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If you haven’t created a brand strategy and an execution plan for your brand, you may be missing out on building brand equity, growing your reach and attracting the right customers. You also may be wasting money by throwing it at random initiatives hoping something sticks. To grow your brand and your customer base, spend some time outlining your brand strategy.

Here are 5 things you have to understand before you design your brand strategy.

1. You are branding whether you know it or not.

What is the one thing that all brands have in common? What are they all doing (or attempting to do) in person, on their websites, on social media, via mail and email, on billboards and via mass media advertising?

They are COMMUNICATING! They are communicating their brand to people who they hope will ultimately buy their products and services. They are branding their businesses regardless of whether they’ve “done branding” or not.  

They may be communicating completely haphazard messages to nonspecific audiences on unimportant channels, or they may have a cohesive brand strategy that allows them to consistently communicate well-formulated messages aimed at their target audiences on the channels where those audiences are presentat the time and in the manner that their audiences will receive the message.

Which brands do you think stand a better chance of getting customers in the door?

2. Customers are on a journey to solve their problem.

It’s your job to help them find you.

We have to remember: there is so much noise in our lives, we are not going to naturally care about any one brand! Brands have to cause us to care. And to do that, they have to get to know us, they have to understand what our “pain points” are, what makes us look for what they offer and what makes us buy. 

Not only that, brands need to know where we are in our buying journey.

Are we just looking for solutions?

Are we comparing solutions?

Do we even know we have a problem yet?

Are we deciding to pull out our credit card?

You need cohesive and consistent messaging for each stage of the buyer journey and this messaging has to find us just at the right time!

 

A customer is like an avocado:

Not ready, not ready, not ready, not ready, not ready… Ready…Too Late. 

We are looking, thinking, studying and deciding. And then – BAM! – something happens and we’ve made our decision, and one lucky brand takes home the cash. It may take us months to research the solutions to our problems, but the decision happens seemingly in an instant!

 These decisions are made on emotion! Emotion is what drives us as consumers. We are not looking for features, we are looking for solutions, – and brands need to communicate to us how their solutions can alleviate our pain points.

 If they fail to connect with us and understand what drives us to seek products and services they offer AND how we as individuals go about seeking them – they WILL NOT get us to buy. They may get us to pay attention, but their message will eventually get lost – because it has not grabbed us. And no matter how well your services may solve our problems, we don’t care about your brand…because you didn’t give us enough reason to take our precious time to listen to your message. 

Make. Us. Care.

Brands are faced with an incredibly difficult task – finding out what each type of buyer persona goes through emotionally at each stage of her buyer journey, and then create and market content that will find these buyer personas exactly where they are at and make their brand the obvious choice.  

 Not only do you have to nail the content, you have to infuse your brand personality, style, voice and tone into the content and reveal your mission, vision and philosophy though the words and images that you share with the world.

3. Your customers want to know what you stand for

 

Did you know? 64% of people cite shared values as the main reason they have a relationship with a brand.

 

Do you see what this means? 6 out of 10 people buy from whichever brands they buy from because they believe the same things as these brands. 

Now how do they know if they share a common philosophy or set of values with your brand? 

Well, they don’t. So you need to show them! As part of developing your brand platform, you need to create a clear-cut, well-defined, skillfully worded and painfully relatable set of values. And then you need to weave it into your message and shamelessly share it!

 

Are you consistently broadcasting your values across all of the different customer touchpoints? 

Are you strategically building relationships with your ideal customers? 

Guess what! You don’t have the luxury not to! Why?

Because we have experienced and continue to experience a shift in how we consume products and services. To succeed, you need solid brand messaging, including your brand values. 

4. Branding used to be strictly business-led

When we didn’t have the internet, we didn’t have access to the wealth of information we do now. This meant that companies had free reign to tell us what we needed and why. Sure, we still asked our friends for advice, but today we have rapid-response social technology that delivers us dozens of opinions in a matter of minutes – and that’s only from the people we asked. Now, how many reviews can you read in 10 minutes? We can make snap decisions about brands in seconds. Seconds! 

 Consumers have information at their fingertips on a variety of devices and they are the most educated they have ever been! They do their own research on your brand’s website, then they read reviews on Amazon, Yelp, Angie’s List, your Facebook page or wherever. And then they seek – what? They seek  social proof!

Consider this example:

What do you do when your old washer breaks?

Do you just run to the store to buy another one? Not likely.

What’s likely is you tap on your iphone or galaxy and you do research. How do you do research? You enter keywords into some sort of a search engine, right? 

You want your next washer to last, so you may enter something like “best washer”

or if you are a fan of particular brand, you may try “whirlpool washer”

or if you know you want a front-loader you may try “best whirlpool front-loader”.

You may even try this for the top 5 brands that come to mind. 

Next,

With all your 20 tabs open, you will run to Facebook and say something like:

“My washer finally broke {sad face}. Looking for a new one. What does everyone recommend?”

Does this sound familiar? 

As consumers, we are more in charge than ever before.

5. Branding is now consumer-led!

Yes, branding is no longer about blindly pushing how great you are. It’s about giving savvy consumers exactly what they expect from your brand so they can make their decision. They expect the right information, at the right time, on the right channels, in the right format. They expect that you understand their problem on an intimate level, that you are present where they are present and that you have the things they need to look at to make up their mind. Think this is a tall order? It’s not. And these expectations are getting higher by the minute.

This means that most brands who don’t have a customer-driven strategy will fail – they will be drowned out by those who do.

“Branding” is not just your business name, logo and slogan. It’s what’s at the core of your brand and what your target audiences see and feel when they meet and engage with your brand.

Customers connect with brands on an emotional level, so you have to dig deep to find where different target audiences will make that connection. 

How do you cope with a consumer-driven economy? You give them what they need! 

  • They want to feel empowered by having access to the most helpful content. – Be the one to give it to them!
  • They want social proof. – Create it and place it at their fingertips!

But what content should you create? And where are your customers’ fingertips exactly? Those are exactly the questions a brand strategy will answer for you! This, my friends, is BRANDING.

You may be wondering how the strategy really affects your business in ‘real life”…

 

LET’S RUN THROUGH A VERY SHORT EXERCISE.

Imagine you are on the road. You’ve been driving since early morning and you haven’t had breakfast yet. The coffee in your travel mug got cold and it tastes gross. You feel like you may start drifting any moment. And then you see them. The 2 yellow arches. What do you think? You think that you may actually make it to your destination because there is hot coffee, there’s familiar food and there’s a bathroom. You don’t think about McDonalds’ net worth, or the color of its cups, or its mission and vision. You do, however, think you can solve all your problems at once. You know you won’t have to wait long for your food and you probably already know what you’ll order and what exactly it will taste like. Right? 

Now let’s visit McDonald website for a lesson in history… What was McDonalds’ founder’s brand philosophy? 

Ray Kroc wanted to build a restaurant system that would be famous for providing food of consistently high quality and uniform methods of preparation. He wanted to serve burgers, buns, fries and beverages that tasted just the same in Alaska as they did in Alabama. 

 

Do you see? He decided he wanted to create consistency and set expectations and then put systems in place to make sure those expectations could be met by franchisees across the globe. 

You have to have a strategy. Ray Kroc didn’t just run to a bank one day to buy a building because “he wanted to open a restaurant.” He developed a brand philosophy first. HE CREATED SOMETHING THAT HE COULD USE AS A BASIS FOR BRANDING.

 

Start by defining your brand and formulating your message

When I work with startups, I go through the branding process before we ever develop a business name, let alone create a logo. I help clients formulate their brand philosophy, their core brand qualities, unique selling propositions, brand personality and everything else they need to be successful. To make sure their message is not lost… 

When I work with established brands, I conduct a review of their brand and fill in the gaps in messaging and strategy.

If you haven’t gone through this kind of branding process before, you are not alone! Most brands I encounter have not done this work. It’s not your fault. Nobody teaches this at school. And the majority of branding companies I meet focus on design. There’s nothing wrong with that either. It just means that the responsibility of doing deep branding work, defining your ideal customers, formulating your brand strategy and articulating your message falls on you. And it can be overwhelming. 

My mission in life is helping overwhelmed entrepreneurs develop complete, cohesive, professional brands that have a personality, a voice, a clear purpose and a brilliantly articulated message and strategy, so they can feel confident in their brand and know exactly what steps to take to grow.

Right now, I work with clients 1-to-1 and take them from brand shame to brand pride, so they can finally market with confidence. I have several courses in the works so if you love to save money by  DIY-ing your business – you’ll have my step-by-step “kits” to get your branding done and still have access to me for support, in case you need it. 


Need to develop or review your brand and strategy? Don’t hesitate to reach out! I’d love to chat with you about your brand, give you feedback and see if I can help. You can schedule a Brand Assessment or just send me a message if you have a question.

Building or growing a business? Feel like branding can finally blow your business wide open? Take the next step! Download my brand checklist!