An entrepreneur has to be a jack of all trades (and hopefully master of some). Hardly a moment goes by when I'm not bombarded with content on social media, urging me to consider some element of running a business that seemed trivial just a few moments before, but now seems like the most vital thing ever thanks to the insistent blogging of yet another self-styled 'thought leader'.
The post that you're reading now certainly falls into that category, although I'd probably pick a less pretentious title for myself than 'thought leader', which sounds like the name of a D-list Marvel super-villain. I earnestly believe that effective brand identity is genuinely very important to the success of every business, regardless of its size or scope. With this in mind, I submit for your consideration '3 Things Every Entrepreneur Can Do To Successfully Manage Their Brand'. I hope it strikes a chord.
Remember that the purpose of brand identity is to engage with both existing and potential customers. It has to be developed, communicated and managed with these customers in mind, unfettered by the personal tastes of the business owner. This is exactly the same principle as writing a speech or a novel so that every word, sentence and paragraph is appropriate to the target audience. Some novelists take the attitude that they would rather write for themselves first, and if other people like it so much the better - that's fine if you're happy to risk being a struggling artiste, but not particularly helpful if you're building a business that aims to make money.
It can be difficult, but it's very important to put aside personal tastes and preconceptions when it comes to brand identity. It's possible to be proud of a well-crafted logo without necessarily having a design that you'd want hanging over your fireplace. Ultimately, the brand's success will be measured by the engagement of your customers, not by how much you (or for that matter, your friends and family) personally appreciate it.
Create Strong and Consistent Experiences
Brand identity isn't simply about design - it's the sum total of every brand communication, brand asset and customer interaction. All of these things together build you brand's personality, culture and public perception. Therefore, customers are exposed to your brand every time they interact with your business in any way, not just when they see your logo or an advertisement. This includes, but certainly isn't limited to:
- When they speak with you or any of your employees on the phone.
- When they receive an email from you.
- When they arrive outside your building.
- When they're greeted at reception.
- When they make a complaint.
- When they make a comment on your social media.
- When they visit your website.
This might sound bizarre, but even the experience a customer has when using the toilet in your building can be a factor in determining how they feel about you and your brand! I once worked with an agency that did great work and had a great reputation, but we would be absolutely terrified of a client needing to use the horrific, dilapidated bathroom (with actually did have a bath in it - a pink one).
The lesson here is to flex your empathic muscles and put yourself in the mind of the customer. Try to understand how they experience your brand at every stage, and consider what can be done better. It's not simply a case of creating a better experience though - the experience also needs to be consistent with your brand identity and values. Sometimes just a few small changes can make all the difference.
Refer to Your Brand Guidelines
If you've gone to the trouble of commissioning a set of brand guidelines (and I'd strongly recommend that you do), please don't think that the job is done and hide them away in a drawer. The purpose of brand guidelines is to ensure that your branding is executed consistently in every medium and format, both in terms of design and customer experience. They are not an end in themselves. They're not a means to an end either, because that implies that the branding process has some kind of conclusion - it doesn't. Managing a brand is a continuous process, and as a startup without access to advanced market research you can never be 100% sure that your efforts are successful (although you'll certainly know about it if they fail).
Brand guidelines help to eliminate some of that uncertainty. As an entrepreneur, you'll still have to rely on your instincts and creativity, or perhaps the help of an outside agency, to create engaging brand communications and experiences. But brand guidelines will ensure that those communications and experiences are consistent with each other, and with your brand's personality and values. When it comes to building successful brands, consistency is strength.
If you're starting a business and appreciate the value of effective brand identity, explore the Brandsworth website and discover the affordable branding agency for startups in Wales.