Source: Electrum Branding
Do you ever wonder how companies like Starbucks or Amazon became so successful? Or how Apple emerged into a global giant after starting their operations in a small garage? The answer is strong branding. As the consumer buyer's journey continues to evolve, having a strong product isn't enough of a reason to buy something anymore. According to Nielsen, nearly 75% of global consumers say that brand origin is a key purchase driver. Creating a brand that resonates with your prospects and customers is a surefire way to take your business to the next level. But before you can develop your brand, there are a few questions you've got to ask yourself about your company.
6 Questions to Ask to Improve Your Brand Strategy
1. What is your story?
The first question you have to ask when defining your brand strategy is what story you are trying to sell through your brand. Your story depicts an image of who you are and what you do. People don't want to just buy a product, they want to buy an experience. Stories elicit experience and emotions from your customer, and propel them toward purchase. Your story is usually derived from your value proposition and should provide context as to where your company has been, and where you plan to go in the future. The goal of your story should be to capture your audience's attention, and it should loosely align with all aspects of your business strategy. Your story is the overarching premise of your company's existence. If you can create a compelling story, your prospects will see greater value in your product.
2. Who is your ideal customer and how do you speak to them?
The next question to ask when working towards improving your branding strategy is who your ideal customer is, and how will you go about speaking to them. There are two things to consider when thinking about your ideal customer: Your ideal customer profile and your buyer personas. The ideal customer profile should relate to the type of company you are looking to sell to. When determining which companies you want to target for your business, you will want to look at the firmographics to get a better understanding of what companies would be a good fit. For instance, analyzing factors like industry, company size and annual revenue will give you a better understanding of a company and if its need is in alignment with your product offering.
Once you have determined what types of companies you will target, you will need to develop your buyer personas. Your buyer personas are the specific people within a company who you will be selling to. For example, if you sell a financial software, your buyer persona might be a CFO. While it is important to pinpoint the specific types of companies you want to work with, at the end of the day you are selling to a person, which is why your buyer personas play a pivotal role in your customer acquisition strategy. Once you have identified your buyer personas (three different personas is a good start), the next step is identifying what this person cares about and what challenges they are faced with on a daily basis. Back to our example above, if your buyer persona is a CFO, a huge challenge they are likely to face would be data processing and analysis. Knowing this, the content you produce should address these types of pain points and how your product provides a solution.
3. What brands do you admire?
One of the best ways to make improvements to your branding strategy is to analyze the strategies of brands you admire. How do these brands communicate to their audience? Do these companies you admire have common themes or strategies similar to your company? How can you emulate these brands without copying their strategy? Finding the answers to these types of questions will help you find new and creative ways to market yourself to your audience.
4. What are my competitors doing?
Nobody likes to admit the strengths of their competitors, but truth be told it is actually very helpful to do so. As difficult as it may be, sometimes you've got to put your ego aside and acknowledge the areas of business where your competitors excel. Our marketing team here at New Breed recently did an exercise where we analyzed how our top-performing competitors were conveying themselves on their websites. We made a list of strengths and weaknesses as if we were a consumer looking to buy their product. From there, we brainstormed a number of different ways we could differentiate ourselves from them. Creating this juxtaposition with our competitors has helped us to better establish our brand image, and the manner in which we want to present our company to our clients. It may seem counterintuitive, but in order to beat your customers, you have to not only understand them, but also respect them.
5. How do we want to make clients and prospects feel?
We've already mentioned how the customer experience plays an equal role in a consumer's purchase decision as the product itself. For many people, perception of buying experience will be the determining factor in a purchase decision. The question you need to ask yourself is how do you want your prospects to feel throughout their buyer's journey, and how do you want your clients to feel after they have already made a purchase from you.
Brian Chesky, founder of AirBnB, crafted the "11 Star Experience" to determine how he wanted his customers to feel when using AirBnB. This exercise created by Chesky was essentially meant to get companies thinking outside of the box to improve their customer experience. Instead of bothering to look into what a one- through four-star experience would look like, Chesky recommends starting with the five-star experience, because you would never want your customers to experience anything less than that. After you have established your five star experience, what does a six star experience look like, seven stars, 10 stars, all the way up to 11 stars.
The goal of the 11 Star Experience is to generate as many crazy ideas that would make for the best customer experience possible. While a lot of your ideas will probably not even be feasible, the point of the exercise is to think outside of the boundaries. Because while you might not be able to execute your 11 star experience, the generation of your ridiculous ideas might spark something that you could make possible. For example, it might not be feasible for AirBnB to have Elon Musk pick up house guests from the airport, but it may be feasible for AirBnB to provide travel accommodations to get them from the airport to their final destination.
6. What are your core values and attributes your brand should express?
The final thing you'll want to consider when creating your brand is what core values and attributes you want your brand to express. Determining what qualities of your brand are important to you can then be drawn out through your brand personality. For example, if you decide you want your brand to appear strong, you might decide on bold brand colors that imply strength like black or red. If you decide that your objective is to portray your brand as witty, you might choose to leverage a lot of clever gifs in your twitter posts.
Once you have determined your core values, we suggest making a list of all the words that you want to be associated with your brand. In addition to this, you should also make a list of all the words you don't want to be associated with your brand. Identifying key attributes of your brand, and establishing the right tone and voice to portray your values will greatly help you hone in on your content strategy and make it easier for your target audience to identify you. This is extremely important, especially if you are working in a crowded market.
For example, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are both successful health food stores by many consumers. But each store's brand personality completely differentiates the two companies. Trader Joe's for instance, puts a major emphasis on creating a fun shopping experience for their customers. They leverage bright brand colors in their advertising strategy and emphasize the fact that they travel all over the world to bring unique items to their shelves for their consumers. They want their consumer's buying experience to feel as though they are going on a unique treasure hunt every time they step foot into the grocery store.
Whole Foods, on the other hand, has a completely different approach to branding. They are far more sophisticated and their main focus is to let their affluent customer base know that their products are of the best quality. Their branding is sleeker than Trader Joes', with less color and more realistic imaging.
While these two companies sell similar products, their distinctive branding attracts contrasting audiences. Neither one is better than the other; they are both extremely successful companies. But this example goes to show how important a factor branding plays in the buying process, and how important it is to determine the right target audience for your company.
One last thing to note on your core values and brand personality is that it can differentiate across channels. For example, on social media, you would probably come off as more casual than you would when creating an e-book, or even a blog post. When you have established your core values, you can start to make your branding strategy more granular by deciding which specific attributes should be leveraged in each specific channel.
If we haven't already made it obvious, your branding strategy plays a huge role in your lead generation strategy, demand generation strategy and your acquisition of new customers. Branding starts with the establishment of your company's story and what core values your company holds. While your product is important, the context surrounding your product is what will compel your audience to make a purchase. If your company can determine who you are trying to reach, how you want to reach them and what you want them to know about your company, you're on the right track to creating a brand that consumers can identify with. As the market continues to become more and more competitive, differentiating your company through your brand will be a key driver in your company's growth.
Guido is a Demand Generation Marketer for New Breed. He specializes in running in-depth demand generation programs internally while assisting account managers in running them for our clients.