By Kady Sandel
Entrepreneurs often are overwhelmed by the sheer number of strategies available to grow their businesses through branding. Should you learn Pinterest SEO? Do you need to adjust the colors on your landing page to improve your bounce rate? Is it time to look into billboard advertising?
But it doesn’t have to be so confusing. By becoming aware of a few key branding concepts, business owners can learn to cut through the noise and focus exclusively on initiatives that will help grow their companies.
Here are four reliable and timeless branding tips for busy entrepreneurs:
1. Start with a brand strategy
Think of a brand strategy like your business plan: it’s a document that outlines your company’s branding goals, traits, purpose, and voice that will be conveyed through your branding and marketing efforts. Your brand strategy will also include crucial demographic and psychographic information about your target audience. Most business owners skip the important step of developing a brand strategy, and only later do they realize how much it would have helped their company.
When I was a graphic designer, entrepreneurs would often approach me and say, “I need a logo.” They would search online for generic logos in their industry and ask me to replicate what they found. But how can a designer create a logo that appeals to your target audience if you haven’t defined that target audience? How can a website visually express the key traits of your brand if you haven’t identified those key traits?
It’s best to work alongside an expert when developing the details of your brand strategy, as an outside trained eye can quickly identify gaps and opportunities in your branding that you may not be able to see from close up. Many companies that move forward without a branding strategy may find themselves needing to rebrand in the near future. While a rebrand is a viable option, it can be time-consuming, so it’s in your best interest to establish a brand strategy as early as possible.
2. Delight your target market
Companies with successful brands know this secret: your branding needs to be completely tailored to your target audience. This means that your brand colors should not be based on your favorite colors. You need to choose your business’s colors wisely based on color psychology and how your target customers will respond to them on a subconscious level.
Similarly, if your target market doesn’t listen to podcasts, your business should not expend time and resources into starting a podcast—even if podcasts are the hot marketing tool of the moment.
Many entrepreneurs create an ideal client avatar and stop there, neglecting to include that ideal customer’s desires and pain points in their promotion strategy. To successfully reach your potential customers and turn them into buyers, your business needs to focus on creating content that delights your target audience . . . and then putting that content in places where they will find it.
Inspire your potential customers. Impress them. Speak their language. Leave them excited to learn more, and eventually they will open their wallets to purchase your products or services.
3. Use brand stories to streamline your content strategy
Gone are the days of sitting down in front of the computer every day and wondering what type of content to write for your business. You can use the idea of brand stories to organize your posts and generate new content ideas while staying aligned with your brand.
First, come up with three distinct traits that you want your target customers to associate with your business. As an example, let’s say you own a wedding dress resale shop and you want your customers to correlate your company with the following:
Eco-friendly and recycled
Each of these traits constitutes a brand story. The next step is to think of three possible content ideas for each brand story. In our wedding shop example, here are three content ideas that correspond with “Unique styles”:
A photo of a bride wearing one of your dresses at her bohemian wedding
An infographic on how colorful wedding dresses are becoming more popular
A behind-the-scenes video tour that demonstrates your unique gowns
If you repeat this exercise with the other two brand stories, you suddenly have nine new content ideas to engage with your audience. To reduce the time spent on creating content even further, consider using a social media tool like Buffer that can schedule your posts in advance.
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4. Maintain consistency
As your business grows, the number people involved in maintaining your brand will also grow. Whether you hire a social media manager, a freelance blogger, a printing company, or simply a staff member who wants to make a slide deck, you will run into situations where your team has questions about how to portray your brand. Brand guidelines and brand boards are two key tools that help preserve brand consistency and ensure your brand has a cohesive voice and appearance across all platforms.
A brand guideline is a written document that outlines the rules for your company’s branding. Examples of what to include in your brand guidelines are logo dimensions, rules around logo usage, and precise company fonts and colors (including hex codes). These brand guidelines will prevent team members from doing things like warping the size of your company’s logo or creating a social media graphic in an off-brand color.
On the other hand, a brand board is a representation that showcases how your company should look in all visual communications. Your brand board will include some of the same information as your brand guidelines, but it’s more of a quick guide that designers can glance at rather than a full written document. Brand boards typically include elements such as your company’s fonts, color palette, logo, and stock images to reflect what types of photos should be used on your website and social media.
Branding is more complicated than simply selecting the perfect combination of colors, fonts, and strategies, and when we add in factors like trends, new technology, and ever-evolving social media platforms, branding can seem downright confusing.
Rather than getting lost in the details, entrepreneurs can focus on these four branding tips to build a long-term framework for their company. As you work to build a brand strategy, serve your target market, share your brand stories, and maintain consistency via tools like brand guidelines, your company’s brand will become more cohesive, strong, and memorable.
About the Author
Post by: Kady Sandel
Kady Sandel is the CEO and Brand Strategist at Aventive Studio. Kady has designed logos, websites, and visual identities for a wide range of companies, and she now helps businesses scale through strategic brand development.
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