What Are Branding Strategies and Do You Need One?
If you think branding is a logo and colors, you're in for a surprise.
“What’s a branding strategy? Is that like marketing?” Tom asked.
I understood Tom’s question. He wasn’t the first small business owner I had met who didn’t know how a brand strategy could help him. What impressed me was his desire to know more.
Branding isn’t a privilege granted to large companies with big budgets. Small businesses can also use branding strategies to thrive in a saturated market.
Getting noticed is becoming more difficult. Competitive pressure is at an all-time high. Thanks to the Internet, consumers have more buying choices. The sheer number of businesses makes it tough for you to stand out and communicate your value.
A great branding strategy can help your business overcome these obstacles.
In this article, you will learn:
- What a branding strategy is
- How to generate more interest in your business with branding strategies
- Why putting the customer first isn’t always the path to success
- Five branding strategies you can start using today
What Branding Strategies Are and Why You Need One
A branding strategy is a detailed plan for “positioning” your business in its industry. This position will dictate how consumers perceive it.
Here are some examples of marketplace positions:
- Known for providing the cheapest option
- Considered a premium service
- Industry leader in speed of delivery
- Caters to a specific target audience
Some businesses use branding to create their position, but not all do. Those that don’t still occupy a position in the minds of consumers, but this occurs at random. Having a branding strategy allows you to take control over how people will see your business.
A branding strategy better connects your business with the right kinds of customers. This helps you find those who are more likely to make repeat purchases and refer others.
Having a strategy helps you stay top-of-mind. This will increase the likelihood that people will remember you when they are ready to buy.
Successful branding strategies start with building a brand identity. This identity is like that of a human being. People who think alike or share commonalities are more likely to connect. The same is true for brands and their customers.
Harley Davidson is a great example of a powerful brand identity. Their customers are passionate about the brand. Most of them would never consider buying another kind of motorcycle.
Another reason to have a branding strategy is the one many small business owners care about most. It will help you influence more people to buy your stuff.
By generating more demand and less competition for what you do.
You may also be able to charge more for it. People will pay more for something if they believe the value of it exceeds the price.
But value itself is subjective. It’s possible for you and me to buy the exact same item for different reasons. I may value something about a product that you don’t value at all, and vice-versa.
The key to a successful branding strategy is to create perceived value. To do this, we base the value of what we offer on the features and benefits our target audience cares about most.
The final component of a branding strategy is to send the right message to the right people. Trying to sell to the wrong audience is a costly mistake and one many business learn only after it’s too late.
The Prosperity Intersection
Having a great branding strategy will still fall flat without the right audience. Study your target customers until you know them well. It’s especially important to know them better than competitors.
Interview or survey your current customer base. Make notes of similarities, their interests, hobbies, and other companies they buy from. If you don’t have many customers, you’ll have to draw on experience or what you observe when you talk with prospects.
This is an ongoing process that never ends, so don’t worry if this is new to you.
The goal is to determine how your customers define value. Then use that information to generate more interest in your offers.
Many business owners assume to know the value of their product or service. They then set out to convince prospects to buy it for those reasons. But leveraging value from your customers’ perspective is a much more effective approach.
There are many techniques for discovering what your target audience values and why. Keep in mind that people don’t always know what they want. That’s why you can’t rely only on what they tell you.
Observe their behaviors and patterns to learn about them. Then develop an offer around the values you uncover.
These questions will help you in this step:
- Who is your audience trying to be?
- What do they want life to be like?
- Where do they want to go?
- What kinds of products and services do they buy and why do they buy them?
Considering our customers’ needs and wants is only half of the success equation. We must also think about our business goals.
Our goals matter too. Successful brands find a link between their business goals and what customers want. Then, they create a brand strategy that aligns with both.
I refer to this customer-business link as the Prosperity Intersection.
Many small business owners aren’t confident this can be done. But a well-designed branding strategy makes it possible.
Branding Strategies in Action
Now, we’ll explore five branding strategies you can use to position your business. Start with one that resonates with you and master it first. You can add others later.
Some marketing professionals think brand awareness is a waste of money. They believe this strategy only works for big brands with millions to spend.
But let me ask you this:
Does every prospect buy from you when they meet you for the first time?
I’ll venture a guess and say they don’t. And if they don’t, then you need to stay top-of-mind until they are ready to buy. Thus, you must build brand awareness.
While the number varies, research shows eight touchpoints are required to make a sale. The actual number will depend on where the individual is in the buying cycle. But the majority of people will not buy on first contact—or the second.
Many business owners give up on a prospect after a couple of contacts and move on to look for new leads. But they’re leaving a lot of revenue on the table because they aren’t maximizing opportunities.
If someone isn’t ready to buy from you now, that doesn’t mean they won’t ever buy from you. Brand awareness campaigns keep you in front of prospects. When they finally are ready, you will be the first one they think of.
A Product or Service Can Be a Brand too
Branding isn’t limited to a person or a company. In fact, some products are so well branded that their name represents an entire category.
Great examples of this are Band-Aid and Kleenex. How many times have you heard someone ask for a Kleenex or a Band-Aid by name? Yet, there are many other bandages and tissues on the market.
If people are more aware of your product than your business, consider branding it first. But I would not recommend doing this without planning. The decision will depend on your long-term objectives.
Taking a Stand
Standing up for something you believe in can be a powerful branding strategy. If you’re passionate about a cause, organization, or lifestyle, this may be an option for you.
An individual or business can gather an audience quickly with this strategy. Examples are “influencers” or popular company brands that speak out on certain topics.
But this strategy comes with more risk. Though you will attract a strong following, you may offend or alienate others in the process. For that reason, you should proceed with caution. Never be controversial for the sake of getting attention.
The personal branding strategy is popular in the current marketing environment. Consumers want to buy from businesses they connect to.
It’s easier to connect with a human being who already has an identity than it is to create one for a business. Incorporating elements of your personal style will attract like-minded people to you.
The personal branding strategy works well if you’re comfortable in the spotlight. This has its pros and cons. If you aren’t at ease when attention is on you, it will come across in your branding and marketing. This will end up having an adverse effect on your brand-building strategy.
Use Many Channels
It’s easy to get comfortable with one or two marketing tactics. You may prefer social media, email marketing, or networking events. But the best marketing strategy takes advantage of all these. The goal is to find many different ways to promote your brand through marketing.
Consistency is crucial when it comes to any branding strategy. You must show up every day and repeat the same messages over and over. You may get bored repeating your message, but most people will be hearing it for the first time.
Research shows that consistent branding strategies can increase revenue as much as 33%.
I expect this number to rise in the future. Small businesses that use branding strategies will prosper for years to come.
Branding strategies are a powerful way to promote your business. They help you make strong connections with prospects and stay top-of-mind.
People buy from businesses they know, like, and trust. Branding helps you attract the right customers and sets you apart from competitors.
As always, I’m here to help. If you have questions, email me personally at [email protected].
Until next time,
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