You’re starting your small business, a passion project that you’ve dreamed about forever. You’ve perfected your product or service, you’ve started setting up your shopfront, and you’ve got a stellar brand strategy to back your business from the word go.
Wait… Did you say you don’t have a brand strategy for your business?! Well then, you need to press pause on this whole mission, because you’re missing one of the most important pieces of your puzzle!
Your brand is your reputation. And not approaching it strategically is asking to fumble the bag. That’s why we’ve created this step-by-step guide to build the manifesto that will drive your business!
What Is A Brand Strategy?
A brand strategy is, at its core, a master plan of action that helps you build and nurture your business.
Your business needs this master plan because cobbling together a brand identity on the go is the easiest way to watch your hard work go up in flames. All because you didn’t define:
Specific, pre-defined goals that direct your business — vision, mission, et al.
Your plan to turn these goals into short and long-term tasks which can be taken up by the various departments in your company.
How you will implement these tasks to achieve customer satisfaction, industry advantage, and financial success.
So if you’re in the market for any of the things mentioned in the third point, you have to put together a strong brand strategy that helps you make the right moves!
Brand Strategy Checklist
Your brand strategy will precede – and often predict – your business’ performance. So a good strategy should:
Emphasise how you empathise with your customer’s needs
Position your brand values to be distinct and memorable
Be flexible and dynamic, and grow with the customer base
Small businesses (especially) need a strong brand map. Why? When a big player in the game (say, Frito-Lay) launches a new product (say: a new type of potato chip), they don’t need to do the groundwork of convincing people of their brand.
A small business launching a similar product will have to convince potential customers that not only is their product good, it can also add unique value to their lives. But that’s about benefiting customers. How exactly will your small business benefit from a brand strategy?
Benefits Of Building A Brand Strategy
There are dozens of reasons a brand strategy ranks high on the hierarchy of small business needs, but here are some of the top reasons.
Customers are people, and they attach themselves to products and services that have a meaning that they resonate with. A brand strategy will convey this meaning, giving your business a depth that will drive not only sales, but also the rest of the stuff on this list!
Two: Nurturing Recognition
Ubiquity, or turning your brand into a keyword, is a highly coveted reward for any business. But it is hard to earn, and it requires a solid brand strategy to be able to make it happen.
Once you nurture recognition, the next step to becoming a credible player in your industry is to make sure that customers correlate your brand with positive ideas and experiences. A brand strategy is often the unsuspecting shopfront for your business, and it does a lot of heavy lifting by amplifying the value customers have received from your product or service!
Four: Constructing Credibility
The consumer market is tough to crack, especially if your product or service feels shady and untrustworthy. Conveying trust is one of the top powers a brand strategy has; especially for small businesses who don’t have the backing of massive corporations!
Five: Creating Consistency
Having a cohesive brand strategy helps you communicate with your customers more clearly. The more consistent your messaging, the more likely you are to attract and maintain a customer base.
Six: Inspiring Customer Loyalty
When you build a relationship with your customers that is based on positive reinforcement, they will patronise your business regularly because they will connect with you on an emotional level.
Seven: Growing Employee Satisfaction
Lastly, looking inwards, a brand strategy is the guiding light for you and your employees. Knowing what the goals are, and what tasks need to be done to achieve them, helps create concrete objectives for employees to work towards. Incentivising these objectives will help employees (and you) feel motivated and satisfied!
So how does a small business go about building this much-needed, rock-solid brand strategy?
How To Start Building A Brand Strategy
Creating a blueprint is always going to involve some level of ye olde try and test, but here are some things to put to paper - to make the process smoother!
Step 1: Identify Your Target Customers
Whom do you want buying the product? What needs of theirs are you fulfilling? What will motivate them to buy your product?
Use this data to determine:
Tone: Whether your messaging is youthful, evergreen, fun, staid, and so on
Message: What you say and how it can be tailored to meet the audience halfway
Focus: Where to expend time, energy, and resources to achieve your goals
Budget: How much you want to spend on what (marketing, packaging, and so on)
Step 2: Research Competitors
What are other players in your industry doing? How have they positioned themselves? What campaigns have they created? Have they found and secured their customers?
This will help you:
See what they have done right (and wrong!)
Differentiate your brand from theirs
Craft a unique position for your brand
Step 3: Create Value Propositions
If you’re not adding value, your product or service is just taking up shelf space. And if you’re adding value, and not communicating it, then your product or service is… you got it: taking up shelf space!
Avoid this catch. Develop statements that highlight the value of your product or service, and build your marketing, packaging, and shopfront around them.
These statements should emphasise:
Function: What the product or service does
Intent: The pain points it aims to resolve
Delivery: How it aims to address the pain points
Emotion: The connection you want to build with your customers
Step 4: Set Brand Guidelines
Brand guidelines are key to achieving all the benefits of strategising: Recognition, credibility, consistency, loyalty.
Creating a one-stop-shop for any branding-related concerns that you may have is a sure-shot way to keep your business front from becoming scattered and discombobulated.
Start a document, put down every single thing that relates to your brand strategy — from audience personas to brand font and colours, from value statements to influencer specification.
Step 5: Keep It S.M.A.R.T.
Even a strategy needs to be made strategically, and a brand strategy is only as good as it is S.M.A.R.T.:
Specific: No ambiguity, complete clarity
Measurable: Criteria to test for success
Achievable: Aspirational without being unrealistic
Relevant: Purposeful and connected to your values
Timely: Using short-term tasks to meet long-term goals
Step 6: Avoid Strategy Stagnancy
Don’t just make a strategy and move on. Sit with your strategy often. Test to see if it works, keep testing it, and refine it to match market and customer needs. Reevaluate it at every junction of growth. Never hesitate to pivot or reimagine it when the market trends do, and endeavour to keep it fresh.
There is no blueprint for blueprints. And no single strategy to build the perfect brand strategy. But there are best practices, and they work best when practiced. So un-fumble that bag, develop your brand strategy, and let your small business have a taste of sweet, sweet success!
The Invisible Paintbrush is a small agency for small businesses that offers end to end marketing services for pre-launch & early-stage start-ups, solopreneurs, family businesses, freelancers, and more. If you enjoy reading our articles, follow us on LinkedIn or Instagram to keep receiving updates! To share this article, use the social icons below: