Branding is critical to your business and the overall impact it makes on your company. It can change how people perceive your business and can drive new customers, as well as increase awareness of your offerings. It used to be that a business plan was all you really needed to start a company or pitch to investors. But that's no longer the case — a brand plan is equally important (if not more so). You will need both: each serves a different purpose, but they must complement one another. Let’s take a deeper dive.
Why Your Brand Is Important
Now more than ever, your target audience has the ability to research you before they purchase your goods or services. The internet and social media have taken over and become a trusted source for knowledge, reviews and opinions from peers. What a prospect sees is their first impression of your business, so your reputation is critical.
Having a plan in place will help keep your message clean, concise and consistent. How you engage on these platforms is important, and that's determined by how your brand reaches your market on a personal and emotional level. There are additional reasons to pay attention to your branding too:
Your brand is what gets you recognition, and it becomes how your customers know your business
It generates future business: a strong brand can give your business more leverage in the industry.
A strong brand will help support referral business, thus generating new customers.
When utilized well, your brand can improve employee pride and satisfaction.
A strong brand will create trust within the marketplace.
What to Include in a Brand Plan
You’ve most likely heard of a business plan, and it’s important that you’ve done some of the legwork on your business plan before diving into your brand plan. For example, have you identified your target audience and developed a buyer persona? What does the current marketplace look like? These details, among others, are important aspects to discover prior to building your brand plan.
Your brand and business plan are separate entities, but it’s inevitable that they will be intertwined. Your brand strategy should include, at minimum, these four elements:
1. Brand Position
How does your business differ from your competitors? What makes you stand out, and why should prospects within your industry choose to buy your products or services?
A position statement is usually three to five sentences long, and it captures the essence of your brand position. It has to be realistic, because you will be expected to deliver on what your business is promising its customers. Yet it also should be somewhat aspirational, so you have something to strive for (continuous improvement, etc.).
2. Messaging Strategy
The next step is to develop a strategy that translates your brand position into messages to your target audience. Remember your target audience is comprised of prospects, potential employees, referral sources or other influencers — even potential partnership opportunities.
It's easy to only think about your customers when it comes to messaging, but you will want your brand to run through more than just your products — your employees are part of your brand too. Each audience named above will be interested in different aspects of your messaging, so the message to each group will emphasize the most relevant points. Each audience will have different concerns and will need different types of evidence to support your messages. This is the most important step in making your brand relevant to these target audiences.
3. Name, Logo, Tagline, Website
Your name may already be established, but you might also be looking at a business name change (for example, if you're undergoing a merger, have had a tarnished name in the past or have a name that no longer fits your brand position). Regardless of your name, an updated logo and tagline may make more sense and better support your current brand. While your name, logo and tagline are not your brand by themselves, they will symbolize it.
Along with these elements, remember that your website is the single most important brand development tool you will have. This is the location where your audience will go when they're researching you to learn more about your products and services. It will be home to all of your valuable content. If your website does not provide accurate and relevant information, a prospect may choose a competitor. Don’t forget to optimize your website for SEO to help you rank more highly when someone is searching for your product or service.
4. Content Marketing Strategy
Content marketing is a strategic and targeted approach that focuses on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain your target audience. Your brand strength is tied to both reputation and visibility — content marketing increases both visibility and reputation together. A strong content marketing strategy will help gain new customers and ultimately improve sales.
As you can see, both your business plan and your brand plan are important. However, forgoing a strong brand plan can cause confusion and frustration among your customers and prospects, which could result in sales lost to competitors. If you have more questions about starting your business or managing your company, consult with Incfile. They have plenty of resources to help you make sure the inner workings of your business are as strong as the brand you've created.