In a digital landscape overflowing with personal commentary, a business without a brand is at a distinct disadvantage. After all, there’s so much competition for every scrap of territory that fundamental business models are rarely enough to get customers hooked — if you want to set your company apart, you need to build something that extends beyond products or services.
By creating a strong brand, you can begin to build positive and powerful associations that will stick to your business and paint it in a positive light across the board and outside of any specific context. And if you can get your customers to trust you, you can reap the many benefits of their resulting loyalty (studies have found that people will almost-always stick by the brands that operate with transparency).
So how exactly do you go about achieving these things? Read on — in this piece, we’re going to cover some steps you should take to build your brand and start earning customer trust.
Nail down your unique selling points (USPs)
How would you describe your business in a nutshell if you had just a few moments to convince someone that you’re worth their attention? You might talk about your history, or your staff, or your products, or your process — you’d opt for whatever marked your business as special. That showed people why they should choose you instead of a comparable company.
Surprisingly, there are plenty of companies out there with no apparent USPs, and it’s a huge missed opportunity. Every good brand needs some flair to its presentation, something that clearly sets it apart, and the first step towards building yours is to identify your selling points.
Keep in mind that your USPs don’t have to be about your business operations. If you can offer the cheapest products, or the fastest delivery, then that’s perfect — but if you can’t exceed any other company in a practical sense, find something else that makes you different.
Do you commit to supporting charitable efforts? Like to write rhyming product copy? Never use preservatives? Always use extra preservatives? See how other companies in your area come across, and find some combination of traits that isn’t being used elsewhere. Just make sure that your USPs are genuine, because people will see through them otherwise.
Create comprehensive brand guidelines
Strong brands are built steadily over time — they don’t spring up overnight — and the key to this is consistency. Not only do you need to keep producing materials that suit your brand, but you need to ensure that they are mutually supportive, striking the same tone and sending the same messages.
To make this easier (and achievable if you have a rotating staff), create a high-quality document of brand guidelines covering all the important traits of your brand image, including:
Once this document is complete, use it to guide your writing, designing and marketing across the entire company. Readers will notice the consistency in your work and find it reassuring, leaving them more likely to remember you and buy from you.
Create a stylised website
Your website is your online hub, and its importance isn’t to be underestimated. While you likely already have a website, ask yourself this question: does it clearly reflect the brand set out in your guidelines? Are the colours suitable? Is the copy strong? Do your values and company voice come through?
Whether you rework your current site or start from scratch, you need to get a website that functions as your top marketing tool —- once you’ve achieved the tough part of pushing a visitor towards your site, it must turn their casual interest into a conversion as efficiently as possible.
First, do what you can to find inspiration. Visit your favourite retail sites and think carefully about what you like about them. Take a look at some Australian business websites for sale and see if you can work out at first glance what the businesses are. Read up on best digital marketing practices and ask “Is my website good enough for these?”.
And when you know what direction you want to take, get it implemented, whether you can do it yourself or need to bring in some experts. Optimizing a website can be costly, but it’s far more costly in the long run not to do it.
Engage on social media
Now that you have your selling points lined up, a solid set of brand guidelines and a suitably-impressive website, you can start reaching out to your target audience. Identify the social media channels that your prospective customers use and start communicating with them there, posting content, fielding requests, and generally being personable.
This phase is all about taking the brand identity that you’ve built and presenting it to the world. If you faithfully showcase it over a long enough period of time, people will start to remember you and respect you for your commitment and transparency.
In particular, you should focus on chatting with your existing customers, because their goodwill is the most valuable — they’re the most likely people to buy from you, and the most inclined to speak well of you to others, serving as unpaid brand ambassadors. Show appreciation for happy customers, address the concerns of unhappy customers, and you’ll come across as a very professional and reliable brand.
Creating a lasting brand requires commitment, not only to finding the right image but also to maintaining it. Look at it as an investment that’s slow to build up but will pay off hugely later on — the work you put into your USPs and brand identity today will produce much-increased customer trust (and thus loyalty) down the line.
Kayleigh Alexandra writes all about startups and small businesses for Micro Startups, a site committed to supporting the entrepreneurial spirit and charitable activities. Check out the Micro Startups blog for some actionable insights, and follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.