Having a solid and well-defined brand is essential to compete in the business world, whether you’re running a Fortune 500 organization or you’re a freelance web designer. Your brand communicates your values and helps you attain an authoritative presence in your industry. Even small business owners with tight budgets should be relying on branding to build healthy relationships with their audience and establish themselves as leaders in their field.
As Forbes defines it: “Put simply, your ‘brand’ is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name. It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand offering—both factual (e.g. It comes in a robin’s-egg-blue box), and emotional (e.g. It’s romantic).”
In her book What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest, Denise Lee Yohn says that your brand helps you commit and stay committed to your core ideology. This is especially helpful for setting expectations in today’s cloud-based environment where most consumers research a company prior to deciding to do business with them.
Before you can brand yourself effectively, you must understand who you are and what you want to accomplish. Below are five critical tips to help you establish your footprint in the marketplace and garner respect, support, and loyalty from your customers—or potential customers.
Develop Your Mission Statement
A mission statement is a one or two sentence summary of the goals and values of an organization. According to Business Dictionary, your mission statement should include these three points: define what is important to you, define your markets, and define the direction in which you intend to take the company. Every decision the business makes should be filtered through this mission statement.
Writing your mission statement and slogan is a process. To begin, just write a complete description of the products or services you offer, why and how you started the business, and which consumer group you want to serve. Your first draft will likely be very long, but your final draft should clearly define what your company stands for and reflect your personal style and tone in just a couple of sentences.
Anadarko, one of the largest oil and gas exploration companies in the world, defines their mission this way: “Anadarko’s mission is to deliver a competitive and sustainable rate of return to shareholders by developing, acquiring and exploring for oil and gas resources vital to the world’s health and welfare.”
Check out these company descriptions and mission statements from top Fortune 500 companies for more inspiration.
Differentiate Yourself From Competitors
If you spend a few minutes looking over Anadarko’s About page, you’ll notice that one of the values the company boasts is their focus on commercial customers. While it may seem obvious that an exploration company isn’t targeting retail gas customers, Anadarko includes that element in their values statement as a way to confirm their commitment to the mission statement.
Ask yourself why your customer base should choose to buy from you? Is it your vast wealth of knowledge? A unique product that outperforms other options? Your affordability? Communicating why your company is the best choice is essential. Especially if you’re a startup or a small business, you can’t expect to achieve success without differentiating yourself from similar competition, most of which has probably been in business for a lot longer.
Connect with a Brand Logo
Designing a logo that is eye-catching and represents your business helps set you apart from the competition. Your logo instantly tells the world about your company culture and values and creates brand recognition. Think about the most common social media icons (or logos), for example. Without needing a single word, you instantly know who the company is and what they do, like Instagram’s camera logo. And anyone looking for a coffee shop and spotting that big green circle will pull over immediately and find themselves at Starbucks—no company name or description necessary.
Because your logo is so critical, don’t skimp on expense in this area. And don’t settle for something that you aren’t totally in love with because once you publish a logo, it is very difficult to rebrand. Your web hosting provider may be able to help you directly or they might refer you to an experienced design team, like 99Designs. This logo designer has you answer a questionnaire so they can understand your business, enlists help from professional logo artists around the world, and if you’re unhappy with it they offer a full refund.
Build a Professional Website
It may seem obvious, but having a professional website for your business is a must. And it doesn’t have to be intimidating or expensive—if you choose a hosting service such as Bluehost, you’ll have access to support teams to help you select best-fit domain names and take full advantage of the robust features available via free WordPress templates.
Be sure that your site is optimized for mobile access, because 80 percent of Internet users own a smartphone and mobile use now exceeds desktop computers for time spent online (51% compared to 42%). Color choices, element layout, and static content help ensure that your website resonates with your brand’s personality.
Give Your Target Audience Something of Value
It’s a no-brainer that establishing a strong social media presence is as crucial as having a website. Small business Max Daniel Designs, a baby blanket e-commerce store, uses professional photos and high-quality content to interact with their Facebook fans and Pinterest followers. Social media is an excellent way to build your brand exposure, especially when you use those platforms on which your target demographic spends most of their time. Since Max Daniel sells beautiful baby products, using Facebook and Pinterest makes the most sense. You can get even more mileage out of social networks by boosting your posts or buying ads with carefully targeted audiences, such as by location, interests, age, etc.
Your logo builds recognition, but your content solidifies relationships and helps you communicate your core values to your audience. Pardot published an e-book that highlights the strong connection between brand perceptions and social media content. Eighty-two percent of polled survey respondents say that the type of content published impacts their perception of how credible the company is.
Building a small business brand is about more than just creating an eye-catching logo—although that’s part of it. It’s about building relationships with your audience before they ever make a purchase. It’s about establishing your reputation as a trusted industry leader. It’s about creating opportunities to share valuable information that improves your followers’ lives and communicates your core ideology that drives your business activity.
So what are you waiting for? Grab a pen and paper and start working on your mission statement!