Brand Strategy: Essentials for Long-Term Success
Whether you’re launching a new business or are a veteran business owner, learning how to think about your brand in a strategic way is an essential component to your long-term success. Brand strategy is what gives you a competitive advantage in the marketplace; without a brand strategy your brand can get drowned in the noise of a saturated industry.
So, how can you set your brand up for strategic success?
For starters, you have to understand that a brand consists of much more than just your logo, color scheme, font choices, or slogan. Branding encompasses so much more–what your mission is as an organization, your value propositions for the customers (what they get out of your product or service), and your brand values–and brand strategy is how you leverage all of those things to get a leg up on the competition. In other words: brand strategy is your unique approach to connecting with customers and converting leads to sales.
Once you have identified the foundational elements of your brand, you can start crafting a strategy for long-term success. No matter how you choose to talk about your brand in terms of messaging, there are always five essential elements to consider when you are putting a brand strategy in place:
Establish Your Goals
Before you get in the car it always helps to know where you are going. Setting concrete goals for your business does the same thing: it gives you direction and shapes your marketing journey. To determine what your brand goals should be, think about the following:
What do you want to achieve in your business?
What does success look like for your brand?
Are there different goals to consider for employees vs. customers?
Are you choosing goals that have measurable results?
Your goals can consist of both short-term goals and long-term items you would like to see your brand achieve. For example, you might want to increase brand awareness or generate x amount of new leads per month. Brand awareness is not something that can be easily achieved in a short amount of time; it takes time, patience, and careful planning. Generating new leads, however, is something that can be done in a relatively short amount of time and can be easily tracked to determine success. One thing to keep in mind: every business is trying to make more money so your goals need to be more specific than generating more cash and really speak to your business mission and values.
Create More Clarity and Less Chaos
A lot of business owners get this one wrong. They think that the way they talk about their brand makes sense to everyone, but that isn’t always the case. When you don’t have a clear message, you end up confusing your audience and potentially losing business as a result. By putting your brand fundamentals down on paper (or on a screen), you’ll be able to see how all the things you’re saying might not be working the way you intend. Get clear about your mission, your value propositions, your brand values, your story, and your why in order to make the maximum impact on your target audience.
Having these elements of your brand written down also makes it easy for everyone within your organization (or consultants and freelancers from outside the organization) to remain on the same page about how to talk about the brand. This, in turn, creates brand consistency. Being consistent doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing every day or have the same content scheduled each week. It means you have to stick to an overarching theme in your messaging, no matter how or where the message is delivered.
Know Your Audience
The number one mistake I see clients make is not having a deep understanding of who their audience is. Many brands become too focused on the sales aspect of what they do, that they forget the human aspect of who they are selling to. Taking the time to do a deep dive on who your target audience is, what common traits they share, what they struggle with, what their challenges are, and how they’d like to see their lives improve will end up serving your brand well in the long-run.
My suggestion is to abandon the generational labels so often given to a large group of diverse people and to instead embrace building psychographic profiles. For each target audience segment, write out the defining characteristics of who they are and what makes them ideal for your product or service. For example, it’s not enough for a client in the senior space to say that they are marketing to Baby Boomers because they now range in age from 58 to 76, which is a huge age gap in terms of who you’re talking to and how to tailor the conversation to their needs. A better way to break up this demographic is to split them into two different segments: Younger Boomers and Older Boomers. The Younger Boomers are probably more active, still living independently, and not yet retired. The Older Boomers are retired, might have some chronic health issues, and are a little more anxious about aging and the future. By focusing on their specific needs, wants, fears, and motivators you can tailor messaging that makes them feel as though you not only are speaking directly to them, but that also reassures them that you are a brand who understands who they are.
Lead with Emotion to Create Connection
This one is huge! Humans purchase based on emotions. If you’re not creating a real human emotional connection with your audience, they are less likely to buy. Branding should not be about putting information out about your business and why you’re the best. It’s about building a community around your brand. This is where knowing your audience comes in–really tapping into their desires, their dreams, and their fears.
Once you understand your audience, you have to build on that understanding by providing relevant content and solutions to their problems. Your goal with every piece of content and marketing materials should be making an emotional appeal to your audience. The best way to think about how to create a more emotion-driven approach to your brand is to equate it to how you would engage friends IRL. You wouldn’t ignore their needs or their problems to only talk about yourself (at least I hope you wouldn’t!); instead you would listen to what they are struggling with and provide a thoughtful response to help make them feel better about the situation. That’s exactly what you have to do as a brand in order to humanize the experience for consumers.
Building a brand takes time. It can be easy to go for the quick “growth hack” strategy to see small results, but this isn’t going to help you in the long run. Stay focused on your long-term goals, and know that there is always a trial-and-error component to setting a strategy. Celebrate what you’re getting right, but more importantly, pay attention to what isn’t working and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Every brand strategy is different. It should align with your business values, mission, and long-term goals. Your brand is going to evolve with you and your business as your customers are going to evolve with you as well. You can’t use the same strategy you used in the beginning and expect your brand to grow, So be flexible and revisit your brand strategy each year. See what’s working, and what’s not, and adjust as you grow. Just as people can learn and grow and change, so too should brands.