A Crash Course in Branding for Entrepreneurs
July 11, 2018
Take an inside-out approach.
How can your brand rise above a cluttered marketplace? Taking an inside-out approach is the most powerful and prolific way to distinguish your brand from the competition. Other companies may look outside their organizations to create a differentiation in the marketplace, but this kind of approach produces only a temporary advantage at best. It’s only a matter of time before the competition catches on to—and even imitates—the new angle.
So what exactly is the inside-out approach? The most memorable brands demonstrate an understanding of who they are from within the organization—what employees and stakeholders alike currently think of the brand and of what sets it apart from everyone else. To do this for your brand, first conduct a gap or SWOT analysis. As a company, find out who you really are “on the inside.” What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? Next, take the time to recognize what makes your company unique and of value to your audiences. In other words, consider what distinctive attributes, processes or credibility points already exist in your organization.
Discovering these differentiators create a value proposition that is very challenging to duplicate. Next, once your company agrees on its differentiators, ensure your employees, contractors and stakeholders grasp those distinctions with certainty. Educate your people on how to communicate them to your audiences as a value proposition. By doing this, you’ve activated a prevailing marketing engine that builds your brand from the inside-out.
Build a reputation.
When your value proposition is finally clear, explore all the ways you can deliver on it from within your organization. Think of your value proposition as a simple promise that must be kept at every point of contact with your audiences. For example, what kind of employees must you hire to be able to deliver on this promise? How will you engage employees to the brand when onboarding? How will you empower employees to make “on-brand” decisions in the moment of need? What brand performance metrics can you incorporate into employee performance reviews?
The answers to many of these questions come from internal processes you may already have in place. Determine if these processes aid or inhibit delivering on your brand promise. What processes are in place or are necessary to hardwire the brand experience into every interaction? What tools are available or are needed to communicate consistently the brand promise to audiences?
After internal controls and measures are operational, identify where your audiences are most likely to see your message. A business-to-business company looking to boost social media channels would have more visibility with LinkedIn than with Facebook. Also, be sure to communicate uniformly your brand promise in every advertising effort. In the public relations or social media space, always provide value-added content. Ideally, your content will underscore your brand promise. If adopting an organization-wide cause marketing effort, look for a nonprofit that supports your brand promise, values or belief system. For example, if you are a healthcare provider, consider aligning with the Red Cross or with Doctors Without Borders.
In other words, once you decide who you are and for what you want to be known, create a 360° brand-building approach. Then use that brand decision to drive everything else in your organization. This creates an engaged workforce, as well as engagement and advocacy with external audiences.
A brand message communicated unfailingly over time will create visibility and will elevate your business—separating your brand from a cluttered marketplace.
Make it important.
To make your brand important, manage it as the valuable asset that it is. A brand can be a much more valuable business asset than even your product, as consumers will pay more for the perceived value and the relationship they have with a brand. So how can this value be translated to others?
One of the most important steps in doing this is making sure the CEO of your company lives the brand…leads the brand…and, ultimately, enlightens others on the importance of the brand. This is perhaps one of the most neglected—but absolutely necessary—actions for building a sustainable brand.
Another way to manage important areas of an organization is with financial dashboards or operational efficiency dashboards. Dashboards are common ways to measure brand loyalty, brand delivery, or any one of the industry’s 17 brand metrics. Create a brand dashboard and review it monthly. From this information, determine adjustments as needed to build an authentic, transparent brand. Conduct a brand audit annually to craft the upcoming year’s strategic brand initiatives.
You can also operationalize your brand by creating cross-functional brand engagement teams within your organization. Task these teams with ideations for new, unexpected ways to deliver on the brand promise with the 360° perspective. This creates a continuous improvement loop for building your brand and for elevating your organization above the competition.
Finally, make your bottom line important. Brand building efforts, or lack thereof, are reflected in your bottom line profits. Companies dedicating time and resources to operationalizing their brands experience double-digit growth year after year. What’s more, brand building is reflected in the intangible assets on a company’s balance sheet. If a company’s intangible assets grow to 30% or more, branding becomes the most profitable effort for organizations looking at an exit strategy.
By Jennifer Holland, Certified Brand Strategist, Holland People+Brands
With communications and consulting expertise spanning two decades, Jennifer Holland builds a client’s brand into an innovative, unique signature for its products and services. As part of The Brand Establishment, Jennifer has deep roots in award-winning design and interactive marketing. She is one of only 32 Certified Brand Strategists in the U.S. and is the only marketing consultant in Northeast Florida with this elite status.
Jennifer and partner Jackie Weathers developed a proven methodology that grows business—the Holland Helix®. This model integrates a business+brand+people strategy, enhancing a company’s brand persona and engaging employees to live the brand. These efforts were published internationally in the Journal of Brand Strategy in 2013. Their Build Your Brand DIY Workshop® curriculum teaches the model to growth-oriented entrepreneurs. Licensed in 2014, these workshops now appear in six U.S. and Canadian markets and were selected for the SBDC Scale Up America grant in Jacksonville, Florida.
Jennifer is a top-rated presenter and national speaker on branding. She is an Expert Resource Speaker for Vistage International and consistently secures speaking engagements for national conferences and private corporations. Additionally, she was named as the 2015 Women in Business Established Entrepreneur of the Year and as one of the 2015 Women of Influence by the Jacksonville Business Journal.