Dale Berkebile (@Brandwise) is the President of Brandwise, a branding and inbound marketing company located in Fort Worth, Texas. He also manages the website Sound Convictions, a website for musicians and music fans (@SoundConviction). In this article, Dale shares his thoughts on branding best practices for SMB.
Branding is a mysterious thing that is often confused. Here's our thoughts on Branding
The other day I was asked by John Beveridge to write a guest post on this site. He mentioned the topic of branding. This took me a few days to think about where is the best place to start. Branding is often confused as design type items. So how is design different from branding?
Photo by Peter Kaminski
Design is one item that helps build a brand, but just a small part. One thing to understand is that branding is much bigger than a logo design, a website design, a brochure design or the like. Think about Starbucks, they are successful not only because of their design, but also how they treat their customers, the products they offer, how they price their product, and the user experience they create.
Branding really is everything you do and everything that comes in contact with a prospect and customer. It could be a business card or a friend telling you a story about the good or bad things your business does. So the real definition is this: a brand is a customer/prospects gut feeling about you, your product and your service. Keep in mind, perception is reality to those people. If they think you are weak or small time, then guess what, youre not getting their business. Not even if you are the greatest company in your industry.
So how do you change peoples mind? How do you get people to change their gut feelings? The first step is to understand what your current customer and prospects gut feeling is or how you are perceived by the marketplace. How do you do this? Well, if youre a company that has been in business for sometime you can start calling your customers and asking them questions or hire an outside firm to do this for you. If youre a startup you may want to do some market research to understand where the holes are in the marketplace. You then need to define where youre at currently and where you want to be.
When it comes to Branding the goal is to establish and build trust. Whether you are purposeful with your branding by working with a brand management firm or if you fly by the seat of your pants, you are still branding yourself. You are either create a strong trustworthy brand or a weak untrustworthy brand. This is a question for you to ask yourself Is having a polished brand important to me and will it help us get the type clients we want? Or, should we not worry about all this branding stuff and do what we do? Either way, you are branding your company.
I recommend working with a design firm or branding company that can help you create a professional image for your company. Something to also take into consideration is that brand awareness is one thing, but a good salesperson is important to really close deals. A logo, a brochure or a website never closed any deals (unless it's an e-commerce site). So although we think presenting yourself and company with a strong brand image is important, don't put all your eggs in this basket without making sure you invest equally in your sales team (assessments and training). Put these two things together and deliver a great product and you will build a powerful brand!
So what are the ABCs of branding?
Here are a few A, B, Cs to help you understand branding better:
- Awareness: It's important to be known, to have people aware that you exist. This is where marketing, networking, and sales come in. Awareness is built by regular and consistent connections with prospects and customers.
- Brand/Branding: A persons perception of a product, service, experience or organization; the art and science of branding. Any effort or program that is used to build a brand; the process of brand building.
- Corporate Identity: The brand identity of a company usually consisting of its visual identifiers such as the name, trademark, typography, logo, icon and colors; also know as a companies' trade dress. This is what is most commonly thought of or confused when people use the term branding. As mentioned earlier, this is only a small part of the whole overall brand.
- Differentiation: The process of establishing a unique market position, with the goal of standing out in order to increase profit margins and avoid commoditization; the result of positioning.
If you'd like to learn more about branding, check out this eBook (Stand Out in a Crowded Marketplace) with several branding tips, a fun ABC branding game to test your branding awareness and ideas and advice on naming your brand.