What’s a brand? Is it a logo, colors, or typography? Not quite. Brands are more than their assets – they promise an experience to a customer.
A brand is a concept that differentiates a company or product from the competition. With branding, you can shape how your company is perceived by your customers to drive growth and positive ROI.
Many startups focus exclusively on developing a product and its story, instead of creating a brand that fosters positive perception in customers. Product development and time-to-market take precedence over long-term brand strategy.
How to Build Success with Your Brand
The brand story is more than your story about why you started a business. A brand story tells the world who you are and what you stand for, so customers have an idea of what they can expect.
Customers aren’t just searching for bargains – they want to forge a connection with a brand that appeals to their sense of self and engages them.
The goal with your story is to create an emotional connection with your customers and use strong messaging to attract customers. Remember that a brand story doesn’t need to be elaborate to be successful. Developing a great story is a matter of telling your customers the problem you wanted to solve, how you approached solving it, and how successful you were.
Customers aren’t looking to buy your products just to make you rich. They want to find products that tackle their pain points. Your story is a way to tell your customers that you understand and relate to them.
When you have a product you’re proud to reveal, it only makes sense that you’ll want to create marketing campaigns that tell the world. In most cases, this means highlighting the product features, but that doesn’t do much for the customer.
A bunch of bells and whistles may excite you, but they don’t provide context for customers. Talking about your features is salesy and makes the customer connect the dots for what the features are and how they provide a real-world benefit.
Marketing means attracting people to your products because of how they can help them. Show your audience why purchasing the product can change their life.
Of course, you can still discuss your product features. After all, they’re part of the benefits of your product. Just keep the focus on what they can do for the customer, instead of highlighting them for the sake of it.
Touchpoints are all the places where a customer interacts with your brand, which forms their overall perception. When you identify and map out the customer touchpoints, you can make sure the interactions reinforce your message and build brand loyalty.
Touchpoints include the awareness, evaluation, and post-purchase phases. With customer journey mapping, you can see where customers interact with your brand during each phase and create a seamless, positive customer experience.
All touchpoints should:
- Represent your brand
- Attract your customers’ attention
- Motivate them to take an action
Ask yourself some questions to think like a customer, such as:
- What is the first impression at each touchpoint?
- Is the experience different than that of competitors?
- Will it attract customers?
- Does it motivate customers to act?
By thinking like a customer, you can evaluate your brand from the customer’s perspective and develop your touchpoints for a positive experience.
While the specifics of each brand can vary, these broad strategies can help you develop the appropriate brand strategy for your business:
For startups, everything is about the user experience (UX) instead of the customer experience (CX). UX considers how customers interact with a product and the experience that comes from that interaction, while CX considers every interaction a customer has with a brand, such as the post-purchase experience and customer service.
UX is part of CX, so if you’re only paying attention to UX, you’re missing a big part of the experience. If you have a lot of market competition, you’re missing an opportunity to elevate your brand by providing a superior customer experience than your competitors.
Failing to consider both UX and CX can be detrimental to your business, so optimize both to provide a positive customer experience.
Finding out what is special about your product and why it appeals to customers takes a lot of listening and effort. You can streamline the process with a customer advisory board.
A customer advisory board is a group of customers that come together to share insights into your product and brand. Customers are encouraged to provide feedback, both good and bad, and make suggestions for improvements and features. With the right guidance, customers may also share insights into how the product fits into their lives and why they need it in the first place, which can inform your development process.
Strategic brand communications are vital to any branding effort. By taking a proactive stance, you can make sure you’re connecting with the right audience at the right time on the right device.
Brand communications plans include targeting your audience, creating goals and objectives, developing key messaging, forming a tactical action plan, and choosing metrics to determine success. With all this mapped out, you can provide better brand experiences with your audience across all touchpoints.
Customer feedback can go a long way in giving you suggestions, ideas, and recommendations to develop your brand or product. Not every idea is a gem, however, and some are good but only represent a small part of your audience. Furthermore, some ideas are the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.
With a high volume of feedback, you can end up on a path that isn’t the best choice for your brand. Implement a process to review feedback and ideas. Set up guidelines to decide which ideas have merit and which don’t, so you can ensure only the most appropriate and innovative ideas get your attention.
Employees are excellent brand advocates. Customers see positive employees and develop more trust in your brand. By empowering your employees to promote your brand, you can gain an edge over the competition with customers and talent.
You can start by seeing if any employees are interested in being brand advocates. From there, offer training and development tools to help them spread the word about your brand through events, social media, and customer interactions. You can also offer one-on-one coaching and meetings to help your employees realize their potential as brand advocates, listen to their stories, and gather ideas for branded content.
Change is inevitable in any business, but it can be more volatile in startup environments. The business itself can not only experience changes that force restructuring or pivots, but the larger market can have detrimental impacts that require massive organizational change.
Contingency planning ensures you have a plan in place to address threats, risks, and opportunities for organizational and market changes, fluctuations in the market, and cultural shifts. With a backup, you’ll be prepared for the dramatic, unexpected, and damage changes that may occur and you can keep your business moving forward.