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Brand Strategy Comes With Knowing What Your Business Really Means to People

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Brand Strategy Comes With Knowing What Your Business Really Means to People

Small Businesses typically launch without spending a lot of time on their brand.

Because let’s face it, there’s quite a lot to think about when you’re starting a business. So, you put together a logo, a website and a bit of a marketing plan, and off you go. Pretty soon you’re too busy to give it much thought, especially if it’s working OK.

But then, a year or two down the track, you stall. Perhaps you start to experience high staff turnover, or you know your website, and other marketing isn’t right, but your agency can’t seem to get their head around what you’re trying to achieve. Maybe you’re not getting enough qualified leads to drive a decent growth pipeline. Whatever the snag you’ve hit, it could be a signal that you need to take a long, hard look at your brand.

The good news is, this is a far better time to focus on your brand than when you launch your business. Although you certainly need a recognisable identity to go to market, it’s only once you’ve been in the market for a while that you can gather the rich information you need to create a kick-ass brand strategy; one that will catapult your business over those hurdles and on into the stratosphere.

But before we talk about how to put together a brand strategy, let’s take a moment to bust a myth … Make no mistake; your brand is not your logo. It’s not your brochure or your website. It’s not your product, your service, your shop front or even your people. In fact, your brand, any brand, lives in the overlap between all these things and ‘how they are experienced’ by your customers, staff and stakeholders.

When we think of Nike, we don’t just think of a swoosh or a colour scheme. Instead, we instantly think of all that Nike means to us. That could encompass a memory of the kid at school who had coolest sneaks and inspired you to save up for your own pair; the smell of a new (or old!) pair of running shoes; the sound of the tissue paper rustling as you draw open the box; or the sensation of lacing up your trainers as you head out for a run. That’s without even starting on how you researched which shoes you were going to buy, why you picked Nike over Reebok or the experience you had in store.

Here’s the thing; all that information is locked inside your head. Nike would never know about your experience of its brand unless it asked you. Which of course, it does. Nike spends a huge amount of time and money understanding how its customers think and feel about the brand, and beyond that about the bigger context in which the brand operates. How do people feel about exercise? What are their pain points? What’s the job they need Nike to do for them?

Only by understanding these things, could Nike come up with a slogan like Just Do It: a slogan which, by the way, helped reverse a declining brand and increase sales by more than 1 000 per cent over the following ten years.

While you may not be Nike, the same principle applies to every business. You can’t know what your business really means to people if you don’t ask them. So, this is where to start with your brand strategy.

Spend time talking with your customers, your staff and any other important stakeholders to understand:

  1. What is the real pain point, the problem they need to solve (dig deep beyond the obvious here)?
  2. What your business helps them to get done (it may not be what you think it is)?
  3. How they came to your business in the first place (maybe you’re focusing all your efforts on email marketing when people actually come through personal referrals)?
  4. Why they kept coming back (or didn’t!)?
  5. How your business makes them feel in their everyday dealings with you?

The best way to get rich information is through insightful conversations.  According to IDEO, empathy-led interviewing is “Essential for uncovering deep insights and ultimately creating novel, game-changing products and services.” Once you have some great information about what ‘they’ think your brand is, you can overlay it with what ‘you’ think your brand is. This provides interesting insights that could spark a change in your messaging, marketing or even the products and services you deliver.

A great place to head from here is into a full customer journey mapping exercise. Understanding the end-to-end journey that a customer experiences with your business, as opposed to seeing it as a series of unrelated touchpoints. With the insights from a customer journey map, you can identify sticking points or places where customers drop out and uncover how to make the journey more consistent and seamless.

In the end, this work will most likely guide you towards making changes to the way you sell, go to market, and create loyalty. It will almost certainly unravel some of the sticky challenges you are facing with churn, sluggish sales pipelines and low conversion rates.

At this point, you may even decide to change your website, brochure or logo. And if you do, you’ll be starting from an informed place. This makes it a million times more likely that you’ll create brand materials that resonate in the hearts and minds of the people who matter to you.

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