brand loyalty with relationship marketing
3.4 How to master business storytelling
3.5 How to grow your business with video (on a budget)
Photo by Henry & Co., published on Pexels