A loved and recognized brand identity is one of the most important assets to your business. It will make all the difference in encouraging customers to support your brand, remain loyal and return for business. As a small business it’s not always easy to develop a strong brand identity, especially when competing with big, established brands. But by building a solid brand strategy, you will be on your way to establishing more than a business, but a brand as well. Here are seven steps you can take towards creating a bold and brilliant brand strategy for your small (but growing) business.

Step 1: Think big when it comes to your overall business strategy

Your overarching business strategy is the context for the brand development strategy and should be your first port of call. This is like a birds-eye view of your business. Here you will consider what kind of business you want and how you envisage it growing.

Step 2: Research your target clients

It is essential that you have a clear idea of who your clients are. It could be so easy to decide that ‘everyone’ is a potential customer. But in fact, research proves that the more niche and targeted your client pool is, the better your chance to focus in and grow. The way to identify this is to conduct systematic and ongoing research on your target group. Next, you need to take what you have learned about them and visualize who that client is, by building personas around them: Who they are, what they love doing, what their habits and needs are etc. With this image in your mind, you are then able to anticipate their needs and create your marketing material in language that will appeal to them.

Step 3: Understand who your competitors are

This may be a tempting step to skip. But understanding who is vying for your customer’s attention is important. Once you know who your competitors are, resist the urge to imitate them. Rather find strategic ways to differentiate yourself from your competition and convince your customers to choose you, over them.

Step 4: Development of solid brand positioning

Now you are able to look at your business and understand where it stands in the current market. It is here that you can ask yourself what makes your business different and what can you offer customers that other businesses can’t. At this point you need to create a strong positioning statement. This is typically 3 – 5 sentences which have an aspirational quality, but a realistic stance. It should capture the essence of your brand positioning, what you offer and why.

Step 5: Create a strategy for your messaging

The next step is to create a strong messaging strategy that translates your brand’s position into clear marketing messages for each of your target audiences. While your core brand will remain consistent across the board, you will need to tweak your messaging to speak to each of the different personas you created in step 2. Each message should be customised to speak to a different aspect of your business that answers a core need of the persona in question.

Step 6: Develop your content marketing strategy

Your marketing strategy should plan and breakdown the content that will sell your product, build reputation and get your name out there. Your strategy should be used to establish what you are going to be sharing and across which of the various platforms, from traditional media to social media platforms. This also needs to include your marketing budget, goals and benchmarks that will help you gauge the performance of your marketing collateral and where it can be improved. Marketing is a vital and often overlooked aspect of brand development, but it can make a meaningful difference when given the right attention.

Step 7: Implement, track, adjust and repeat

You’ll be surprised by how many brand development strategies never go beyond the page they’re planned on. Once you have gone to the trouble of thinking this all through, push yourself and your team to implement it. It’s so easy to get swept into sales and operations and overlook implementation. Once in motion, stay close to the plan and schedule in (at least) monthly check-ins to track progress. If things aren’t working, adjust in real time. Your tracking can be measured against real deliverables like leads generated, employee applications and sales, for example.

The bottom line

The strength of a brand identity is not based on the size of a business. It is so important to take the time to visualise the trajectory of your business; from understanding the market you’re operating in, to who you are selling to and how you are communicating with then. Armed with this information, you will have a clear picture of where your business is heading and how it is going to get cemented into the hearts and minds of your target audience.

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