Designing a Brand Blueprint
Before you put your sign out front, publish your website, or even utter a word about your business, you have to build a brand. This is the foundation of your business. If you’re thinking ‘uh oh I’ve already opened my business but I know I didn’t build a brand,’ don’t worry. Yes, you need to pedal backward a bit and create your base, but it’s completely possible with the right motivation.
What is Branding?
Don’t confuse branding with marketing. Yes, it’s a common mistake, but it’s one of the worst mistakes you can make for your business. Branding IS NOT marketing – yes, the two strategies when combined work amazing. They bring in traffic, leads and customers, but without the right branding message, you won’t bring in that traffic or if you do, it won’t be around long.
Branding is your mission. It’s what makes you different from all of the other businesses out there. It’s what makes you stand out. If you haven’t even started thinking about your brand, use these questions to help drive you:
- Why are you different? What will you offer that differs from what others in your industry offer?
- What do you want people to think of your business?
- What images or feelings do you want to bring to people’s minds?
Overall, branding creates a feeling. It’s your identity to the customer. Here are a few examples:
- Think of Starbucks. What comes to mind? Coziness, excitement, a feeling of belonging, and luxury are probably just a few. Yes, people pay crazy prices for what comes down to a cup of coffee, but it’s not just about the coffee – it’s about the branding. It’s the feeling people get when they think of Starbucks, say its name, or talk about going there.
- Think of Walmart, TJ Maxx or H&M now. You probably don’t get the same feelings or visions, right? It’s not a bad thing. They aren’t bad stores. They just cater to a different demographic. They have a different mission. They want people to walk out of their stores thinking ‘gosh, I just got the best deal, what a value!’
These two brands are completely different and yet they have so much in common. They are both strong brands that cater to their beliefs and their missions. They instill the feelings in their customers that they want their brand to have.
Think of your branding as your identity to the customer. This is the case whether you sell products or services and whether you operate in person or online. Customers are sizing you up before they enter your store, click on your link and definitely before they make a purchase.
How do you Want to Stand Out?
Here’s the question you need to ask yourself – how do you want to stand out? What do you want your brand to portray? Are you looking to provide the best quality or a more affordable product or service? This is how you speak to the right target audience and how you grow your business.
Believe it or not, your branding speaks much louder than your marketing. You need a brand that speaks to customers – telling them what they want to hear and showing them how they will feel when patronizing your business.
Think of it this way. When you choose your brand or your way to stand out, you create your blueprint. This is the START of your business. It’s the foundation. Can you build a house without a solid foundation? While you might be able to it certainly won’t be steady and won’t last long. No matter the quality of the materials you build the house with, it’s the foundation that lays the land so to speak.
That’s why you need your brand – your way to stand out. Don’t make the mistake of putting marketing first. Marketing doesn’t make you stand out. It just puts your business ‘in the face’ of your audience, but if they don’t know or understand what you’re putting in their face, marketing isn’t going to help on its own.
Branding Takes Work
Yes, branding is a lot of work. It’s the voice of your brand and it’s up to you to create it. You have to create that message or purpose. This is what your marketing will center around and enforce for you but it will NOT create it for you – the branding creates it.
Think of it this way. What is your business brand? Are you looking to be the absolute best? Are you looking to offer luxury and high prices or are you looking for that local mom and pop type establishment that everyone falls in love with and frequents often because of the coziness and the value? Neither one is right or wrong – it’s all about who and what you want to be.
The 11 Necessary Steps
So you probably want a blueprint or a step-by-step instruction manual to help you create your brand, right? I’m here to walk you through it. I will help you get to the heart of what makes you tick – what makes your business unique. At the end of this, you’ll know how to create the reason that people will want to buy from you.
1. Define your brand
This is a journey of business self-discovery. Is it difficult? Yes. Is it time-consuming? Yes. Is it uncomfortable? YES. This is the meat and potatoes of your business though. Think about your mission or your purpose. What is it that you want to accomplish with your business? This is where you need to start. Just start jotting down ideas – brainstorming. Things will come to you once you just start, but you have to give yourself the time and grace to make it happen.
2. Ask yourself what are the benefits and features of the products and services you offer?
What problem does your product or service solve? What feelings does it enlist? What need does it feed? In other words, what do people really get out of what you’re selling and more importantly, what makes it different than all of the others already in the business? What sets you apart – makes you more valuable, better, or more worthy?
3. What do your customers already think of your business?
If you already have a business, these answers are out there. It’s time to take the blinders off and truly see what others think. Do you have a social media page? The answers were there for you then. See what others say about it. Read the reviews and look at comments people leave. Yes, some may be off the wall rude, but there’s some truth to many of them, so check it out. Do you provide surveys to your customers? Read the feedback. Put your ego aside, don’t take it personal, but use the feedback to help you create the brand that people want.
4. What do you want customers to think about your business?
Think about your mission again. Are you looking to be the ‘Ritz Carlton’ in your industry or the ‘Walmart?’ This does not mean one is better than the other – they just each serve different demographics and provide different values. You need to know what values you want your business to offer and then you must do your research. Ask questions of your target audience – find out what they want to make your business truly unique and valuable.
5. Create a clear and compelling vision.
This comes down to you. What is your vision? Why are you going all-in on this? Be loud about it. Tell everyone you know about it and surround yourself with those that truly support your vision. This may be friends and family or it may be complete strangers that you meet in a networking group. Your support may be in-person or it may be online. Join groups, make new friends and put yourself with people that have the same goals, ideas, and motivation.
6. Who is your customer?
This sounds crazy. You probably think, ‘well whoever buys my product is my customer.’ That’s not it though. You need to know who you are targeting, who are you talking to? You need to get intimate with these people. You need to know their problems and figure out how you can solve them. That’s what’s going to set you apart from everyone else.
7. Establish your messaging.
What is your core philosophy? You will need to communicate this through all of your messaging. This includes email, social media, and advertising. It all needs to coincide. Everything you put out there aligns with who and what you are, creating the same feeling whether your customer is reading an email from you or standing in your physical store.
8. Develop your brand creative elements.
This is your visual identity. Think of the colors, font styles, and logos for your business. Your brand voice should be consistent and unique. It should be recognizable. Think of the McDonald’s arches. I’m pretty sure even 1-year olds can recognize those arches. That’s what you want – instant recognition.
9. How can you make your culture, mission, and vision a part of everything that you do?
You need to make everyone around you that supports your business your evangelists. You have to inscribe your mission and culture in everything that has to do with your business so that the message gets out there and stays there.
10. How do you want to serve people?
Customer service is a huge piece of the puzzle. You are in the people business no matter what you sell. Even if you operate only online – there are people behind those computer screens. Don’t worry about numbers, leads, or funnels. Instead, focus on the person that is giving up their hard-earned money and time to patronize your business. Treat each person special and find ways to thank them for choosing your business over all of the others.
11. How can you be uniquely awesome?
This is the bread and butter right here. How can you stand out from your competition? What can you do different that brings value and instills the feelings you want in your target audience? You need clarity and focus here – you don’t want to create the things that are already out there. Don’t duplicate what already exists – find a way to stand out and be uniquely awesome or you’ll find yourself lost in an endless sea. It takes focus and consistency.
Take the time to create your business blueprint – you won’t be sorry! It’s the foundation that sets the stage for your business’s success. I promise with the right blueprint, the rest of the steps will be much easier and success will be within your reach.