Preparing to launch a new business is exciting. It can also be overwhelming. There’s so much to do! EEK! Creating a business plan, recruiting and hiring a team, and renting a business space! It’s easy to get bogged down in the details and take a shortcut on your to-do list.
One area you should NOT cut corners on is building your brand. Building your brand strategy is WAY MORE than just making sure you have a cool logo, signage, and business cards. If you want a brand that will stand the test of time and demonstrate your value to customers, it takes work. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Here are some key steps for creating a brand strategy that will grow with you and your business and give you a roadmap for growth and success.
Collaborate with your key stakeholders.
If your business involves other people like investors, employees, and partners- collaboration is critical. You must get on the same page about what your company is offering and not offering, why it delivers products or services the way it does, and what makes you different from competitors. If you’re a sole proprietorship, this may take less time but is still very important. Set aside some time to answer a few key questions about your business:
- What values are important to us as employees, partners, and stakeholders?
- What is important to our customers?
- What do we want to be known for?
- What do we NOT want to be known for?
- How do we want to treat our employees and customers?
This is a fun exercise that you can facilitate with your entire team. Ask the tough questions. Make sure you can all agree on the overarching key messages even if you don’t agree on the semantics.
Solidify your feedback.
Once you’ve received all the input from your team, condense this feedback down to major themes. For instance, is “integrity in your business dealings” something that was continually brought up? Was it important that your product or service portray innovation or advancement? Put those types of comments in buckets to develop 4-6 key core values. Next, try another round of brainstorming after you’ve agreed on these values.
- Ask your team to identify who your ideal customer is.
- What is their age?
- Where do they shop or live?
- If you’re in B2B, what industry are they in? What attributes are important to them?
- Ask what is unique about what your product or service. If there isn’t anything unique about how you’re doing business, you may need to brainstorm with your operations team.
Do some research on your competitors and be critical with what you’re answering. This will help you identify your value proposition.
Formulate and distribute.
After you’ve identified your key core values and value proposition, write statements that succinctly tell your story to your customers and your employees. Make sure they are easy to remember and simple. If you overcomplicate it by throwing in everything you do and why you do it, you’ll never remember them and neither will your customers. Once you’ve written these key statements, ask yourself and your team- are they true?
- Will we be willing to hire and fire based on if our team is delivering on our promise. Get really honest with yourselves because this will be your guiding mission.
Format these messages in a way that your team can access from one place. Typically, these statements live within your brand guidelines or company handbook. Next, make sure your marketing partners (your digital agency or graphic designers) have them before they do any work for your company. They should be on the same page with your messaging before they create any collateral, ads, or websites with your brand.
This brainstorming and strategy exercise was fun and probably felt like a big accomplishment if you were able to complete within a week or so! But the work doesn’t stop there. Your company should constantly be evolving if you want to grow. So, make sure your brand is evolving with it.
Dust off your brand guidelines and handbook every year while you’re creating your marketing or business plan to ensure it still stands the test of time. Make tweaks to the messaging and language to ensure it fits with the direction of your organization.
If all of this still sounds overwhelming, contact us about guiding you through the process. It will be fun, collaborative and – you’ll receive a roadmap for your brand’s success!
About the Author
Stacey Harrison is the lead brand strategist and designer at Heart & Hustle Brands and has provided creative direction for healthcare, industrial, and financial services brands for 20 years. She started Harrison Creative Group in 2017 to serve businesses that need a professional brand image on a budget. In 2021, the company rebranded to Heart & Hustle Brands to walk in the shoes of clients that experience a change of name or brand refresh.