Branding is more than a logo and colors – it’s a promise of an experience that’s special and distinct.
From a marketing perspective, a brand is a concept that helps identify a company or product. Branding is shaping how a company or product is perceived by customers, driving measurable ROI.
Too often, startups focus on the product and its story, especially if it’s complex and technical, instead of focusing on developing the brand through the customer’s eyes.
These companies forgo long-term planning in favor of product development and hitting the market, viewing branding and marketing as an expense and not an investment.
How to Build Brand Success
So, what does it take to build a successful brand?
Develop the Brand Story Around the Ideal Customer
Your brand story isn’t the story of your founding or why you have a business. Your brand story is representative of who you are as a brand and what you stand for, setting the stage for the customer interactions.
It defines the purpose of the company to the staff and the customer.
Customers aren’t looking for good prices and hot deals. They want to connect with a brand that engages them and appeals to their sense of themselves.
Your brand story should create a powerful emotional connection between your company and the customers. Strong brand messaging will attract customers, even without a huge marketing budget.
Fortunately, your brand story doesn’t need to be elaborate to be successful. Your story is as simple as identifying the problem you set out to solve, how you went about solving it, and your success in doing so.
Customers don’t want your products to make you money. They want products that address their problems and pain points. Share your story in a way that tells customers you understand and relate to them.
Create a Strategy Informed by Customer Insight, Not Product Features
When you create a product you’re proud of, you want to create marketing content that shows it off. For many, this means showcasing the product features, but that’s not the best way.
Product features are useful and provide context for customers, but they don’t make a compelling story. The best brands don’t rely heavily on product features because it’s salesy and forces the customer to connect the dots between the feature and their real-world benefit.
Leading with product features isn’t marketing. True marketing is attracting people to your brand and what your products can do for them. Show your audience the value you offer if they become a customer and how you can improve their life.
This doesn’t mean product features should never be mentioned. Focusing on the customer is about addressing the customer’s pain points and helping them solve their problems, then showing how your product and its features can do that.
Develop Touchpoints for Each Step in the Customer Journey
Touchpoints are vital to understanding the customer journey. This is where all the customer interactions occur and inform the customer’s perception of the brand and its product or service.
When you identify and map the customer touchpoints, you can build brand loyalty and improve the customer experience.
Touchpoints have three main phases: Awareness, Evaluation, and Post-Purchase. Customer journey mapping helps you identify the touchpoints at different phases and deliver an exceptional, seamless experience.
Each touchpoint should be designed in a way to stay consistent and true to the rest of your brand.
No matter where or how, all touchpoints should:
- Clearly represent your brand
- Catch your customers’ attention
- Motivate your customers to take action
- You can refine your strategy by asking these questions:
- What is my first impression of the brand at each touchpoint?
- Does it communicate my brand identity?
- How does it differ from my competitors’ touchpoints?
- Does it attract new customers?
- Does it motivate current customers to act?
- Will customers have a positive impression after this interaction?
Once you put yourself in the customer’s mind, you can consider your brand from their perspective and find new ways to build and fine-tune your touchpoints.
Strategies for a Powerful Brand
Though each brand is unique, these strategies can help you develop your own brand marketing strategy:
Create a Customer Advisory Board
Determining what makes your product unique in your market takes a lot of time, effort, and listening. A customer advisory board can get you there much faster and improve your product.
Also known as a product advisory council, a customer advisory board is a selection of customers that gather to share insights into the product development process for your brand.
Throughout the meeting, customers are encouraged to provide open and honest feedback on your brand and the product, sharing any improvements or enhancements they wish to see.
They also discuss how the product fits into their lives or organizations. They’ll also likely share deeper insights into their motivations and what’s really important to them, giving you invaluable information for your brand development.
In most cases, the customers on the board will be open, honest, and unflinching in their feedback. It’s raw, since it isn’t filtered through other team members.
Don’t Forget CX
Many startups place a lot of value on user experience (UX) rather than customer experience (CX). Or worse, they treat them like the same concept.
UX considers how people interact with a product and the experience that have from that interaction. UX revolves around metrics like error rate, success rate, and clicks to completion.
CX considers all the interactions a person has with a brand, beyond just the product itself. This means overall experience, the likelihood to continue interacting with the brand, and the likelihood of recommending the brand to others.
Essentially, UX is part of CX, so if you focus only on the UX, you’re missing the big picture. More importantly, if your product is similar to others on the market, you’re missing an opportunity to differentiate yourself with superior customer experience.
Both UX and CX play important roles in your brand’s success, your reputation, and customer loyalty. Failing to consider and optimize both can lead to a bad customer experience overall, even if one or the other is on point.
Turn Employees and Partners into Brand Advocates
Who better to promote your brand than your own employees and partners? Empowering your employees to promote your brand gives you an edge over competitors with not only customers, but with attracting talent.
Choosing employees to advocate on the behalf of your brand lends plenty of authenticity to your marketing and recruitment efforts, as well as increasing your social presence. Give your employees the tools and training to spread the word throughout social media, events, and with customers.
You can encourage participation with in-house competitions, one-on-one coaching, and meetings to learn more about your employees’ stories and ideas for branded content.
Be Proactive with Brand Communications
A strategic brand communications plan is an integral part of any branding effort and ensures you’re reaching the right audience at the right time to drive results.
The components of brand communications include identifying your audience, determining your goals and objectives, developing key messaging, forming a tactical plan, and choosing metrics.
Once you have these mapped out, you can deliver more memorable brand experiences for your audience at all brand touchpoints.
Create a Process for Reviewing Ideas
Employee and customer feedback, recommendations, and suggestions are helpful for elevating your brand and revamping your strategy. Not all ideas are good, however, and some can be the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.
Make sure you stay on track with your vision and brand strategy by putting a process in place to review ideas.
With guidelines to decide which ideas are beneficial, and which aren’t, you can ensure that only the innovative, relevant, and appropriate suggestions are implemented.
Prepare for Change
Change is a constant in any business, but more so with a startup. The business itself and the larger market can turn on a dime, leaving you to adapt rapidly to stay relevant.
Contingency planning puts measures in place to address the opportunities and risks in the event of market changes, business fluctuations, or cultural shifts. This backup plan prepares you for the unexpected, dramatic, and potentially damaging changes and protects your business.