Before executing an inbound or digital marketing plan, you must first ensure that a brand strategy is in place. I’ve come across companies who expect to gain quick wins and long-term momentum, yet don’t have a proper brand strategy or don’t want to spend the money to have one.
Branding goes beyond just your company logo, font, and color palette – it extends into the entire purchase journey of a prospect and the customer experience. This also includes your internal staff – ensuring that they live and breathe the brand’s identity as it will help culture thrive and help with recruiting top talent.
As a business owner, it’s imperative you properly represent your company and can clearly articulate who you are, what you do and why you do it. Your brand strategy and the equity you build is key to success and as Entrepreneur.com points out:
“Consistent, strategic branding leads to a strong brand equity, which means the added value brought to your company’s products or services that allows you to charge more for your brand than what identical, unbranded products command. The most obvious example of this is Coke vs. a generic soda. Because Coca-Cola has built a powerful brand equity, it can charge more for its product–and customers will pay that higher price.
The added value intrinsic to brand equity frequently comes in the form of perceived quality or emotional attachment. For example, Nike associates its products with star athletes, hoping customers will transfer their emotional attachment from the athlete to the product. For Nike, it’s not just the shoe’s features that sell the shoe.”
Now, let’s get to the point. Here are a few takeaways every entrepreneur should consider when it comes to the importance of having a brand strategy:
Setting yourself apart from the competition is a critical aspect to building value and pushing for more marketshare as well as mindshare among your target demographic. As Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” In other words, people buy the why, so stand out from the crowd and make sure you don’t come across like everyone else within your space.
It wasn’t by accident that we all now recognize the Nike swoosh, the Apple icon, the blue “G” Google has imprinted on the web, and so on. All of these brands were built with the intention of ensuring recognition among the masses with their brand attributes. Of course the argument could be that these are really big companies, but remember that at one time they were small companies too.
Your Promise to Customers
Don’t let a third party company write your vision and mission statements, let alone your brand promise. You must be able to state these and know exactly why you’re in business. I’ve worked with clients who aspire to be something great, but don’t want to put in the time and allocate the right budget to get there. They look for shortcuts. This, in turn, causes more harm than momentum and is unnecessary. Remember, you once learned how to sit and crawl before you were able to walk and then run. Apply the same thought process to building out your brand promise to your customers.
There are a plethora of companies – both large and small – who are killing it when it comes to having a great brand, and what is the reason behind that? Well, it’s simple: they are focused… Focused on knowing the problem they are pushing to solve within their category and also focused on building the best brand strategy to represent that (e.g. messaging, positioning, creative assets, campaigns, etc.). Again, take the time to do the same thing and, most importantly, align that focus with your own expectations.
Never expect a third-party agency or consulting company to take full responsibility in defining your brand attributes without your full guidance and leadership. Doing so will end up with a less than desirable brand strategy. You understand and know your business best, so be the authoritative voice within your brand. Just as passionately as you are about growing your business and generating leads, you need to also channel that passion to building a solid brand that will foster your executions as well as aspirations.
Have Realistic Expectations: Time, Cost, Quality
Consider the triangle as depicted below.
The concept is easy and simple to understand such that there is a tradeoff and you can only have two. For instance,
- Time + Cost = a project done quickly and cheaply, but the Quality may suffer.
- Quality + Time = an outstanding project delivered quickly, but it will Cost more.
- Cost + Quality = great work at a reasonable cost, but with plenty of Time to complete it.
As you choose a firm to work with on building out your brand strategy, make sure you are realistic about what it’s going to take to get you from point A to point B, i.e. elevate your brand. A simple analogy is if you were given the option to buy a $500 car that could only drive down two blocks down the street or buy a $15,000 car that reliably could take you 50K+ miles – it’d be a no brainer that you’d choose the second, more expensive option right?
Know the tradeoff between going for something cheap and cost effective vs. going for something of higher quality that’s going to take more time. As such, always choose the latter. Quality trumps the easy route of just getting brand standards up. Doing so will also foster the ability to create great results for your business.