With an excited sense of anticipation, you push aside your exhaustion as you hurry into your next meeting. The journey of starting your own business has been a wild ride to say the least. But, now you are finally starting to see some progress. And you are ready to start to grow. Unfortunately, as you are exploring and researching this process, you are left with so many questions. Questions that you are determined to get the answers to. First up: building a brand.
Prepared and on the hunt for answers, you lay your list of questions on the table and take a seat. Then, after a few introductions, you begin to grill the brand-building expert you brought in with an unrelenting urgency. You are determined to have every single one of your questions answered in excruciating detail and your captive will not be set free until they are.
Question #1: What is a brand?
Simply put, a brand is the equivalent of your reputation. It is how your customers view your business. This perception is incredibly important to the success of your business.
Question #2: What is brand building?
The process of building brands “is to generate awareness about your business using strategies and campaigns with the goal of creating a unique and lasting image in the marketplace.”  In other words, when you build a brand, the end goal is to create a long-lasting awareness. However, to be successful, it is important to remember that your brand-building efforts need to also be positive and memorable. Your potential customers need to know who you are and they need to want to work with you.
You can think of three different steps to brand-building: brand strategy, brand identity, and brand marketing.
In the first step, you create your brand strategy. This is an absolutely crucial step because it serves as the blueprint for how your brand will be perceived by the world. It is how you will explain your purpose, promises, and how you solve problems. Your brand strategy is also the way you will show your potential customers how you are different and why they should work with you. To create an effective brand strategy, you should make sure you include the following components: (1) brand purpose development; (2) audience development; (3) competition research; (4) brand voice and personality; and (5) brand message and story. 
The second step requires you to create your brand identity. As you create your identity, it is important that you refer back to your brand strategy. Your strategy will impact how you present and align your identity with your purpose. This will allow your brand to have a significant impact. The elements (i.e. logo) of your brand identity should also be used consistently across all applications so that your business becomes recognizable.
Finally, the third step utilizes strategic communication to connect their values and voice to the right audience through brand marketing. This can effectively be done through the following digital marketing activities: user experience (i.e. your website); SEO & content marketing; social media marketing, email marketing, and paid advertising (PPC). 
Building a brand requires a lot of work, time, and effort. The good news is that you don’t have to fly blind as you build your brand. As you work, you can continually assess your real and desired brand experience by going straight to the source to get some feedback and data. This can be done through customer surveys; in-depth interviews or focus groups; monitoring social media conversations; and tracking your on-line reviews. 
Question #3: How do I build my brand?
You build your brand through the consideration and use of nine key brand building strategies.
Brand Building Strategy #1: Work From the Inside Out
As you build your brand, it is important to make sure you are standing out from your competition. You need to communicate what makes your business a better choice and convince a customer to purchase from you. This means you need to know what makes your brand different from what already exists.
To do this, you will need to study your competition. Begin by creating a spreadsheet via Google Sheets, Excel, or a notebook. Then choose a few competitors (2-4) and answer the following questions:
- Are they consistent with their messaging and visual identity?
- Do they offer high-quality and well-liked products or services?
- Are you able to read customer reviews or social mentions about your competitors?
- How do your competitors market their business (both on and offline)? 
As you gather this information, make note of what sets you apart from the competition. Consider the qualities and benefits that make your business unique. Remember that your customers are looking to connect with you. Don’t just provide a list of the product features or services that you offer. Focus on communicating how you provide experience-based value and improve their lives.
Brand Building Strategy #2: Target Your Brand Message
To effectively build brand value, it is important that you are reaching your target audience. These are the people that will view your brand and products/ services as valuable from the start. Once you have found them, you need to remember who they are. You will design your mission and message to meet their needs.
To do this, put your detective hat back on. You now need to gain a true understanding of your target audience’s buyer persona. Some things to consider when describing your ideal customer are:
- Their Age
- Their Gender
- Their Location
- Their Income
- Their Education Level
Once you have the base knowledge of your audience’s buyer persona, you can dive deeper by considering:
- Their motivations
- Their goals
- Their pain points
- Their fears
- Their desires
- Their influencers
- Their brand affinities
While this research will require a significant amount of work, it is well worth it. Once you have a clear understanding of who you are trying to reach, it will be easier for you to figure out where to concentrate your digital marketing efforts.
Brand Building Strategy #3: Use a Consistent Tone of Voice (ToV)
Now that you have determined who your target audience is, you need to connect with them. This begins with your communication style. Across all avenues of communication, you want to have a consistent tone of voice.
The tone of voice that you choose for your brand could be: professional, friendly, service-oriented, authoritative, technical, promotional, conversational, informative, etc.
What is important is that it remains the same whenever and wherever your customers interact with your brand (especially in blog posts and social media articles). 
By maintaining a consistent tone of voice across channels, you are creating a personality for your brand and you are making sure your brand is always viewed the same way by customers.
Brand Building Strategy #4: Maintain High Standards for Design
When it comes to brand-building, how you represent your business visually is just as important as how you represent it verbally.
One of the most exciting (and potentially most important) pieces of brand building is creating your logo and tagline. A well designed logo is critical to the overall success of your business because it affects how customers will perceive your brand. A strong visual brand can make your business seem valuable while a bad design can do the complete opposite.
When developing a strong brand style, you will need to consider the following components:
- Logo size and placement
- Color Palette
- Image style
- Web elements
If designing a logo seems well out of your comfort zone, don’t be afraid to hire a professional designer or branding agency for help. It is important to invest the time and money required to create a stellar logo because this will become the calling card of your business.
Brand Building Strategy #5: Give Your Brand Meaning
A stellar logo and a consistent tone of voice go a long way towards building a strong brand. However, what will really set you apart from the crowd is to give your brand meaning. When you give your brand meaning, you increase the perceived value of your brand by helping your customers to emotionally connect. This can be done by following these steps to brand-building:
- Discovering the Purpose Behind Your Brand
- Establishing a Brand Mission and Vision
- Creating Brand Guidelines and Sticking to Them
Brand Building Step 1: Discovering the Purpose Behind Your Brand
As you work to discover the purpose behind your brand, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do you exist?
- Why are you passionate?
- What sets you apart?
- Why should people care?
- What problem do you solve?
- What products/services do you offer?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you will have an understanding of your brand’s purpose. This understanding will then set the foundation of your brand-building. Sonia Gregory writes in her article, “studies show that 50% of consumers worldwide say they now buy based on a company’s brand values and impact.”  Your understanding will inform components such as your tagline, slogans, and more.
Brand Building Step 2: Establishing a Brand Mission and Vision
With a clear understanding of your brand’s purpose and passion, you now need to share it with the world. This is accomplished through the creation of your brand’s mission and vision.
Your brand vision is the goal that your brand is working towards. It is something that your brand hopes to accomplish in the future.
Your mission is how you are going to accomplish this goal through everyday steps. It is the roadmap that will guide your brand-building strategies.
Brand Building Step 3: Creating Brand Guidelines and Sticking To Them
We said it before: remaining consistent with your brand image and tone of voice is incredibly important during the brand building process. In fact, it is so important that we are going to talk about them again.
Once you have determined your brand identity, create clear guidelines (such as a brand style guide) and stick to them. This will help you to remain consistent, effective, and purposeful with your branding over the long term. 
Brand Building Strategy #6: Provide Thought Leadership and Valuable Information in Your Content
Now that your brand value has been established, you need to regularly communicate it to your target audience. A great way to accomplish this is to create consistent content (i.e. blogs or social media posts). This will allow you to remain at the forefront of their minds and help you create long term relationships. But, this can be a bit tricky.
When you create content, you need to remember that you are doing it to add value to your audience’s life and not just to market your brand. Keeping the content focused on your target audience can be accomplished by:
- Creating a buyer persona (a customer profile that includes your target audience’s interests, concerns, and pain points) 
- Using plain language (create content that is easy to read and leave out the technical speak)
Remember, the use of content is a long-term approach and, to be effective, it must be consistent. Every piece of content must use your established branding guidelines, tone of voice, and imagery.
Brand Building Strategy #7: Build Loyalty
One of the most important resources that you have while building your brand is your customers. It is true that dissatisfied customers have the potential to ruin your business. But, those customers who are pleased with your product or service have the power to propel your brand into overwhelming success. Their recommendations and glowing social reviews will provide the social proof that you need to convince others to work with you.
To build your brand loyalty, look at the content that you are producing. This content is designed to create a long-term relationship with customers by giving them value.
Personalizing your content greatly increases its value to your customer. This is also fairly simple to do. For example, if you are publishing content on social media, find where your target audience likes to hang out and publish there. 
Or you may want to consider tailoring your email campaigns. When you create your campaigns look at the data. Find out what products the customer is interested in and/or where they are in the sales process. Then map your campaign based on the data. 
Brand Building Strategy #8: Use Your Online and Social Media Presence to Your Advantage
When used correctly, your online and social media presence can be a great help to your brand- building process. In today’s digital world, consumers are rapidly increasing the amount of time they spend online. This means the Internet and social media sites have become the “go-to” information sources for potential customers. In turn, this provides you with the opportunity to directly communicate your brand value to customers. It also allows your current customers to post their experiences with your product/service/brand and creates the social proof that you need to convince potential customers to choose you over a competitor.
When building your online presence, keep in mind that your website provides you with the opportunity to show your brand image to people who may not be familiar with you. This requires that your website effectively conveys your brand vision, mission, and personality.
You also need to be aware that social media is constantly changing. As a result, you need to continuously monitor social media trends, find ways to optimize traffic, and engage with customers. 
Brand Building Strategy #9: Get Everyone On the Same Page
In order to create a solid image, it is important that everyone accurately represents your brand. This means ensuring that your employees, partners, and anyone else that your customers may meet clearly understand your brand values, vision, and mission.
You also need to make sure every point of contact with employees, customers, and anyone else who interacts with your company is consistent. All of your marketing materials, your website, social media, employee interactions, and office space need to be presented in a unified way. 
Question #4: How do I make my brand visible to customers?
Once you have built and established your brand, it is important to provide consistent communication and user experience. This can be challenging in today’s market because of the numerous applications you must be aware of and maintain. These applications include: “Environment (storefront or office); print collateral, signage, packaging; website and online advertising; content publishing; sales and customer service; and internal (for employees).” 
Although making and keeping your brand visible requires a significant amount of work, it is well worth it. As you create and maintain an open line of communication with your customers, you have the opportunity to develop long-term relationships with them. As a result, this can create a steady increase in leads and/or sales as well as word of mouth referrals.
Question #5: How does customer perception impact brand value?
While you may be able to calculate the physical value of your products/ services, the true value of your brand and products is determined by customer perception.  This perception is extremely important when considering the mindful customer.
The mindful customer is an individual who is willing to buy a product or service. But, they also want to be sure that they are getting the best value. To make sure they are getting the “biggest bang for their buck”, the mindful customer will:
- Research: The mindful customer will research companies online.
- Find Social Proof: The mindful customer will read online reviews, peer recommendations, and social media profiles as they look to see if a product/ service is well liked
- Consider Identity and Preference: The mindful customer is looking to make a purchase decision that is in line with their personal brand. They consider the relationship between their purchases and their identity. 
As the mindful customer carefully researches their purchase decision, the core of their hunt is based on a desire for connection. They are looking to connect with a brand that they believe is high in value.
With the meeting drawing to a close, you lean back in your chair. Suddenly you question your determination as the feeling of overwhelm takes over.
In a futile attempt to allow your brain to catch up with the information you have just received, you close your eyes.
After what seems like an eternity, you slowly open them and look at your notes:
- Your brand value is tied to the perception your target audience has about your brand.
- You need to ensure that your brand identity (including your tone of voice and logo) are consistent across all platforms and points of contact.
- Leverage the use of your website, content, and social media platforms to engage your target audience and cultivate long-term relationships.
- To create a strong brand image, you need to make sure everyone your customers might meet is clear on your brand values, vision, and mission.
- Remember the importance of brand perception when dealing with a mindful customer.
All of that information is in just five bullet points.
With a sigh you get up, thank the brand-building expert, and grab an extra large coffee.
Then…you get to work.