The 5 Simple Steps to Brand Building (2022)

  • by Brandon Boushy
  • 2 weeks ago
  • Blog
  • 0
Mike showing his branded shirt

Building a brand identity is one of the best things you can do for your business. According to the CFA Institute, 9.2% of the S&P 500 was “Goodwill,” the accounting term for how favorably a brand is viewed. That’s over $3.5 trillion! That shows the importance of brand building and makes it one of the most valuable assets for existing business owners.

As a small business, you need to focus on brand building. We talked with Mike Andes, the 27-year-old owner of Augusta Lawn Care Services. His unique advice on how to build a brand has made Augusta one of the Top 500 franchising organizations in just three years!

He’s going to share his brand-building strategies with you. By the time you’re done with this blog, you’ll be ready to build a more successful brand.

What is brand building in marketing?

Two person working on a business brand

Brand building is the process of creating a reputation. Branding strategies should span across all aspects of the business, including:

  • Social media
  • Paid advertising
  • Website
  • Content creation
  • Logos
  • Pricing and loyalty programs 
  • Employee uniforms and training

Mike told us:

“The goal of branding is to bring your customer acquisition costs down as low as possible over the long term.”

How to create a successful brand?

You’ll want to use successful brand-building strategies to help your company stand out. To create an outstanding reputation, Mike told us:

“You are building a relationship. A brand needs to help the customer know, like, and trust you.”

That means you’ll have five basic steps to brand building.

What are the five steps of brand building?

Person working on a computer

Everyone considers the steps of brand building a little differently, but we’re going to define them as follows:

  1. Perform market research
  2. Define your brand identity
  3. Create a brand strategy
  4. Implement your brand strategy
  5. Evolve the brand strategy

We’ll look at each of these to help you create a brand that resonates with your customer base.

Step 1. Perform Market Research

To build a brand people love, you have to understand your market and what niche you are trying to fill. Your market research should be focused on three key aspects:

  • How are competitors branding?
  • How can you be different?
  • Who is your target market? 

Identify how your competitors are branding themselves

In this step, you’ll identify how successful companies in your industry are branding themselves. You’ll need to gather the following information:

  • Competitors to consider: I’d suggest three to ten, depending on how much data you want before creating your brand identity.
  • Competitors’ marketing channels: Search for them on all social media platforms and follow them to stay up-to-date. Don’t forget YouTube and your competitors’ websites because there might be valuable content there.
  • How channels are being used:
    • Frequency of posting
    • Logos
    • Fonts
    • Subject matters
    • Colors
    • Video, imaging, text formats, and lengths
  • What they do well or poorly: After researching several brands, you’ll notice that there are things every brand does, things that only some do, and some that they don’t do. 

If you want to differentiate yourself from the competition, you have to be different. This is the first step.

To help you get started, I have created a competitor research spreadsheet with over 7,000 publicly held US companies sorted by industry group. It is an abbreviated version of the full list downloaded from NYU Sterns’ much larger database. Just make a copy, and you can use it while gathering data.

How can I differentiate my brand?

Colored paper bulb idea concept

You’ll want to create a strong brand identity to help differentiate your company from the rest of the competitors. There are a variety of ways to create brand value, including:

  • Industry Innovator: The company pushing the industry ahead.
  • Best Customer Service: The company that goes above and beyond to improve the customer experience.
  • Low-Cost Provider: A company like Walmart wins by focusing on offering a lower cost.
  • Luxury Provider: Create a brand reputation that justifies paying higher prices through better service, environment, or quality of products.
  • Socially Conscious: If you have social interests that your brand stands for, you can promote those to create loyalty among similarly minded people.
  • Purchasing Differentiation: Offering more channels to purchase than competitors or offering different ways to pay can bring in customers looking for a specific payment method.

How you combine a mix of each of these leads to a distinct brand that should be conveyed through your marketing campaigns to help create your brand identity.

For instance, Mike explained some of the thoughts that went into the branding for Augusta Lawn Care:

“I wanted to invoke a brand image that reminded people of the Augusta National Golf Course.”

He also warned people to be careful when creating a brand‘s identity because what works well on paper doesn’t always work in the real world.

“The biggest mistake I made was using perfectly white jumpsuits like the ones the caddies at the Masters’ Tournament use. They had the employee’s name on the back. It was a great branding idea, but horrible for business because white gets destroyed while landscaping.”

Watch the rest of the interview below.

Make sure to write down what strategies you want to focus on.

How do I identify my target market?

Before you focus on building your brand, you’ll need to identify your target market. Make sure to dig as deep as possible as you identify the key behaviors and lifestyles of your target audience.

You want to know:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Location
  • Spending habits 
  • How they prefer shopping
  • Marital status
  • Number of kids
  • Jobs
  • Hobbies
  • Their favorite social media channels
  • Whether they rent or own

Facebook has 23 high-level ways of targeting and lots of options inside each one. Check out the picture below to see the high-level options.

Meta facebook illustrationYou may want to create a brand persona or cheat sheet to help keep the target audience and brand voice in focus during the brand building process

Step 2. Define Your Brand Identity

A brand identity is how you want the customer to perceive your company. Mike described the difference between brand identity and a brand as:

“Brand identity is the identifying marks, colors, and fonts, while the brand is the personality.”

These should look familiar because you researched them in the first step. You’ll want to make sure the following elements are consistent and unique.

  • Logo: A logo is the combination of your brand name, a visual representation you want to be associated with the brand, colors, and potentially a slogan. This will be what everybody associates with your company. You can choose a digitally designed or handmade logo. Try our free name generator.
  • Colors: Different colors communicate different concepts and create varying emotions. Hubspot has a great article on the psychology of color.
  • Icons: What your company uses to represent something. For instance, which phone icon below would you want to use?
  • Print Materials: Different kinds of materials can communicate different priorities to different people. For instance, using recycled paper may be meaningful to some and not to others. Also, whether they follow the brand guidelines matters.
  • Messaging: The tones and words you use matter. For instance, UpFlip blogs are usually a mix of friendly, confident, and optimistic, according to Grammarly.
  • Fonts: The size and style of the font impact readability and can help or hinder the business. Try to stick with easily readable fonts like those specified in the APA guidelines.
  • Slogans: Phrases that communicate what your business is about should be trademarked. For instance, McDonald’s trademarked: “I’M LOVIN’ IT.” File a trademark application on the USPTO.

 

Mcdonald slogan

  • Patterns: Pattern design can create a different feel toward a product based on the packaging, print materials, websites, and in stores. Check out 99designs blog about pattern design.
  • Collateral: Assets like business cards, presentation decks, and uniforms that keep the structure of the brand the same. This pre-interview questionnaire would be an example of our collateral.
  • Web design: The way web assets are structured can make them easy to use for the customers. Apple and Google both provide specifications of best practices for their devices. 
  • Content: Relevancy is the key to good brand content. If it doesn’t match the users’ needs, it won’t help. We use SurferSEO and ahrefs to keep our brand content meeting your needs.
  • Packaging: The packaging needs to align with the differentiation strategy and brand colors. For instance, black and gold are often used to represent a premium product.

Mike warns not to spend a lot of time and money on these when starting a business because they will often evolve as the business grows and the market changes. He suggests:

“You’ll need to start by advertising and selling to get immediate sales and build out branding long-term. You have to think about both the long term and short term.”

Step 3. Create Brand Building Strategies

Take all the information you have gathered from the previous steps and develop a plan that will help guide your company in creating the brand you want.

The brand strategy document should include:

  • Brand message & story
  • Your brand’s mission, values, and goals
  • Your competitor research data
  • Your target market data
  • Your brand style guide
  • Channels for building branding
  • The marketing strategies to grow the brand
  • Promotional strategies to increase awareness

Let’s look at each of these in greater detail.

How to create a winning message and brand story

Your brand message is a crucial aspect of creating a great brand. You’ll want to include all the brand’s identity guidelines when communicating your value proposition. 

The best marketing minds follow a similar branding strategy when they communicate. They follow this process:

  1. Why does it matter? Talk about why you are passionate about it and how it will change their lives.
  2. How will it change their lives? Differentiate yourself from direct competitors without mentioning other brands.
  3. What is this about anyways? Introduce potential customers to the brand or product.

This powerful brand messaging technique was dubbed the Golden Circle by Simon Sinek in the book Start with Why. You can get his books on Amazon in the ads below.

Define your brand mission statement, values, and goals

The mission statement, values, and goals explain why you do what you do. They are the part of branding your business that lets people know why they should trust you.

Let’s look at each part.

Mission Statement: “Save Time. Save Hassle.” would be the mission of Augusta Lawn Care. Here, they are communicating that they exist to make homeowners’ lives easier through landscaping. Building brands that simplify life is always a huge selling point.

Values: Professionalism, efficiency, consistency, quality, and simplicity are values on which Mike’s brand focuses.

Goals: Two goals Mike has discussed in our interviews include:

  1. Build a network of 1,000 franchises that operate under the company logo. 
  2. Expand franchise opportunities by providing different paths to franchise ownership. They currently have three entry models.
    1. Full franchise: For those who want to grow to become larger companies.
    2. 3F (Franchise Fee Forgiveness): For employees who wish to become owners.
    3. Single-member franchise: For those who just want to make a living and only have one truck.

The mission statement should support your brand story and help guide you in the process of building recognition for your brand’s name, brand logo, and services.

Include your competitor research data

This section of your brand strategy document should simply convey the information you learned about other brands in a simple way so that others can utilize the information when working with your brand.

You’ll want to provide the raw data, plus your findings. Make it a specific point to include what opportunities you see for brand positioning and which differentiation strategies you will use in your brand building strategy.

Include your target niche audience data

Man on laptop working on marketing strategy

You performed the research in the first step, but you’ll need to have it well documented for the rest of the branding process.

Because the first stage of growth involves lots of marketing and advertisements to create revenue and brand recognition, you’ll want these to be easy to view. Whether you manage your marketing campaign yourself, hire a digital marketer, or outsource your digital marketing activities, you’ll need to refer back to this frequently.

Create a style guide (if you haven’t already)

A style guide describes your standard operating procedures for the use of brand assets, including:

  • Sizing, coloring, and placement of the brand logo in marketing materials.
  • Color palette specifications using HEX, RGB, and HSL color codes. Alternatively, use a program like Canva and create a brand kit
  • Header and font specifications, including the size, type of font, and other variations.
  • Standards for icons, including pixel size and file size for both print and web usage.
  • Standards for using photographs and graphics, including pixels, file size, file type, and style.
  • Standards for metadata and page sizes.
  • Standards for writing and other communications. 
  • Email templates.
  • Signature blocks with the company name.
  • Presentation slide templates.

Specify the channels you will use to generate awareness

The next part of the document will focus on how to create a brand using each channel to get you in front of new and existing customers. We’ll be discussing the following marketing channels and tools. 

  • Website UI/UX 
  • Customer relationship management
  • Data analytics software
  • Search engine optimization
  • Content marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Paid ads
  • Physical marketing practices
  • Pricing and loyalty programs

Good branding recognizes it can’t be everything to everyone. It would be prohibitively expensive if you tried to market on all the channels. As you wonder how to start a brand, start small and build your way up to more avenues and more sophisticated branding methods.

Let’s look at how to create a brand identity using website UI/UX.

Website UI/UX 

Laptop, desktop and tablet mockup

Most brands will want to create a website immediately. It is the one digital media platform you can fully control as you build brand awareness. A website has several essential characteristics that make them crucial to your brand.

  1. Sales on your website will normally have higher margins because any platform you sell on takes a percentage.
  2. Any data you collect, you own. When someone makes a purchase, you collect emails, addresses, and other information that you can then use to remarket to them. Remarketing can create more loyal customers and higher revenue per customer relationship.
  3. Censorship has become a major topic, and tech companies are notorious for it. They can take away your access to their platform because they disagree with you. If you haven’t been collecting customer data, you’ve lost every customer you got from that sales channel.

We use WordPress for our site but are also partnered with Shopify. Either of these web platforms is an excellent tool for creating a brand. 

WordPress has two different ways of building a website.

  1. WordPress.com: A website builder that you can start for free and upgrade as you go. It is the easier of the WordPress options. 
  2. WordPress.org: For more advanced users. Typically reserved for companies that have their own servers.

Read our blog about how to create a website for more information.

This brings us to the next element of a great digital brand strategy, customer relationship management (CRM).

Customer Relationship Management

If you’ve ever tried to set up a good CRM program, you probably already know you should have done it earlier. Aside from a website, this is the tool I think is the most important for managing your own brand. Here’s why.

Prosperity Media has an interesting article on email statistics, and the average business employee receives 121 emails per day. How are you supposed to keep up with all the different interactions without a good way to manage them? Worse yet, how difficult will it be to organize all of the emails when you finally get a CRM after operating for several years? You’ll have 100,000 interactions to classify as clients, prospective clients, partners, or hard passes.

Those statistics are just for one marketing channel. What happens when you have 10? Make sure to get a CRM as early as possible. In a recent Google Trends search about business software, Monday was trending for CRM, project management, and workforce software. They also have a 4.3 TrustPilot rating with over 2,800 reviews.

It’s practically an all-in-one brand-building software company.

Once you have a website and CRM software, you’ll want to connect some data analytics software.

How to Make a Brand Shine with Data Analytics

Data analytics is focused on collecting and analyzing information. It’s how you measure if your brand story resonates with your brand’s target audience. The proof is as easy as looking at the world’s wealthiest people and companies. Of the top 10 companies and top 10 individuals by net worth, 70% of the companies collect massive amounts of user data and use it to improve their products.

NOTE FROM AUTHOR:  The link to the 10 companies, actually lists the top 20. I think it’s good to see that 11-20 are all much older companies that still hold their own, but are not innovating like the current top 10 which are younger on average.

If you really want to be different, you need to get the data analysis right. You’ll be connecting it to every single platform you have. There are plenty of analytics software options you can use, but the two that almost everyone uses are Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel. These can be a little complicated to set up, so I’d recommend finding a suitable freelancer on Fiverr or Upwork to help you set them up.

Building a Brand through SEO 

Young woman and floating clip arts

SEO is the art of making your web assets meet users’ specific requests better than everyone else. It is the key to reaching the first page of Google without spending on paid advertising. Each search engine uses a variety of ranking factors, but the largest is Google. Search Engine Journal has a great article about Google ranking considerations.

This is a long game, though. Don’t spend a lot of money on it right away. You’ll need that money for advertising.

Use Content Creation to Let Customers Know Your Brand Exists

It doesn’t cost anything to do some videos on your phone, and you can add them to Youtube for free. A blog can be written pretty easily too. If you aren’t a great writer, you can hire a freelancer or use AI software. I personally like rytr.me better than Jasper, even though Jasper has more functionality.

You’ll need to plan out your blog or video development taking into consideration:

  • The difficulty of keyword ranking
  • The volume of search results
  • Frequency of posting
  • How to attract readers or viewers
  • Time to create. 

FYI our videos cost around $1,500 each, and our blogs can cost up to $400- $1,000 after everything is included. That’s why Mike suggests focusing on tasks that generate more immediate income first.

Social Media Marketing

Hootsuite has a ton of information on social media marketing. They estimate that businesses will spend over $28.2 billion in 2022 and grow 10-20% annually for the foreseeable future.

You need to understand how to interact with your audience on each platform. Remember to observe multiple brand building examples while working on your target market research, but you want to consider:

  • What content should I be posting?
  • How can I tie it to current events?
  • When is the best time to engage with my community?
  • How much can I afford to spend on ads, and is it worth it?

Social media is one of the best ways for brands to connect with most communities. Try them all in small doses and see which ones work best.

Even with excellent brand values, the brand’s logo, your message, and great products, most people are unlikely to buy on the first ad. They’ll go through the marketing funnel, which we should discuss real quick.

Email Marketing

Person holding an email clip art infront of laptop

Did you know building an email list early in brand creation can have huge payoffs? In fact, Lyfe Marketing estimates 72% of people prefer business communication via email. It gets better! Mail Chimp says that for every $1 spent on email, businesses receive $52 in revenue!

The mail marketing process includes:

  • Choosing your email marketing software
  • Creating an email list
  • Importing your contacts
  • Writing a welcome email
  • Creating a brand template
  • Writing an offer email with a personalized subject line
  • Using A|B testing 
  • Sending a test email before sending bulk messages
  • Sending emails on:
    • Tuesdays through Thursdays
    •  Between 9:30 a.m. and 9:55 a.m. or
    •  Between 12:30 p.m. and 12:55 p.m.
    • Read this Super Office blog to understand why
  • Adjusting your campaigns based on the data

Paid Advertising

Brands should be spending between 6% and 10% of their desired revenue on marketing, of which up to half might be paid ads. A digital marketer will typically use three styles of ads:

  1. Pay-per-view: Also called cost per 1,000 impressions (CPM). This is focused on getting in front of as many people as possible.
  2. Pay-per-click (PPC): You pay each time a viewer clicks on the ad. They then go to your web page or social media, where you can develop more of a relationship.
  3. Pay-per-action (PPA): This type of ad has the most control over costs, but most people won’t buy from you the first type they see your ads. They have to develop trust. These are great when combined with remarketing because you are trying to convert someone who is already aware of your brand to a buyer.

Google estimates people need seven touchpoints before they’ll do business with new brands. Often, the process looks like this:

  1. See the CPM ad several times on different channels
  2. Click on one
  3. Look at the site
  4. Follow your brands, subscribe to a mailing list, or even create a cart
  5. Abandon the cart
  6. Get a reminder via remarketing
  7. Eventually buy
  8. They decide whether they like your value
  9. You successfully meet their needs
  10. The relationship grows
  11. Customer becomes an ambassador

Google Ads, Meta, and Amazon are the big three for PPC. To achieve great results, you need:

  • Define goals and budgets for each ad type. Here’s how I estimate my acceptable costs
  • Find keywords that meet your goals and budget.
  • Create responsive designs.
  • Create a campaign.
  • Use A|B testing.
  • Track the results.
  • Revise, Improve, and Remarket.

Don’t forget ads are expensive. Start small and revise. Be careful with automated Google or Facebook ads. Watch the video below to understand why:

Don’t Forget Brand-Building Services Help Offline, too

Branding applies outside of a computer screen too. You’ll also need to consider the visual identity in your store or office.

Mike explained the challenges he saw:

“Consistency over geographic areas is really challenging. The yellow trucks can stay consistent, but you need to use (pictures of) landscape that’s consistent with your region for marketing. When we first started franchising, we discovered the trucks were an unexpected challenge to keep consistent across the brand.

Augusta truck car decals

When a franchisor got a yellow truck that wasn’t the yellow we were expecting, we started sending the color spec colors with a paint match square. That solved the problem, but then we found the decals came out different, so we developed brand kits. Now, we send the color guide and decals to our franchisors to maintain consistency.”

A lot of creatives love Moo for business cards and marketing materials because the quality offers a premium feel. In case you need large format prints for storefronts, I tend to like ProDPI.  For packaging, I would recommend researching print shops in your location to remove risks associated with supply chain disruptions.

Employees are also the brand ambassadors to your target audience. You’ll want to make sure they represent your brand well.

Mike told us:

“Front-line employees are the 1st point of contact. They have to match the branding. The goal and the vision have to stay the same. You can change [the] pay structure or uniforms, but if the goal changes employees won’t get on board.”

Pricing and Loyalty Programs Should Match Brand Marketing

One of the mistakes that people make a lot of the time is creating a brand that works for everyone. It doesn’t work. Choose where you can make a profit and keep your brand promise, then focus on rewarding customer loyalty. 

Once you find the right customers through brand building, company efforts should be made to increase the value of those relationships through communication, rewarding loyalty, and encouraging customers to refer others. Make it a point to document where you want to be priced in the market and how you want to reward customer loyalty.

Now that you’ve documented the important elements of brand building, it’s time to implement your strategy.

Step 4. Implement Your Brand Strategy

Implement the systems you specified in your strategy, create content that communicates your company’s mission using your brand voice, spend money on marketing, and delight your target customers. Do these with consistency, and your brand voice will resonate with people.

Mike told us:

“The best part of being a business owner is the ability to impact others’ lives,

You are building a relationship. A brand needs to help the customer know, like, and trust you.”

Be grateful for this opportunity; you have worked hard for it. Gratitude is one of the primary drivers of happiness. 

Step 5. Let the Brand Personality Evolve

All the brand guidelines, systems, and brand building processes are great in theory, but a business brand will evolve over time just like the target audience will. Create consistency, keep your brand voice, but don’t be afraid to build a brand that changes as the market evolves.

Mike told us:

“Your brand has to constantly evolve, or it dies.

If you look at Starbucks, they change all kinds of things: subscriptions, loyalty programs, social initiatives, and other things. All that’s branding.”

When you meet a goal, revisit your brand development plan––and then set new goals. Periodically go back and research competitors. Maybe they’ve changed strategies, or there’s a new business that is fast growing that you can buy or partner with to leverage growth. No one can tell you a sure-fire way to succeed in business because we’re all different. As Mike said:

“You have to consider what you are trying to scale. Every change will be different. You can’t do the same thing to expand geographically as you would to expand locally. Nor can you do the same thing to make $1 million as you did to make $100,000.”

Conclusion: The Brand Building Process Never Ends

When you look at each company, you find things you like and dislike about them. Your business will be the same way for some customers. Whether your pricing is just a little out of their price range or you have long lead times because everything is custom made, there will be something a customer wishes you could do better. 

It’s natural to make mistakes. We learn and grow from them. Brand building is just specifying a learning process and strategies to help a brand identity grow through the mistakes that naturally occur. Make sure you acknowledge your mistakes and build loyalty even when you make a mistake.

You just have to decide how to brand your business and keep your brand promise. If you keep your word, people will grow to love that they can always count on your business––over time.

Which topics would you like us to discuss more in future blogs?

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