As part of my growth action plan work with small businesses, a major dimension we look at is branding and how to strengthen brand identity.
When I say brand identity, I mean how you present yourself to your target market. While one might consider a brand as the perception of a business in the eyes of the world, and branding as the marketing practice of designing a distinctive brand, brand identity is the collection of all the brand elements that the company creates to portray the right image and message to its ideal audience.
So think of brand identity as going beyond just your logo or company name or your mission statement. A brand identity should represent your professional values and your unique style and personality, and this needs to be consistently projected into all your marketing and communications.
As part of your marketing strategy, ensuring you have a clear, bold and consistent brand identity is critical for conveying the kind of authority, likeability and credibility you need to convert your audience into leads and clients.
So let’s dive into five key ways you can strengthen your business brand identity, which all begin with a ‘C’, coincidentally (another C!)
#1 – CLARITY
First and foremost, you will need to have a super clear sense of what your business is all about, what you stand for, because your beliefs and core values should be at the heart of your brand identity.
Professional identity branding is far from straightforward. It goes way deeper than logo and web design; it harks back to the fundamental question of who you are (and we often haven’t examined this for years until we start a business!) Once you can truly get why you’re called to do what you do, everything else in terms of design and setup can flow freely.
Your professional brand identity sets the whole tone of your business. When you can capture the style and personality you wish to project into the market place (and the world!), you’ll find your ideal audience will warm up quickly and keep coming back for more.
#2 – COMMUNITY
Think through what is the essence of your brand. What are the main goals or ideas of the business and the emotions you want to evoke. What story can you tell to bring your brand into closer alignment with your clients’ problems and desire for change?
If you can relate your brand to the journey you and your potential clients are on, it creates a much stronger sense of collective identity that can be almost tribal in nature.
Think whether you want your brand style to be professional or fun, masculine or feminine, trendy or traditional etc. This will influence your choice of colour scheme, typefaces, images, logos and unique voice relative to what you do and the type of products and services you offer.
Building a community around a unique niche problem is a powerful strategy for attracting more ideal clients to work with you.
#3 – CONSISTENCY
Brand recognition is quite important whether you’re a small firm or “just” a solo professional so consistency is a must. Your business brand needs to be golden-threaded through all of your marketing platforms and materials.
Marketing is what pumps the lifeblood of your business around, so it’s important your brand is consistently flowing through all of your collateral, whether offline or online – your website, business cards, downloadables or social media sites.
As the saying goes “show me a business that isn’t marketing, and I’ll show you a business that is dying”. In essence, there are three mutually reinforcing ways you can get your brand out there.
Make sure logos and styles are consistent across all platforms. A consistent layout for where you position logos or headers on PDFs, the size and type of images, how you use filters or effects etc all help unify the look-and-feel. This can pay off over time, because it makes your stuff more easily recognisable as yours to your audience.
#4 – COLLATERAL
When you start up as a professional service provider, perhaps initially at least as a sole trader, the first thing you probably did was to get yourself a wad of business cards. You jump on the great offers of companies like Vistaprint Creating an attractive brand for you and/or your business will help you develop a solid online presence. This can quickly spill over to offline activities as you become “slightly famous”.
Your brand should permeate everything you do, say & write, constantly drawing in the ‘right’ people – your target audience – and building huge numbers of raving fans and customers who love what you stand for, what you do and what you sell.
#5 – COPY (and voice)
Part of your brand identity is the language and tone you use when writing, speaking, make videos. How bold are you being, are you projecting the right attitude and confidence in the eyes of your target client. You want them to think of you as someone who can help them without appearing arrogant or overbearing.
Using stories is a great way to add to what’s called the “brand narrative”. You demonstrate to your audience that you understand where they’re coming from and what they most need to achieve.
#6 – CONGRUENCE
Your brand identity literally represents how people identify with you, from what you wear out and about to the car you drive, how you behave as well as what you write about. No wonder social media is full of positive news! Yet I’d argue that being authentic is a huge part of the integrity of your brand and really helps like-minded people resonate and engage with you.
There should be congruence between how you present yourself across platforms and media. No point writing like an academic on your blog and acting like an idiot on your videos – zero congruence.