Everyone seems to have their own idea of what it means, but what exactly is branding?
Branding is your business’s complete image, which conveys an overall feeling and message to your audience. As someone who spends their time helping entrepreneurs find their brand story and messaging before they pivot, I’ve seen firsthand how many business owners toss branding into the “I’ll get to that later” pile.
But whether you know it or not, you already have a brand.
Before your customer ever buys from you, they see your brand in some shape or form. Every newsletter you’ve sent, every photo shared on Instagram, every tweet—these interactions probably seem small and unrelated, but they all collectively form your relationship with your audience. And these relationships are what define your brand.
Meaning, your brand is already alive.
And the last thing I want is for your business is to lose out on customers because your brand is inconsistent.
So let’s dive into the 5 keys to building a cohesive brand that attracts buyers and creates believers:
1. Identify your audience.
Whether you’re rebranding or starting a business, think about how your brand is being perceived right now. Ask yourself whether the message you’re delivering can be clearly understood and if it’s reaching your ideal customers.
Start by conducting an analysis of your target audience. Who are the people who typically have the problem you solve? What challenges are they facing? What solutions do they want? If you find yourself struggling with the answers, talk to them to find out what they’re actually saying.
I tell my clients that the best brands are built on empathy. Once you’ve taken time to understand your audience, you’ll find it infinitely easier to build a brand that resonates with them.
2. Define your brand story.
A logo may make a great first impression. But your brand is the story that customers will tell themselves and each other when you’re not in the room.
Nike is a great example. From the “Just Do It” tagline to their assertion that “if you have a body, you ARE an athlete”, the Nike brand is rooted in inspiration, innovation, and inclusion. It invites people to take part. And this brand story has been consistent since the beginning.
The first step is sharing an origin story that will set you apart from your competitors. Why did you create this business? What path led you to what you do today? What kind of impact do you hope to make?
Then, break it down into sections. Be sure to cover your brand’s history, how it has evolved, your goals for the future, key products or services, what you stand for, and your values and beliefs.
Your brand story will inform and influence everything from social media posts to media features to your website copy.
3. Make your website look professional.
Your website is the first place people will visit to determine if they like and trust you enough to invest in you. And it only takes 3 seconds for someone to decide whether they’ll stay or leave your site.
So invest in that photo shoot. Hire a web designer or buy an easy-to-use theme. Create a logo you can start using.
Determine where you need help, and then delegate. Try to choose the best creative professional for your budget and needs. After all, there are plenty of talented Rising Tiders to choose from!
4. Use consistent colors and design elements.
Remember, your brand doesn’t just live on your website—it’s everywhere your customers can find you. So, establish a visual brand that aligns with your overall story. Browse Pinterest to find a color palette you can start using. Hire a designer for your buttons and banners. Find 3-4 fonts that are easy to read, and stick to them.
A cohesive brand isn’t just visually appealing. It helps you build a business that potential customers find trustworthy and memorable.
By using your brand elements (your colors, logo, images, etc.) with intention, you highlight your professionalism. And you give your audience a glimpse of what they’ll experience when working with you.
5. Have a clear, recognizable voice.
You can’t tell your brand story without words, so get absolutely clear on your voice. And make sure it’s consistent with the overall story and image you want to portray.
If your brand was a person, how would you describe its personality to someone in three words? Peppy head cheerleader? Direct and no-nonsense? Witty and profane? Your answer will depend on your market and target audience.
Once you’ve decided on your brand voice, create a guide for your content (written and visual). Establish dos, don’ts, and clear parameters. As your brand evolves or your audience changes, take a look at this brand voice guide and update it accordingly.
Whether you decide to tweak your brand yourself or hire a professional, remember that consistency and cohesiveness are the keys to branding success.
Your business needs to stand for something to set it apart from the pack. Your brand needs a story for your customers to believe in so they will buy into what you’re selling.
What’s more, understanding your brand means that you control how people experience your business—which can help you attract more of the right kind of customer.
So take a step back and examine your brand. Make sure that it tells the story you want it to—and that it’s telling it clearly and consistently.