“If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” Howard Shultz, CEO Starbucks.
Big brands do it and so can small and medium-sized businesses. Defining, and importantly, consistently executing your brand strategy: a plan for building a lasting and successful brand; will give your company focus, give your employees clear direction and promote customer satisfaction, driving loyalty and supporting new customer acquisition.
Though we must point out we’re not suggesting a small business should replicate the marketing activities of large businesses (for example, with big brand awareness campaigns). We’re simply advising that utilising a bespoke brand strategy, one that shows the personality of your business, and is embedded across all areas of your business, will help any sized business to build a more successful, long-lasting brand.
So what is a brand and how do you develop your brand strategy?
There are many definitions of a brand and here we’re not talking about the colour or shape of your company logo, nor making reference to tactical marketing activities, such as why your latest tweet didn’t get any likes or comments; but what your business truly represents. How your business is perceived in the market. How your customers feel when they deal with you. How they may describe you. Your businesses’ own individual style, its personality. That is your brand. Its what sets apart Volvo from Volkswagen, makes Apple synonymous with innovation and design and makes Ikea accessible to the masses.
And a great brand plan will cover the following elements, bringing to life all facets of your brand:
- Your purpose: what your business stands for. It’s core focus that sets you apart from your competitors. The reason for your existence may be purely financial, or perhaps twofold, incorporating both commercial success whilst doing good in the world. We, of course, admire the brands that do the latter. Defining your core purpose, your positioning statement, your company vision, mission and values can help your brand to connect with both your employees and customers on a greater and more emotional level, helping you to stand out from the rest.
- Your goals: what are you looking to achieve? What resources and tactics do you need to support your goals? The brand strategy should engage all areas of the business such as marketing, sales, customer service, operations, H.R. and product development, ensuring they are aligned, detailing what each business area needs to do to ensure the plan’s success.
- Your competitive advantage: identify and understand your target market, what your customers want, what drives them to purchase, and what the brand’s capabilities are now and in the long term. Don’t forget to review external factors that may affect the business too. Review your competitors and the future landscape of the sector you’re in.
Then, and most importantly, once you’ve written your brand plan, gain engagement for this across your entire organisation. Appealing to your customers on both emotional and commercial levels needs commitment from all your colleagues and communicating consistently across all employee and customer touch points. Implementing your brand strategy is undoubtedly a long-term activity, yet one that can add serious value to your business, helping to enhance your brand’s credibility and your bottom line.