We all have a brand. Our “brand” is who we are and how we want other people to perceive us. And our brands can change depending on the circumstance or the situation. Someone may be an auto mechanic eight hours a day, and that is how his customers perceive him. He might be a Little League coach on the weekends, and that is how his team members and their parents perceive him.

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A brand is somewhat like a promise, then. It is a guarantee that you are who you are to the people who perceive you to be that. And you don’t really have to work hard to brand yourself — it just happens as you exist and work and play. In business, though, branding is not something that just happens. It is the result of a concerted effort to develop a consistent and positive image of what that business is, so that customers come to perceive that brand as trusted and valuable.

Small-Business Branding

When a business launches, it has not established brand, and no one except family and friends of the owner knows that it exists. Getting the word out, advertising, and developing content marketing strategies all have to occur for a business to grow and continue to increase its customer base. But before any of that marketing can occur, a brand must be developed. Here are the steps for developing that brand.

Define Your Brand

You cannot consider anything related to a brand until you first define it. So, ask yourself these questions:

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  • What is the over-reaching goal of my business? What am I trying to achieve? Now, of course you are in business to make a profit — that goes without saying. But beyond that, what is the purpose for starting this business? Is to make the very best hair brush on the planet? Is it to offer the ultimate in vacation planning?
  • What are the benefits of your product or service? Are these benefits valuable to a certain segment of the population (your target market)? If you have not defined your target market, then you have to do the research and develop a customer persona. You cannot be everything to everyone — you have to be the best there is to a segment of consumers.
  • What problems can you solve for your potential customers?
  • What qualities do you want your potential customers to associate with your product or service?

Prepare Your Brand

Before you start any marketing or promotional campaigns, you have to make certain preparations, and here they are:

  • Get a business name if you are still in the early stages of a startup, and an accompanying URL that will be catchy, memorable, and easy to say and spell. There is a big difference between “DavesCampingGear.com” and “OutdoorBlast.com.” Hopefully, if you have come up with a name, you have purchased a domain with the same name. Everything must be consistent or people will become confused.
  • Trademark your name. The importance of this cannot be over-emphasized because you have to protect your brand name. If you don’t, counterfeiters can use it, sell similar products or services, and ultimately steal business, or worse, damage your brand beyond repair. Nike is a trademark. No one else can use that term. Holiday Inn is a trademark; however, someone could open up a “Holiday Lodge” chain, and people could easily believe that this new chain was somehow an offshoot of the Holiday Inn chain. So, choose your name carefully, and get that trademark and domain quickly.
  • Design a logo or have one professionally designed. This logo has to go everywhere eventually. It needs to be unique and needs to remind people of who you are and what you promise every time they see it.
  • What’s your brand’s message? What do you want to communicate about your brand that makes it different from your competitors?
  • What is your voice? If you are selling watches for $1,000 and up, your voice will be more formal, certainly more sophisticated, and your content will have some glitz; if you are selling camping equipment, your voice will be very informal, perhaps folksy, and certainly conversational.
  • Get a tagline. In days’ past, this was called a slogan and it was one way to make a product or service memorable. “You’re in good hands with Allstate” is an example of a slogan that is known everywhere. Armour hot dogs got a very catchy tagline at the end of its jingle-song — “The dogs kids love to eat.”

Spread That Brand

You have to communicate your brand in everything that you do and everywhere you go.

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  • Your logo must appear everywhere — on your website, packaging, products, blog, and on every social media page you have.
  • Make sure that members of your team have T-shirts and ball caps with your logo and company name. And if your tagline is also on these lines of clothing, all the better. Have photos of your team members participating in events in that clothing and post those photos all over the Web.
  • Spreading your brand means also spreading its value. Show customers using your product or engaged in partaking of your services.
  • Adopt a cause and participate in events that support that cause. This is especially appealing to millennials who see great value in organizations that give to their communities. And it delivers an emotional appeal to all people.
  • Promote your brand value. Is it higher quality than your competitors? Is it lower in cost but just as sturdy as the product being sold by a competitor? If your business involves a service, are your services lower in price but just as comparable to those of our competitors? How can you prove this? Prove it by featuring satisfied customers all over the place.
  • The higher your value, the more your sales increase. And the more in-demand you are, the more you can then justify price increases in the future.

It takes time to build a brand, so you must be patient and consistent above all else. Never, never, never compromise your brand for the sake of profit. You will pay dearly down the line with lots of disappointed or angry customers. And angry customers tend to sound off all over social media.

Personal Branding

The definition of a personal brand is not unlike that of a business. It is, again, who you are and how you want your target market to perceive you. Usually you want people to see you as an expert in whatever you, as an individual, are providing for a cost. There are many strategies and steps that you can take from business brand building, but there are also subtle differences, because your brand is totally focused on you and your persona. There are two major things you have to do — figure out how to brand yourself and then how to make yourself memorable, so that when people want the expertise you have, they think of you first.

Developing Your Brand

You, too, must define your over-reaching goal or mission.

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  • How do you want to be perceived? As a stunning Web designer? As an expert HR consultant? As the best photographer in the business?
  • How can you separate yourself from your competitors? There are lots of Web designers out there — what makes you unique? Are you especially talented with sleek, sophisticated designs? Then your target market is those higher-end businesses that want that style. So, instead of trying to be everything to everyone, as so many designers and design firms do, carve out your niche and start locally with building relationships face-to-face. Once you build that portfolio of thrilled clients, you can make your move regionally and nationally and branch out to other niches.

If you are a photographer, do the same thing. What is the niche in which your talent lies? Focus on that until your personal “brand” is established.

Making Yourself Memorable

Here is where you can have some fun and make a name for yourself in some area that may be totally unrelated to your business brand. How can you use something special about yourself to stick in the minds of your potential customers?

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· Are you on the board of a charitable organization?

· Do you volunteer somewhere?

· Do you have a band on the side?

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· Are you a champion chess player?

· Are you a marathon runner?

As you promote your personal brand, take advantage of these other activities/talents of yours, and expose potential customers to them on your site, in your blog, on your social media pages. Years ago, Stephen King was in a band, Rock Bottom Remainders, with a bunch of other authors who also happened to have musical talent. They toured all over the country, playing at events and donating the money they made to charities. On all of their websites, these authors publicized their events, past and upcoming, along with their books, of course.

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So there you have it. Develop your personal brand carefully and consistently, and spread it just as any business would spread its brand. But in addition, make yourself memorable in some unique way, so that you stick.