When you’re creating and growing your business, building a strong brand is important.
Your brand effects how people view your business and your purpose; how they’ll identify you online and in your industry; whether or not they will connect with your business and what you stand for; and how they share your business with their colleagues, friends and family.
Building a brand (or repositioning a brand) isn’t about having a designer create a fancy logo or about what your business says you stand for.
Building a brand is making a promise to your audience about your business and establishing the core values that you will live and practice in your business every day.
Your brand isn’t what you say it is. Your brand is ultimately defined by what people think and how people feel when they see or hear your business’s name or interact with you.
That’s why it’s so important that you take the time to build your brand the right way.
I’ve put together what I believe is the framework to building a strong brand, which you can think of like a pyramid.
What your brand is made up of: Your brand pyramid
Your brand attributes are at the base of your brand pyramid, and they include a combination of what makes your business different from other businesses that might be offering the same types of products and services that you do, and also the values that your business runs on.
Your attributes should also be able to talk to your experience in your industry or niche (are you an established leader, or new to the game?)
Brand Attributes checklist
What are your core values?
What are your unique selling points?
What’s your experience within the industry or niche?
To give you a couple of examples of what some Brand Attributes might look like, let’s first establish that each of your attributes will make the statement: “We are _______.”
Your positioning statement is the next level of the pyramid and should be aspirational, yet realistic. In other words, don’t go saying a bunch of stuff about your business and what you provide to your audience that isn’t true.
It can, and should be forward leaning, but it should not be a straight-up lie.
For example, if you oftentimes have dissatisfied customers who say your online shipping process is horrible, then your positioning statement should not include something like “We’re passionate about ensuring our online shipping process is perfect every time.”
While you probably wouldn’t include something this precise in your positioning statement, I wanted to use something very relatable just as an example.
If you were to include this in your positioning statement, several of your customers who have experienced something different know it’s just not true. If you say it anyway, then your customers who have experienced something different will not trust anything else that your brand says it is.
How people should think and feel about your business
The next level of the pyramid is not a mission or vision statement. This is so you can understand what it is you’re trying to emulate through your brand.
If people should be happy and feel carefree and uplifted after seeing your logo, then you probably don’t want to include black and red coloring with negative symbols in it.
While your logo isn’t the only piece of this equation, it’s oftentimes the thing people will identify you by when they’re first getting to know you.
Another example of this might be that you want people to think and feel that your business is very professional. If this is the case, then it may not be the best practice for you to have no uniformity across your website pages, and so on.
The next level on the pyramid is your voice, and this is all about your brand personality. Your voice should define the following:
- Your business’s overall attitude, tone, and feel; and
- Clarity, volume, and emotion (these are also some things that will effect how people think and feel about your business).
Is your business spunky and loud, or a little more relaxed? Does your business like to make jokes, or would you prefer to be straight business at all times?
The next level of the pyramid is your brand essence, and this is just what it sounds like: the heart and soul of your brand that should encompass what you stand for and the feelings that your business evokes.
Why does someone visit Disneyland? Because it’s the happiest, most magical place on earth, and when you’re there you will be spending time with your family and having a lot of fun.
I’m willing to bet Disneyland’s brand essence is something along the lines of “Magical family fun”.
Your key messages are the next level of the pyramid, and these are typically used across all of your communications for brand consistency. Have a handful of them written down so that when you’re creating advertising or marketing campaigns you can refer to your brand’s key messages for help.
An example of this might be:
“EntrepreneurOnFire is a daily podcast that features interviews with today’s most inspiring and successful Entrepreneurs 7-days a week.” This is how we talk about our podcast across the board, which creates consistency and helps people remember us.
Tagline & logo
Your tagline and logo are the very top of the pyramid and are a very visual and important part of your brand, no doubt. Your tagline and logo should easily translate what it is your business stands for, and what services or products you provide.
Once you have your brand pyramid in place and you’re feeling good about your brand’s framework, it’s time to start sharing! Brand awareness is an important step in the process; because if no one knows your brand exists, then it’s not doing you much good to build it in the first place.
Keep in mind that you’ll be sharing your brand in everything that you do. When you post on social media, when you publish a podcast episode, when you write a new blog post – all of these things combined go into creating a brand experience for your audience.
Some ways you can start building brand awareness are through sharing your brand on social media (having a presence there is the first step); advertising (digital or print); and also through remarketing campaigns, which target specific users across the Internet and serve up your brand for them to see (this can be done through Google).
So now that you have an idea of what your brand’s framework consists of, let’s look at a few tips that can help you maintain your brand over time.
Maintaining your brand
What you have to do for your brand on an ongoing basis
1. Provide great content your audience wants
If you start creating content, products or offering services that your audience doesn’t want, then you’re not going to go very far.
Your brand has to represent value to your audience; if you are not able to provide them something of value, then you’re not going to be building a strong brand in their eyes.
2. Extend excellent customer service
No one wants to be treated poorly. Treat every single customer (and potential customer, alike) as if they’re the only one and they won’t forget it. Excellent service is a prime trigger that every brand should strive to be remembered by.
3. Build and maintain strong relationships
Creating a connection between you and your audience is a very important step to making your brand “sticky”. When you open up and start to build relationships with your audience, they’ll start to associate feelings of “like” and “trust” with your brand, ensuring that your business is top-of-mind next time someone brings up a need for a product or service you provide.
4. Demonstrate your core values
The core values that you establish for your brand should be ones you and your employees are living every single day. Break your core values, and risk losing all trust with those audience members who demand the best from your brand.
How marketing can help
Surprise! You don’t have to do ALL the work yourself to maintain a strong brand. Marketing can help, if done the right way.
5. Find your why
Why should people turn to you instead of someone else?
What are you offering them that they can’t find anywhere else?
What is your unique selling proposition, and how can you express that through your logo, tagline or other marketing materials?
Your brand has to represent all of these things, and marketing can help. Once you’ve established the “why”, then build your marketing campaigns around that idea or theme.
6. Make a promise
Marketing gives you the ability to make a promise through your campaigns (in your tagline, or theme line), and once it’s out in the world via your website or social media, you then have the opportunity to fulfill that promise.
Apple Computers uses the tagline “Think Different”, and with every new release or new gadget they come out with, they’re evoking the spirit of “Think Different”. They’ve made a promise, and they continue to deliver on it every time they come out with something new.
7. Be consistent
You have to build trust (and with trust comes loyalty) with your audience, and the only way you’re going to be able to fully succeed at doing this is by being consistent.
Your actions are a direct reflection of your brand. An example? When you check the box for 2-day delivery through Amazon, you trust that you’re going to get your order in 2 days. When people can trust that you’ll actually do what you say you’ll do, then they will be loyal to your brand.
Your industry and your audience are in full control of your brand. You can follow every single step here and have your brand all mapped out, but if your audience, customers, or whoever else interacts with your brand doesn’t believe that your brand stands for what you say it stands for, they’re in control.
If this is happening – your audience doesn’t believe your brand is what you say it is – then something is wrong.
Either you’re making promises or building attributes that are not true, or something is wrong with the processes you have in place, and that is causing your promises to not come through.
You should constantly be re-evaluating your brand through interactions with your audience and your customers. If something isn’t working, then refocus and find ways to fix it or make it better.
This is not a one-and-done type of exercise. A brand is not something you can create and just throw up on your website in the form of a logo and tagline.
Your brand takes work, and your brand is affected by everything you do in your business, every single day.
Be smart about how you treat your brand, and don’t forget to listen to your audience. Once you get their feedback, you should be jumping right back into the cycle of improving upon the things that need work.
Building brand loyalty
Brand loyalty is something every business strives for.
Because brand loyalty is when your customers turn to you for resources, help, products, services, anything before they even think about going anywhere else.
Brand loyalty is when your customers recommend your brand to their friends because they trust you and the products and services that you offer.
Brand loyalty is a customer talking highly about your brand when they aren’t being prompted to do so.
I like to think of the actual process of building brand loyalty as a marathon – not a sprint. As with most things that happen in the world of an entrepreneur, it’s not about how quickly you can finish; it’s about making sure you take action to get yourself to the next step, and then the next one, and then the next one.
Brand loyalty isn’t something you can rush, especially if your brand is young. But you can follow some pretty simple steps to make sure you’re on the right path to building a brand that people will love.
Here they are:
Get your employees on board
Even if you’re a solopreneur, this applies to you, too. Ensure that you and your employees (if applicable) know and understand what your brand stands for, are on board with what it stands for, and feel as though they are an active part of the brand itself.
Equip them with the information, resources and knowledge they need about your brand. Once you’ve done that, rally around them and get them pumped up and excited about what it is that your brand stands for.
Are you all about inspiring people and motivating them to build a business that will one day afford them the freedom they’ve always dreamed of? Uummm, that’s awesome! Who wouldn’t be excited about that?
Once you and your employees are on board, you’ll all be excited to contribute to the brand in a positive way.
Get your audience on board
Does your audience see your brand the same way that you do?
It’s important to be sure you’re on the same page, because if your audience thinks one way about your brand, and you’re preaching something totally different about your brand, then it’s going to be difficult to build brand loyalty.
Ever heard the term “Brand Advocate”? It essentially defines a person who not only understands and is willing to represent your brand, but who will speak highly of it, recommend it, and sell it for you.
Customers who find value in the products and services you provide are oftentimes those who can be considered brand advocates. When you provide value to your customers through your brand, they’re more than happy to recommend you to others who might find the same value in your brand that they do.
In today’s social-centric universe, online communities are becoming more and more popular. Having brand advocates is a very effective way to market your brand and be top-of-mind – at no monetary cost to you.
Treat every audience and customer interaction as if it were the only interaction you have to win that person over – even if it’s the 20th time you’ve spoken to them. Having brand advocates is truly priceless.
Continue to build trust through consistency & transparency
Trust is so, so, so, so, so, so key. There are several ways you can go about building trust with your audience, and one way is through consistency (sound familiar?)
Prove to your audience that you are going to do what you say you’ll do.
Example: If you’re opening a restaurant and you promise that every time someone walks through the door they will be greeted with a smile and a secret handshake, then you better make sure that happens every single time.
A completely different example: if you have an opt-in page on your website that says “Sign up for our email list and receive a 2-part course on building your audience free!“, then when that person signs up, you better be sending them that 2-part course for free.
Starting a podcast that you’ve promised will come out every Wednesday? You’ve got it: be sure that podcast is out every single Wednesday.
If someone orders something through your website, and they receive this amazing email with a personal thank you note from you, and then a follow-up email a week later to see how the product is working out for them, then they’re probably going to expect that consistent, stellar customer service from you in the future.
Being consistent with your service and the value that you provide will help you build trust with your customers.
No one likes a liar, and secrets don’t make friends. Let your customers in on what’s going on behind the curtain.
Don’t make them feel left out of your brand, and don’t make them feel as though they have to guess at what you’re trying to pull over there in that studio of yours…
If you can make your customers feel as though they’re a part of your business – like maybe they know about a certain way you run your marketing campaigns, or the way you have a particular system set up – then they’re going to feel as though they have a special connection with you.
You’ve shared something with them that maybe not everyone knows about, and this can also build trust. Your customers will start to trust you because they know you’re not trying to hide anything.
We do this in several different ways here at EntrepreneurOnFire, like with our Monthly Income Reports where we share our lessons learned, our failures and what’s working for us in an attempt to help you learn from our mistakes and get to where you’re headed faster.
Building brand loyalty will not happen overnight.
The obvious: you have to have an audience in order to build brand loyalty.
So if you’re just starting out, then don’t think that you’ve missed all these important steps along the way – these are things you should be doing in your business forever.
You are in the midst of creating an amazing business that is going to provide amazing value to your audience. Believe this.
Continue doing what you’re doing with as much passion and drive and motivation as possible, stay true to your authentic self, and you’ll gain loyal followers who love your brand.
While we’re on the topic of growing your business, let’s continue down The Fire Path to our next topic: growing your audience.
This is Chapter 9 of The Fire Path, A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Your Online Business. Click here to grab The Fire Path in its entirety!
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