For the new business owner, branding often falls by the wayside in favor of other tasks — product research and development, funding, sales, etc. Unless you’re a branding expert, chances are you’ll need a bit of help with your branding to get it to resonate with customers.
Your brand is your name, your logo, your design, or any combination of the things that help customers identify you and separate you from the competition. It must be done with your target audience in mind. It takes balance to convey your message in a way your audience will respond to.
It’s your face to the world.
And you want it to look good. If it doesn’t, you’re definitely sending the wrong message to customers. This means thinking long and hard about what your business is, and what you want to tell customers when they see your logo, website, packaging and other branding materials. It may mean paying professional branding consultants to get the job done. Though it’s a steep investment, it’s definitely worth it — and should always be part of your budget.
Take Fuelify, an online health food provider in the UK. Their case studyshows they needed help with their branding and packaging to create a clean and cohesive brand for their new service. They wanted to offer a sports nutrition subscription box that was bright and easy to use. That’s not to say they couldn’t have figured it out on their own, but the end result produced a clean brand that’s clearly associated with health and fitness. Though sales numbers aren’t available, the service is doing well, as it has been mentioned in several well-known publications including Vogue and InStyle.
It’s a promise.
An extension of your brand’s positioning, your brand’s promise is the tangible benefit that makes what you offer desirable to your customers. You can choose to clearly spell out your brand promise to the public, as FedEx has done with their overnight delivery guarantee, or you can allow it to manifest subtly throughout the brand experience, likeCoca-Cola does. Their mission doesn’t say a word about providing the best cola soft drinks in the world.
Your mission or brand promise is only worth something if you can keep it. So make sure that whatever you do, you only make promises you can follow through on. If not, you’ll do major damage to your brand reputation, and no amount of rebranding may be able to help you recover. While it’s nearly impossible to control your brand, the promise can give you leverage over the brand experience. Make your promise convey a compelling, credible and authentic benefit that your staff can keep each and every time.
It fosters loyalty.
Branding alone isn’t loyalty, but it can help you build two key components of brand loyalty — perceived value and trust. If your branding shows how your product or service will enrich your customers lives, and lets them know you’re a trustworthy company, you’re well on your way to building loyalty. Once you have the customers, do what you can to make them repeat buyers, as this will foster commitment and keep them satisfied.
Getting it right — test, test, test
Test a variety of fonts, colors and images with a small focus group before you launch a full campaign. You’ll end up with a lot of digital images and printed products in the end, so you don’t want just to design and go. If you decide later to make changes, you’ll need to change everything from your website and social media graphics, to business cards, letterhead and packaging.
Once you settle on your final design, it may feel like you’re done, but you’re not quite there yet. Without brand awareness, your awesome logo means nothing. It’s time to get out there and hustle — get your brand in front of the eyes who will respond to it. Use social media as a place to start. It works — 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies have Facebook pages, including nine of the top 10.
Branding matters because it sets the tone for your business and tells customers what they can expect from you. Don’t skimp on the branding when you’re getting started because it can negatively affect your sales and the speed of your growth. And while you can always re-brand later, that process is complicated, so it’s better to get it right from the start.
Originally published on Entrepreneur.com.