If you are looking to have a strong identity against your competition, as well as establishing your signature product or service into your perfect market’s mind, then you need to pay more attention to branding your business.
Most people who undertake business branding for the first time have the tendency to throw themselves into the process a little too late. Why is this a bad thing? Since their branding is imperfect, their understanding of what they were trying to do is imperfect.
Let’s look at one of the giants in the industry – Coca Cola. Until recently, when Apple passed them up, Coca Cola had a 13 year run as the “Best Global Brand.” They had an estimated $78 billion brand value, and world-wide they led the market with over 3,500 different types of soft drinks.
Now you may not be as big as Coca Cola, or be as recognized around the globe, but you can create a strong business brand that your target market will instinctively turn to.
By implementing the following steps in the exact order, you’ll be able to set up your branding correctly:
- Identify your ideal, paying market through thorough, informed research tactics and technique.
- Target this market through each individual customer in the most effective manne
- Name your business or product correctly, choosing a name that is catchy, strong and easy to read, say, visualize and use
- Focus on the key elements of branding to create:
- Household familiarity
- Brand consistency
- Customer acceptance
- A unique edge over comparable competitors
5. Implement effective strategies, promotions and tactics; all aimed at a measurable branding goal
6. Measure the effectiveness of your campaigns and strategies, as well as your brand strength
7. Refine your strategies and focus, narrowing your brand target and increasing your returns
Identify and Research Your Ideal Market
Identify and Research Your Ideal Market
Before you can identify your perfect market, you must be able to answer these two questions:
- “What am I selling?”
- “Why is it special?”
Try answering this out loud, and as you do, explain what it is, how it works and what it can do for your potential customer.
Why does your product deserve to become the “best of the best?” In order to finally answer that question, you need to answer the following questions:
- What is your signature product?
- What does it do?
- What is its biggest benefit for your customer?
- What is its one unique feature?
- Why is it special?
- Who are your top three competitors?
Now don’t worry if you aren’t 100% clear on all of your answers. These questions will just give you an indication of where your potential problem areas are so that you will know where to start to clear them up.
Once you are able to do that, then it’s time to target your market.
Start by analyzing both the primary and secondary sources of your demographics:
- A “primary source” would be people you contact directly through polls, surveys, conversations, test samples – your customer; suppliers you might need; shipping agencies (if shipping is a consideration); government agencies you might need to pay fees to or deal with. With primary sources, you do the legwork yourself. You could also include dedicated forums in your primary research, if your niche is an online one and/or you are selling digital products, services, Apps or software.
- A “secondary source” would be statistics sites like Alexa or Quantcast. These two sites are free and provide detailed demographic information. If you study your results carefully and click on every link, they can be goldmines of data. (Look for links like “Get Details” or “Show More” – and check out the sidebar widgets and menu tabs and sub-tabs for more options.) You can also check additional secondary sources for more information about your competitors and ideal customer through:
- Government publications and websites
- Trade magazines
- Industry newsletters
- Niche-focused magazines
- Other sites such as Google Trends
- Google autosuggest keywords that people have used to search for niche-related products with
- Seeing what is trending on hot social media-sharing sites such as Pinterest and YouTube
- Checking out authority sources such as eHow.com or Ask.com
Your Ideal Paying Customer
Now that you have a better idea of what your business can produce, what’s needed and who needs it, you will also need to identify:
- Will this be a one-time sale, or is there a re-supply factor built in to my product?
- Is it a paying market?
- How much is each customer willing to pay?
- What would I need to do, to retain this customer and have him return?
You’ve identified your market, so now it’s time to segment your market. What do I mean by this?
1. Identify your core market
2. Analyze it to see if it there are sub-markets within this market
If you are able to identify one or more submarkets, you are segmenting your potential customer base.
Let’s look at an example: Customer A wants a toaster oven to give as a wedding gift, and Customer B is a student who needs a toaster oven for his/her dorm room.
You might want to create two versions of your product:
1. A luxury toaster oven with all the bells and whistles that can be sold at more “high-end” luxury stores
2. A basic toaster oven that has a lower price point than the nearest competing chain store
So up to this point you’ve been able to identify your Unique Selling Position (USP, your customers and your competitors. You’ve filled in all (or most of) your gaps. You’ve been able to work out your costs and brainstormed your actual product. You know your product has a strong, unique and competitive edge.
You are now ready to promote and brand.
Naming Your Product or Business
Naming your product or business is a crucial step in your branding process.
Statistics show that the first name you fall in love with can be a big disaster. Too many business owners cling stubbornly to that first name because they feel that it’s part of the “Big Dream.”
But by following a few simple rules you’ll be able to avoid that blind stubbornness when it comes choosing your brand name:
- Keep it short and simple. Your name needs to be easy to pronounce, but more importantly, it needs to be easy to remember.
- Avoid names that can be pronounced more than one way. You never want to have people to scratch their heads when they are trying to pronounce your name: ItscozIam Moving Service or SeeDeeLee Let’s Move trucking service. Get the picture
- Steer clear of acronyms or initials. The “ABCDECo.” might seem like a good solution, but does it tell people what your business is? There are way too many companies using “ABC” or “AAA”, mostly because they want to see if they can rank first in the directory.
- Avoid foreign names. If your name is Mary Niemcziesziak, you might think it would be logical to call your business “Niemcziesziak Tax Consultants.” But for people who don’t speak Polish, they won’t remember how to spell it, let alone pronounce it!
- Try to keep away from words that have more than one meaning. Even though the meaning may be 100% obvious to you, others might look at it in a whole different context: “The Mushroom Stool” or “Poop Here Boating Designs.
- Avoid multiple words in a name. If you name your business “Just Fab Business Services,” your website could end up as “justfabbusinessservices.com.” Between the double b’s and the triple s’s, this will confuse people for sure.
So when you are choosing a name for your product or business, decide what you want your name to do for your product or business. What does the name say about your company or your product? Is it easy to pronounce and understand? Is it memorable – in a good way?
So how do you create a great name? Look at the subhead. This is an accepted technique of combining two words together to create one new, descriptive word:
- “name” + “brainstorming” = “namestorming”
It’s easy to do this for your own business, too. Just pick two words that represent who your company is and what it does: Example: “travel” + “velocity” = “Travelocity” This indicates fast and effective travel.
We also have acronyms. Most make sense, some don’t. Let’s take AFLAC. People remember it because it sounds like a duck quacking. But it’s actually an acronym for American Family Life Assurance Company.
How about IKEA? This is short for Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd.
Not to confuse you anymore, but there are also “backronyms,” which is an expression that is formed existing words: Mothers Against Drunk Driving becomes MADD, Zone Improvement Plan is Zip Code, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
But a word of caution – only use these naming strategies if it is really catchy, really hot, easy to say, easy to remember, and remarkably enticing.
So when you are deciding on a name for your business or product, decide which of these approaches are most relevant:
- Using a word that triggers a visual image
- Using a relevant symbol that triggers association
- Using your name; or a combination of yours and your partner’s
- Using two words combined
- Using a descriptive word
- Using a nonsense word that is fun and catchy
To refer back to point four in our seven steps of branding, no matter whether or not you are branding your business name or product name, your strategy needs to aim for four equally weighted targets:
- Household familiarity – This will naturally occur if you have done a thorough job of creating brand consistency leading to customer acceptance.
- Customer acceptance – Here’s where the hard work comes in: Your actual branding campaigns (especially that all-important first one).
- A unique edge over comparable competitors – This is absolutely essential if you are to capture not just your competitors’ market share, but a significant one that can sustain your company.
It is also absolutely essential if you want to capture your target customer’s interest and attention.
Ideas for creating that unique edge:
o Solving a problem that similar products haven’t solved
o Significant price reduction (only do this if you can produce it cheaper so can sell it cheaper; or you can afford to sell it as a loss leader for high-ticket items)
o Including a bonus or extra
o Simply working better than any other similar product
o A fabulous customer service system
o A new and distinctly unique look for a standard item taken
o A dynamite, catchy name and visually dramatic design
- Brand consistency – This is the one core element that you must create. Look at a certain famous burger chain: Everyone complains about the quality of the meat… yet it sells billions of burgers, world-wide. Why?
Because each burger is consistent. You know (a) what each one is going to look like (b) what it’s going to contain in the way of garnishes (c) what type of box it’s going to come in (d) what it will taste like.
In other words, what to expect.
Once you have clearly identified your market, you should find putting the previous elements in place much easier to do.
Implement your Promotions and Strategies'
When you start with a measurable branding goal, it also becomes easier to decide on the best strategies and tactics:
- Do you need to make the public accept your acronym-based product name? All your initial energies should be focused strictly on doing so (even while showing your product benefits).
- Do you plan to turn your product overnight into a household name? You’ll need a Hollywood-sized budget for that.
- Would you prefer to become known for a core value such as honesty? Target your strategies at showing this quality at work in your business.
- Are you trying to reach pre-teens? Flashy colors, fast-paced videos or TV ads and lots of excitement are essential.
People find it difficult to implement strategies when they don’t know their branding goal.
That won’t be you.
- Plan your branding over the next one to five years, so that you have a good overview and a clear vision of where you want your business to end up
- Start out one step at a time
- Define the most important step first
- Set all supporting elements in place
Pre-testing plays a key role in making sure your branding is going to be on target (and you can pre-test, in small bites, before you ever start your branding… as well as pre-testing your branding).
Don’t skip this step. If you want to know the difference between the giants and the bankruptcies, you’ll find that all the industry giants spend millions on pre-testing, and a staggering majority of the bankruptcies “didn’t see the need,” launching straight into full production and sinking their life savings, homes and kids’ college careers into their “vision”.
Just look at Hollywood. J.J. Abrams didn’t just spring the epic “Star Wars” trilogy straight from the editing booth. Multiple pre-screenings are run to see how:
- The public reacts to specific scenes
- The public accepts “sticky points” in the story
- The public likes particular characters
- The public prefers a particular ending
And there are many more metrics that each director decides on by personally observing audience reactions and listening to feedback given at their pre-screenings before finally going with their gut.
So continue to measure and re-assess at pre-defined intervals throughout your branding process to make sure you are still on target.
Your test points should include:
- Pre-release – test both your product (name, functionality, appeal) and your branding strategy on a closed, limited-run chunk of your target audience. For example, make it a free bonus to an industry leader’s affiliates or a Special Offer for members of one or more of your niche’s focused forums. Or offer free samples to the first XX people who sign up for your newsletter.
- Post-launch – To see how on target your expectations and predictions actually turned out. After that, it’s up to you to decide at which points you will officially test and re-measure your branding metrics (though analyses should be going on all the time, behind the scenes).
If you don’t adopt this process, no matter how wildly successful you are at launch point, inevitably the train runs off the rails, sabotaged by that absolute enemy of testing, assumption, which always loses you money
Consistency is the second element in brand success. It has to be maintained once those initial tests have shown public acceptance and there are no more bugs to be ironed out.
When you are in your initial planning stages, put serious thought into:
- Which elements in your product should always be consistent… and which can change without negatively affecting sales?
- Which parts of your business offerings should stay consistent, and where to plan for growth and expansion?
- How you will maintain consistency?
- Which elements your target market wants always kept “the same?”
- How you will maintain consistency during expansion?
The elements to consider should always include Brand logo, fonts, colors, taste, graphics, scents, textures, tag-lines, symbols, text elements, and presentation.
Testing and making sure you invite engagement and feedback will help you define the answers to the above questions – without the need for a crystal ball.
When you have all these elements taken care of, and you have followed these steps and procedures, you will only then begin to build true brand familiarity.
Just when you think everything is going really well, that is the time to take a good, hard look and strip away anything that is detracting from your brand.
Refining might mean increasing focus on a successful tagline or adding products to reinforce a personification, just like Travelocity did with their “Roaming Gnome” product line, or crystallizing and concentrating all of your efforts towards a particular market segment.
In the latter case, this could mean any of the following:
- A hidden market you’ve discovered
- A wildly successful market segment that is buying beyond your expectations
- A moneyed market segment that is converting below expectations
- The market for a higher ticket upgrade of your product that is converting below expectations
In each case, you would tweak either your product or your promotional strategies to better please and reach the problem or desired market segment.
It might also be simply a case of making the most of a branding element that has turned out to be a runaway success.
We’ve already more than touched on pre-testing, testing and narrowing your brand target in order to increase both brand recognition and returns.
Here are some strategies (many which are free) that you can easily employ to create an extensive initial campaign:
- Direct marketing (postcards, flyers)
- Social networking integration
- Article marketing
- Physical, local public events
- PPC Advertising
- YouTube videos
- Email campaigns
- Pinterest Pinboards
- Charity sponsorship
Measure which of these strategies bring the most recognition and return, and narrow your focus to increasing those particular strategies. Always consider your return on investment (ROI) when instituting paid strategies such as PPC advertising. Do the math!
By now you should also have a good idea of some of the common mistakes that people make, including:
- Not doing adequate primary research
- Not doing adequate secondary research
- Not pre-testing
- Not maintaining testing
- Not observing feedback and response
- Not measuring results
- Not focusing on consistency
But there are also grey areas to navigate with caution. For example, if you decide to use any object, whether fantasy-based or natural, as a branding symbol for your product or company, be very careful you are not infringing on another company’s trademark, icon or branding symbol. And this happens more often than you might think… even at top levels.
So be sure that you own the rights to all artwork, characters, logos, symbols, images and names that you create.
Be sure that all artists or writers sign contracts or release forms stipulating the work they do for you is a “work-for-hire,” releasing all rights.
If you use stock photos, make sure you have purchased the proper licensing. The $1 or $2 fee you’ll pay for using a photo one-time-only in your blog is far different from the $250-$1,500 licensing fee you might be required to upgrade to if you wish to use the image or symbol in a large-scale commercial enterprise.
You may also find yourself with the boot on the other foot with someone stealing your branding logo or symbol. Having legal copyright is not always foolproof, especially in a case where someone blatantly steals your creations. Trademarks work much better.
However, your best protection is to watch out for and avoid those assumption. That’s where most people run into trouble. They assume that Aflac won’t mind if you use a duck that barks instead of quacks. They assume no one will notice if you use a purple gecko that speaks Pig-Latin. They assume that by using “free clipart” it’s free to commercial enterprises (they don’t bother to read the fine print stating that states it’s “only for personal use.”)
Be careful, because you never know when assumptions will bite you in the ass.
So in conclusion, branding is all about the perfect marriage between process and inspiration.
Process without inspiration results in a cold and dull campaign, guaranteed to capture only a small portion of the market.
Inspiration without process, even meticulously carried out with attention and care, is a sure-fire recipe for failure.
So be sure to combine both process and inspiration in your business, and you’ll be well on the road to business branding success, while becoming the celebrity.
We’ve talked about some of the top branded names in the industry – AFLAC, IKEA, MADD, Coca Cola, etc. Each company, whether they use their real name or a variation of their name, is known for something specific. The collected elements for each company defines their brand.
If you choose not to brand yourself as an expert in your niche, you will just become another “Jack/Jill of all Trades, the Master/Mistress of None.”
If that happens, you can be assured that people will never remember you, nor will you ever be recognized as an authority.
You’ve worked so hard to get your company up and running, so why wouldn’t you want to be known as the authority?
Keep in mind that people fail when they decide to open a business, whether it be on-line or off-line, because they have this pre-conceived notion that they can formulate a brand that is generic and incorporates everything.
Your brand needs to focus directly on your specific market, and be easily recognized.
Once you have acknowledged who you are with your brand, then, and only then should you branch out into another market.
Don’t let the “shiny objects” distract you. Stay focused on who you are and what you want to accomplish. Once you are sure of your identity make it known, clear and concisely, to the world.
Become the brand that you are proud of.
Become the Celebrity everyone wants to know and work with.
It’s your destiny.