The internet age brought about some phenomenal resources for business owners today. Never before has it been so easy and inexpensive to get your message out there and by leveraging technologies like social media, blogging, and an inexpensive website, your business can have more reach than it ever would have gotten from an old Yellow Pages ad. Of course, while marketing and advertising might be more accessible, it seems that many companies are missing out on a big piece of the puzzle: social branding.
Why Branding Matters
With the rise of the information age, some companies seem to skip right over branding and jump right into the mix without much thought. In most cases, this sort of careless launch results in limited results, and often abject failure. Of course, if they had instead taken some time to distinguish themselves with branding they could have had extraordinary success. And, the truth is it doesn’t have to be that complicated.
In fact, there are really just 3 major steps that go into social branding. If you’ve taken the time to create a business plan, odds are you already have most of the information you need as well. The first step is competitive analysis. Second, is customer analysis. Third, and finally, you need brand analysis.
The first step of any successful branding efforts, competitive analysis is where you take the time to really consider your competition in the industry. Here you want to identify direct and indirect competitors. For instance, if you run a micro-brewery and want to create your own beer garden, a direct competitor is other micro-breweries. On the other hand, a general bar is an indirect competitor.
This step is essential for two major reasons. First, you need to study the direct competitors in depth. Find out what distinguishes them, figure out their business model, and learn how they are running daily operations. The more you know, the better you can ensure you use what works and distinguish yourself where it counts. Meanwhile, those indirect competitors can actually be a phenomenal resource for you.
Look into their operations as well, but look to form strategic partnerships. In the example above, you might contact bars that are more than 5 miles from your location and offer them a good price to carry your craft beer. Alternatively, if you are selling a digital product or service you might just find leaders in a related industry that you can work within joint venture offers. Whatever the case, don’t miss out on analyzing both groups.
While looking to your competition can provide great insight, an informed brand knows exactly who it is marketing to. If you’re planning a startup, the fastest way to ensure you reach your ideal customer is to actually identify that ideal customer. It is amazing how many skip over this step, which is why those who do it gain such a distinct advantage.
To do your customer analysis, it’s essential that you really dig deep into what your customers want. How old are they? Do you cater to males mostly, females, or is there an even distribution? What books do your customers read? What movies do they watch? What sports do they enjoy or teams do they support? Are their social, religious, or political causes that these customers support? The deeper you go, the better off you are.
In fact, one of the best things you can do is actually nail down a name and image to attach to your ideal customer. And, above all other aspects of your social branding strategy, this can be one of the most valuable.
The Brand Analysis
The final step in the process, the Brand Analysis is where you really bring it all together. This begins by taking all the information you learned in the other two analysis and putting it together in an organized fashion. From there, it’s time to take a look at your founding members and consider how you want to be viewed by your customers.
You see, creating a new business means developing a sort of character persona for your entire brand. In most instances, the best way to do this is to actually take inventory of what you have going for you. For restaurant owners, this often means creating an atmosphere that fits their own personality. As a result, these owners are able to be themselves and interact with guests directly.
At this point, you’ll likely realize that most of your own interests and personality traits line up with those of your audience; that’s a good thing. This makes it easier to relate and really distinguish yourself. So, put it all together and come up with your unique selling point (USP). Stress this in your branding, and focus on setting yourself apart. Here’s an example that might help.
Building Your Brand
Let’s say you are starting a new restaurant that specializes in healthy, organic options. While others might discourage you from doing this due to excessive competition, you recognize that you really stand apart from the crowd. Besides your unique new bowls and fusion cuisine, you take the time to go through the three steps outlined above.
In doing so, you recognize that, like you, your ideal customer takes an interest in animal rights, loves renewable energy, and prefers Apple products. So, you don’t bother with an expensive POS system and instead get sleek iPads and Square readers as your primary card reading device. Similarly, you go a step beyond just refraining from animal products. Instead, you decide to also donate to an animal rights charity every time someone purchases an entree. Next, you use a modern design strategy and even setup solar power around your restaurant to display your dedication to the environment.
Will all this cost more? Almost certainly. However, it will really distinguish you in a way that none of your competition is. And, if you have to charge a bit more than the average restaurant as a result of these changes, no one will complain. After all, these are people who live for a cause, so spending an extra dollar means very little in the long run. You won’t just have guests -you’ll build raving fans.
None of This Matters Without Positioning
With all of this explained, I want to stress one important concept: none of this really matters without the right positioning. Remember, branding is about establishing a clear picture of who you are, what you stand for, and the problems you solve. But, if no one sees your brand, then all of that planning and strategy won’t do you much good.
Fortunately, people today have some of the most powerful positioning tools every created and they can access these tools for free. Twitter and Facebook are two absolute essentials, but Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube are others that virtually every business owner should be utilizing today. With your foolproof branding strategy and a clear picture of who you want to reach, these platforms can get your message out to millions of potential buyers online.
Which Leads to…Social Branding
It is these opportunities and technologies that have lead me to focus on what I have termed “social branding.” As stressed above, using these tools and processes doesn’t just build a brand -it develops a social branding strategy. In your business, make sure you utilize that social branding strategy in everything you do. Remember your audience, remember your voice, and always remember what it is you represent.
But be careful. Following this steps will build a powerful brand and if you implement your social branding strategy properly, who knows how big you might grow?
Now is your turn… What are your best Social Branding tips?
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