Properly Brand Your Business – Online Business Essentials

Properly Brand Your Business - Online Business Essentials

Starting your own business online can be one of the most rewarding but difficult things you will ever do.  You might have a business and wonder if the steps you took to begin were the right ones.  How should you start a business, and how should you continue operating one? Last week we talked about your business story.  What do you do, and why do you do it?  It is essential to begin your business with a good story to tell.  If you are aware of your story, then you are at a good place to begin the process of branding.  Wait, is branding the same thing as marketing? What’s the difference? What exactly does branding entail?  I’m going to answer all of those questions this week.  We are continuing a series that will take you through the essentials to start a business online.

What is a Brand?

The word brand is heard a lot while practicing business marketing.  Do you need to brand your business or market your brand?  The word is used widely, but it might not be properly understood by many.  The first definition of “brand” is the name given to a product or service from a specific source.  Used in this sense, “brand” is similar to the current meaning of the word “trademark.”  More than a century ago, cattle ranchers used branding irons to indicate which animals were theirs.  That’s certainly not how most people I know think of brands or branding.  In the early 19th century, canned goods began to rise, which meant producers had to mark their own products or “brand” them.

In the late 1880s, for example, as the Coca-Cola Company was getting started, there were many soda producers in every market.  Before Coca-Cola could get a customer to reach for a Coke,  they needed to be sure the customer could distinguish a Coke from all the other fizzy caramel-colored beverages out there. Get it?

Fast-forward to the 20th century, marketers started discovering that there are certain ways a company can be perceived by a consumer.  There is more to a company than just its name.  What they essentially discovered is that your brand name exists objectively; people can see it. It’s fixed. But your brand exists only in someone’s mind.  This means that two people could know or feel completely different things about your brand even though it could be the same thing physically.  Marketers are responsible to achieve the best possible perceptions for a brand-name by a consumer and that can be a huge headache sometimes.  Are we understanding a bit more of what branding is? Good!  Let’s go through the modern definition marketers use for branding:

Branding is the expression of the essential truth or value of an organization, product, or service. It is communication of characteristics, values, and attributes that clarify what this particular brand is and is not.

Nice!  Okay so how do I brand my business?

Discovering and implementing your brand identity is not as complicated as you might think.  The first thing you need to evaluate is the way you want others to perceive your brand.  Take the attention off your products and services for a moment.  We are not focused on the features of your business but we are focusing on how your business will pull customers in.  You might be operating a coffee shop in a street in which two other coffee shops also operate.  How will your business stand out?

Know what your brand means!

To get started, go to your whiteboard or a piece of blank paper and write the name of your company and, to the right of it, a big equals sign. That will start you off in the right direction.  Write some adjectives and characteristics that define your brand.  You should write as many as you can.  When you are done, fine-tune the list so that at the end you complete a tangible understanding of how your brand is different than others around you.  Here are three hints of elements that should be on your list:

  1. Understand the business niche you are in and how you differ from competitors.
  2. Know your target audience to the core.
  3. Fully grasp how your product and services hit the sweet spot of your audience’s  needs.

Make Your Employees Brand Ambassadors

Very often, a business owner understands branding and identity of a business but fails to effectively communicate to employees.  As a business owner, you need to understand that employees are the faces of your business.  Employees are very often the first interaction and first impression of a business.  Your team should be very aware of what the business represents and its intent.  Do not underestimate the power a team member has to represent your brand to your customers.

Loyal Customers Will Amplify Your Brand

This is the hardest part about branding and the reason is because you have little control over the message interpreted by your customers.  It’s up to you to have a system in place in order to properly educate anyone interacting with your brand.  If you communicate your brand message to your target audience properly and your brand positioning is easy to understand, not only will your employees be great brand ambassadors, but your most avid consumers will be as well. When your consumers are fans of your brand and identify with it, they, too, will become vocal in spreading your brand’s message. Word of mouth marketing has always been important in extending a company’s brand and offerings, but it is even more crucial in this age of social media.  Some of you might already have experienced this with the website Yelp.  Whether good or bad, the experience you are having with word of mouth platforms is mostly directed to your customer’s experience with your brand.

This should help you understand a bit more on how to properly brand your business.  There are so many more details and strategies on branding that could help your steer your business in the right direction.  Please contact me if you have any additional questions about the subject.  An additional source you can tap into is the book Primal Branding by Patrick Hanlon.

This is Stella North Media.  We’re here to help you grow your business or career online because we believe that small businesses are meant for big things.  

Reference:

Imbriano, L. (2015). The Small-Business Guide to Building a Killer Brand Identity. American Express. Retrieved from https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/branding-101-essential-guide-developing-brand-identity/

MclauGhlin, J. (2011). What is branding, anyway?. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jerrymclaughlin/2011/12/21/what-is-a-brand-anyway/#31b9af7b2aa4

Heaton, J. (2014). The difference between marketing and branding. Tronviggroup. Retrieved from http://www.tronviggroup.com/the-difference-between-marketing-and-branding/

 

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