Running a business is more than ever a cutthroat adventure.
To succeed, you need to stand-out, to show how different and better you are from your competitors:
You need to be able to clearly present a unique value proposition and distinctive identity so to be immediately recognized by your clientele among those in the same business line as yours.
This is the reason why you need to develop a strong brand backed up by impeccable quality:
A successful brand will attract customers to your business, but only perfect quality standards implementation will bring them back.
“A brand is the perception someone holds in their head about you, a product, a service, an organization, a cause, or an idea. Brand building is the deliberate and skillful application of effort to create a desired perception in someone else’s mind,” Branders’ CEO, Jerry McLaughlin says.
In other words, branding is manipulating your audience mind so that they clearly believe that your company, your products or even yourself (never underestimate the power of self-branding) are / is the solution to their conscious or unconscious desires – desires that are also built from nowhere whenever required.
Apple is the perfect example of a brand that is more important in the mind of their customers than the products and services they are selling – this is the reason why despite their recent quality-related flaws (i.e. iOS 10, iPhone 7, only to list a few), their followers are not failing them.
It is branding perfection!
No one else in the entire world achieved the level of branding excellence that Apple did; not even close.
It doesn’t mean that you cannot follow their steps as best as you can.
Let’s look at what needs to be done to build a successful brand.
1. Know your clientele
Top brands have a comprehensive knowledge of the demographics of their target audience:
What their interests are, how they communicate, what are their favorite colors, which age group they belong to, etc.
If you want to address your message to too many, no one will hear you.
Find out who your product may appeal to, and talk to this audience only.
Ever wondered why some companies developed so many brands?
Because each address one audience, and one only.
To attract another group of clientele, they developed another brand, and another, and another…
Choosing the right branding strategy requires first understanding the target audience.
2. Be different
To create a brand identity, you need to show how different you are from your competitors.
If you’re the same, why should they bring their business to you?
Let’s get back to the Apple example.
They first differentiated themselves with their products innovative aesthetic – at a time when the PC universe was a world of boring grey cubes, Apple came with fancy and colorful designs:
Their computers were not for specialists anymore; they talked to everyone.
At the end of the day, Apple was selling computers as their PC counterparts did.
But they were different.
It was even their slogans for many years, ‘Think different’.
In a different line of business - pizza delivering.
What differentiated a pizza delivery company from another?
That’s the question Domino’s Pizza asked.
Their answer came: deliver in 30 minutes or less or the pizza is free.
They were the first and it made them the world leading pizza delivery company – and they still are!
Being different does not mean that you need to revolutionize your industry.
It only means that it allows you to stand out against your competition:
It is so simple, and yet it is so rewarding!
When you build your brand strategy, this is where you need to start from.
3. Live it!
Developing a brand is a very technical thing.
But making it successful in the long run is more about passion than technicality.
Of course, your brand will go through strong turbulences – and very often a lot more downs than ups.
Particularly when you come with an idea that differentiates yourself from competitors so well that they will eventually all copy you (look at the 30 minutes’ pizza delivery policy for instance: they all do it now!).
If you’re not passionate, if you don’t live your brand, you’ll be very soon crushed by competitors more ardent than you.
Passion will allow you to rebound as often as necessary so to allow your brand to always be one step ahead from its competitors.
We discussed it in the past:
A brand is a promise.
When customers purchase your products or services, they expect that their experience will match what was promised.
Even more challenging:
Repeated sales are possible only if the promise is kept again and again, as often as your customers are coming back to you.
Customers do not care about your internal issues.
They expect the same standards of quality every time they need your business.
This is the reason why you must develop strong operating and quality standards, training programs, etc. to sustain your brand’s promise so to ensure that customers’ expectations are always met, no matter of what.
Look at Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola, for instance:
Regardless where they are produced and consumed, all over the world they taste exactly the same.
Brand promise: checked!
5. Be the best
Every line of business, every successful company is strongly branded those days.
It is getting more and more difficult to be noticed.
To build a name for yourself, it is a team work; not a marketing ‘sand box’, but the responsibility of the entire team from the storekeeper to the quality control auditor.
If you look at the world’s most successful brands, you will notice few constant fundamentals:
Implementing these fundamentals allows the brand to remain at the cutting edge of its industry.
6. Be seen
It is getting more and more difficult to reach your customers; it is not like less than a decade ago when you only had to choose between three or four options such as newspaper and magazine ads, billboards and radio and TV messages.
Today, you must add social media and other online presence.
It is another reason why you need to know exactly your targeting clientele:
You need to know their habits, their preferred channels of information, etc.
Then only can you decide how to direct your messages.
Also, keep in mind that social media and the Internet have narrowed the difference between small businesses and large ones.
On the other hand, communicating online has a cost and like in the ‘old world’, major corporations have a substantial amount of cash to spend online.
Therefore, you need to choose wisely where to spend your hard-earned money.
Also, look at the clientele demographics of these online companies:
In some markets, Facebook is leading while in others Twitter, for instance, is preferred.
LinkedIn will be favored to communicate with professionals, while you will give priority to Instagram, for example, if you want to attract a younger clientele.
Once more, it goes down to knowing your target market.
Don’t try to be everywhere: it would be too expensive and counterproductive.