In today’s crowded business world, it’s hard for anyone to stand out and grow.

Most businesses, especially at a local level here in Kansas City don’t take their “brand” seriously.

This means that the businesses that take their brand seriously will have a big competitive advantage over everyone else in their marketplace. So what can you do to improve your business’s brand to help further success?

To understand the branding concept better, it’s good to look at how the top companies in the world look at their brand. Brands like Apple, Nike, and Starbucks have made solid foundations in our hearts and in our minds but what makes these brands so great?

What do they do so well that other brands can’t keep up?

I know what you might be saying, “We’re not Nike.” and you may not be. But…even if your small business never stacks up to an Apple, Netflix or Amazon, there are several things you can learn from these brands that will ensure your future and accelerate your brand to new levels.

Here are 5 branding tips that will grow your small business and help you gain the edge over the competition.

1. Know your purpose.

All of the great organizations of the world have a clear sense of why they do what they do.

Companies like Apple, Crayola, Heineken and Harley Davidson understand that money is not a core reason to be in business but would rather see it as a fuel to help them continue towards their cause.

For example:

  • Apple is a computer company but their purpose isn’t to sell the best computers with the fastest processors. Their purpose is to simplify the way people use technology every day.
  • Crayola doesn’t just exist to sell crayons. Their purpose or cause is to help cultivate creativity in children.
  • Harley Davidson isn’t just a motorcycle. If it were, a Honda Goldwing is much cheaper and maybe more dependable. However; Harley Davidson is so clear on their purpose that they serve as a symbol for a way of life. A Harley Davidson isn’t a motorcycle, it’s a symbol of freedom.

These types of companies don’t usually invent the products or the technology, however, they are usually the one that sees the bigger picture and then figure out a way to communicate it to their fans.

In his book Start with Why, Simon Sinek said it best: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

We believe in this philosophy so much that it is the first thing we help small businesses with during our brand strategy sessions. Finding their purpose or “why”. Helping small brands understand the importance of having a purpose is our number 1 goal when working with our clients.

2. Invest in your branding.

If you have ever thought about hiring a graphic designer for your business, you know that deciding between hiring a professional Graphic Designer or your cousin Rick who will do what you need in Microsoft Paint for $5 is a hard decision to make.

You also know that having a professionally designed company logo, website, product packaging and marketing materials can make all the difference when you’re running a purpose-driven company and want to look the part or stand out from the pack.

A good designer is to your brand as an architect is to your home. It’s worth the investment.

When you invest in your branding, it’s like investing into your relationship with the rest of the world. From your logo to your website to your packaging and everything in between your “branding” is often the best way to influence people outside of price or features.

Like you, a professional designer wants to get things right the first time. Therefore, they ask a lot of high-level questions about your company’s mission, purpose, and goals. This is usually accomplished in what’s called a “Discovery session”. It’s an in-person meeting that usually takes about an hour or two and allows everyone to have a clear idea of what to expect from the project and what the end goal will be.

After that, the design companies who specialize in Branding, like we do at Thinkshore Media, will then conduct a Brand Strategy workshop. This will answer questions like:

  • Can you describe your brand in one sentence?
  • How will your brand look?
  • How will your brand talk? act?
  • Who will your customers be? and what do they need from you?
  • What is your mission?
  • What is your positioning?
  • How do you exceed expectations?
  • What is your brand personality?

The Brand Strategy workshop will give everyone involved a clear picture and aligned goals for the project. Once completed, you and your business have a clear understanding of what your brand is and what it will look like and how it will interact with its customers. Then they design logos, websites, and marketing materials based on the business and brand goals.

Brands like Nike, Under Armour, Heineken and Apple, invest millions of dollars a year in improving their advertising, messaging, branding and overall customer experience online and in-store. If these companies didn’t invest in their brand, the vast majority of people simply wouldn’t buy from them.

They know that investing in their brand ensures these things get done right the first time and that is always a good strategy. You can grow your brand with the proper planning.

3. Focus on customer experience.

Amazon is an online retail juggernaut. They have disrupted several businesses and will disrupt several more.
but…. Your small business can compete with them.

Don’t believe me?

Sure, you can’t compete with their pricing and with their fast 2-day shipping (some places shipping in an hour or two)

The one advantage that your small business will always over Amazon (or any big business for that matter) is complete control over the Customer Experience. Brands like Chick-Fila, Tesla, and the Boston based T-shirt brand Johnny Cupcakes are built on one question that gets asked time and time again….

How do we improve our customer experience?

This isn’t done once. It’s thought of every single day whether these brands are improving their custom packaging, adding stickers to orders, improving their websites or improving their overall look. These companies are focused on making their business better again and again by improving their customer’s time with them.

What are some things you’ve done to improve your customer experience?

4. Make a promise & deliver.

What is your brand promise? Do you have one?

Remember the “get your pizza in 30 minutes or its free” promise.

That’s a brand promise. The idea is to build trust.

Chances are you have some guiding principles in your head about how your company will do business. The idea of the brand promise isn’t to keep it to yourself. It’s to make it public and hold your company accountable to that commitment.

Walmart’s brand promise is that they are committed to low prices every day. But how do we know?

Their price match guarantee serves as proof of this idea.

They prove they are committed to low prices and saving people money by allowing customers to “ad match” most ads and give them the convenience of buying from their store rather than somewhere else. Even if, they “take a loss” on that single product, they believe that it is more valuable to deliver quality service and deliver on their commitment to low prices. This is their brand.

We see brand promises as a piece of external communication in policy and marketing that serves as tangible proof of the cause or purpose your brand is committed to serving.

What do you expect from your company?

Make it a brand promise and grow your brand.

5. Be consistent with everything.

Sometimes it gets boring doing the same thing over and over again. I get it. But consider this.

Why does that one song get stuck in your head? It’s usually because you hear it on the radio over and over and over again, all day, every day. This is also true with any form of advertising or branding. It’s how brands stick with us.

By using the same fonts, colors, and overall style the same way over and over again every single time, you make it easier for people to recognize your brand even when your logo isn’t in the picture. The idea of consistency is to create some form of Brand Recognition.

Building brand recognition is like “eating clean”. It may be boring at times however if you have the discipline to stick to it for the long term it will pay off.

Remember, in order to grow your brand, it takes hard work. It takes patience, consistency and the ability to roll with the punches. The best companies focus on long-term success. If you need help with your companies branding, give us a call at Thinkshore Media, we would be glad to help!


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