Forget about chocolate, overpriced roses or sexy lingerie… This Valentine’s Day, don’t wait for your boyfriend or your wife to make your favorite dessert. Give yourself a more lasting, more meaningful Valentine’s Day present: the gift of a strong brand.
Branding is all about creating a love affair between your brand and your target audience. It is the job of every business to carve out a place in their hearts and their minds that no one else can occupy. And just like any other relationship, it takes effort. You want to create a bond so strong that nothing can tear you apart, but expensive chocolates and feeble, last minute, once-a-year gifts or promotions are not going to cut it! It requires consistent effort on your part in order to build the strongest relationship possible with your target audience.
Branding is a universal concept in business, but branding is an often misunderstood concept. The brand is much more than a logo, although a company or product logo can be a visual depiction of a brand. A brand is the sum total of the public’s perception of a product or company; it is what immediately jumps to mind in a person’s thoughts when you think of that brand. In order to have a shot at long-term relationship success, every small business needs to dedicate time and effort to building the idea of what that brand stands for. Anyone in the company or anyone in your target audience should be able to answer, “What’s so great about that brand?” If they can’t, then you know you have more branding work to do.
Unlike personal relationships, it’s actually not as hard as it may sound. Here are a few simple steps for long-lasting relationship success with your target audience:
Clearly identify what you want to be known for. If you are new, you’ve got a blank canvas upon which to paint. If you’ve been in business a while, you’ll need to be guided by what current perceptions are. Either way, purposefully identify what you want people to think of when they think of your brand. Realize that even if your brand has stood for something for a long time and you know you want to shift that brand, you can still do it. After all, Apple started out selling computers, not telephones!
This is not a static, one-and-done type of exercise.
Figure out the qualities that are core to your brand, as well as ones that you’d like to expand on or nurture. What current proficiencies would you like to highlight or more strongly associate with your brand?
Once you’ve identified what you want to convey, your next need to determine where and how you’re going to communicate your brand message. As you think about your target audience, think about every possible touch point that you might be able to influence. Get creative with this! While there are certainly traditional ways to influence brand perception (websites, TV commercials, print ads, or trade show booth materials), there are also more subtle (and yet just as effective) methods for conveying your brand. They don’t all have to be super expensive and time-consuming; consider what impressions you can make with effective email signatures, voicemails, website videos, thank you notes or social media posts. Any kind of content can show your brand’s personality. If your brand is funny or quirky and weird, embrace that. This is the time to stand out–not a time to blend into the woodwork!
And don’t forget about the role personal branding can play in developing your brand. Most small businesses are run by a highly involved principal or leadership team. Entrepreneurs are often expected to be the public face of their company and for solo-preneurs, they are the living embodiment of their company brand. In these cases, having a strong personal brand can mean the success or failure of a business.
Use the personal branding possibilities to your advantage! Show your brand’s passion for the industry. Be interesting. It’s important to show that you care about what they care about. Any good relationship is built on mutual interests so show your target audience that you care about what they care about.
How can you do this?
Try telling stories! You can tell stories about anything you want to strengthen your brand in your customer’s mind. They first found out about you and took an interest in you because you had something great to offer… Tell them a little bit more about that. You could tell the story of why you got started doing what you’re doing or why you chose a certain product or service to launch in a certain way. You could talk about how you do what you do and how that’s different from what other people do.
As with any great date, one person can’t do all the talking. Don’t just let the conversation be one-sided; you also want to know about them. Take the time to listen to your target audience and find out what they care about. Surveys, social media listening campaigns and good old fashioned consumer research are great ways to build a strong relationship.
Don’t forget about networking with influencers. How can your personal brand get known to the right audience? While small businesses may not have millions of dollars to spend on advertising and branding messages, they can still impact their brand by actively managing that brand and making choices for activities and programs that help strengthen the brand message to an appropriate target audience.
So for this Valentine’s Day season, build some love with your target audience by building your brand. Being consistent and doing a little bit every day to help strengthen your brand will go a long way in creating that titanium-strength bond that ensures profitability and a world-class reputation in your industry.
Happy Valentine’s Day and may you enjoy the benefits of long-lasting relationships with your target audience!