Lucy Bradley is the founder of Plug Communications
There are so many aspects to consider when you are building a business; not everything can be a priority. If budgets are tight, developing your brand is not always top of the list, but it should be, when you are pouring all your energy into a product or service that needs to get noticed. Crucially, branding distinguishes you from the competition, clarifies what you offer, and demonstrates why you are the better choice. Research from Failory found that 56 per cent of startups fail because of marketing problems. What’s more, 82 per cent of investors want the companies they invest in to have a strong brand, which is why a marketing-first approach, underpinned by solid branding, is vital.
Where to start
Ultimately, your brand has to mean something to consumers; creating lasting connections is impossible otherwise. No matter how much of an expert you are in what you offer, do not assume you know what your customers want. Define your demographic - you do not need, or want, to target everyone. Being too broad in your reach will only dilute your unique selling points (USP), whereas having a clear vision of your ideal customer will help you communicate with them more effectively. Once you have your target audience in mind, do your research to find out what they are looking for. Also, research your competitors to determine why people would benefit from choosing your brand over theirs.
This information will make it easier to establish your core brand identity (or brand essence), i.e., the total value proposition for your customers. Your core brand identity will form the basis of all your outreach and communication, meaning it is essential for creating a logo, tagline, and overall marketing strategy.
Because we are visual beings getting your design language right matters. A logo is the number one brand identifier, closely followed by style, colour and tone of voice.
Your style encompasses your brand’s whole look and feel, everything from typography and colour to logos and imagery. Make sure there is consistency.
Choose a logo with great typography, simple colours, and a compelling visual element. You need it to work in black and white, small or large format while remaining recognisable.
Your tagline should articulate the key differentiator that separates your company from your competitors in the eyes of your audience.
Your imagery must be easy to process and correspond to your business’s overall idea and mission.
Positive interaction relies on two-way communication. Once you have your brand identity in place, it is time to start talking to your customers. You will resonate with them by providing valuable information, discussing benefits, not features, and being available for feedback. Communicating with customers does not mean selling to them. It means being invested in their needs, keeping them up to date and gaining their trust by upholding your promises.
To be heard by the right people, leverage data by gathering and maintaining customer information across all of your touchpoints. Depending on the nature of your business, countless platforms and tools can help you create an effective data strategy but do not fall into the trap of thinking you need a high-tech, complex solution you cannot afford. The most important step is building a customer database in whatever format works for you. Achieving your goals then depends on how well you segment your data, so that you can determine if you can actually help people, identify their preferred communication methods, and speak to them so they will listen.
Enhancing customer experience
Organisations need to be more engaging than ever, with the number of touchpoints increasing all the time. Not only does your brand need consistent and relevant presentation across multiple channels, such as your website, social media, physical space, and messaging apps, the whole experience needs to be effortless and enjoyable for customers. The same is true whether you are leading the conversation or it is the customer reaching out. Consider what type of customer is using the different channels, and what their main purpose is. This will help shape the type of content you share. Also make sure your style guide covers how the different visual identifiers are used for each one. Prioritising customer experience and fulfilling your brand promise at every stage of the journey enables you to establish more meaningful connections and cement loyalty.
Being forgettable is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in such a competitive landscape. No organisation gets it right all of the time, but once you develop a strong brand that people can remember and relate to, it reinforces their connection and increases your chance of success.