Guest Contributor: Kesha Lien of Brickhouse

As business owners, our ability to attract the right conversations is vital to our success. Potential employees, business partners, and yes – CLIENTS – all form strong opinions about us based on the cues we provide. Their perception, whether it’s true or not, is your brand. Not your logo or business name. Not your product or service. Your brand is what people think about you. How you’re positioned in the market, the words and images you use, and the experience you give your clients all work together to shape their point of view. 

Thinking in those terms, ask yourself, “am I building my brand intentionally or by chance?” 

If you answered by chance, you’re likely sending some mixed signals. These inconsistencies, no matter how small, can undermine your marketing efforts and chip away at your credibility. Ultimately, this impacts how willing others are to engage you. 

What is brand strategy?

brand strategy is a plan that brings #allthethings together. Without it, even the savviest marketers come up short. If you’re thinking, “that’s only for big businesses” or “I get all my business from referrals, I don’t need it” – you’re not alone. Despite evidence that shows strong brands command higher prices, many small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) bypass intentional brand development altogether.

“In today’s hyper-connected world, brands are becoming more important, not less. To cut through the noise and intense competition, you need to offer something different and distinctive. Otherwise, all you have is price – a race to the bottom. A strong brand affords you premium pricing.”

-Tim Calkins, Clinical Professor of Marketing, Kellogg School of Management

Am I undermining my marketing efforts?

Jumping into marketing tactics without a complete understanding of your market, audience, and what you bring to the table is always a gamble. It’s not uncommon for businesses to spend thousands of dollars marketing to the wrong crowd. Or, worse, wasting precious hours/days/weeks on content that will sadly go unnoticed. 

No matter where you are in your business life cycle, bridging the gaps between your brand and marketing can improve outcomes and increase ROI.

Use the following statements to identify your strengths and opportunities for improvement.

I understand my audience.

Creating marketing content that your target audience cares about requires more than simply knowing who they are – you must understand them. This allows you to tailor a more meaningful offer that addresses specific needs and how one can benefit from your product or service.

Some ways to get to know your audience on a deeper level:

  • Document the traits and similarities between your favorite clients and business partners.

  • Conduct a survey or poll that includes questions about behaviors, opinions, attitudes, and beliefs.

  • Research the social media platforms they use, the people and brands they follow, and the content they share.

  • Delve into your website and social media analytics

I promote more than the features and benefits of my product or service.

If you said no, please pay close attention. 

There are countless businesses just like yours selling the same thing, so merely promoting the features and benefits of your service/product is not an effective way to create differentiation or value. However, it’s the fastest way to blend in and be relegated to a life of competing on price.

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek

Give your message depth by including your why (passion) and who (your story). Since most decisions are based on emotion and not logic, making this shift will result in more compelling conversations and connections.

I use consistent language and design to communicate with my prospects.

Every communication is an opportunity to build trust, credibility, and brand recognition—that’s why companies with consistent branding can see up to a 33% increase in revenue. But if you’re recreating’ the wheel each time, you might be confusing your audience, or worse, chasing them away.

By clearly defining your unique language, voice, colors, fonts, and image/photography style, you and your team can deliver a consistent message 100% of the time. Established guidelines can also be shared with third-party designers, copywriters, photographers, etc.

My brand-building efforts extend beyond marketing.

Your brand is not just a marketing tool. Using it to shape your culture, drive your core operations, and guide your customer experience will result in meaningful interactions – no matter how someone experiences your brand. 

  • Does everyone in the business understand their role in delivering the brand promise to customers?

  • Do our systems and processes reflect how we want to be perceived?

  • Which behaviors contribute to the brand we want to become?

  • Am I keeping my brand promise?

When what you say (marketing) is aligned with what you do (operations) and believe (brand and culture), your audience will see you as a credible and trustworthy expert.

Kesha Lien is a brand & culture strategist and the founder of Brickhouse. She partners with executives and entrepreneurs to launch, grow, and redefine brands and culture through strategy, creative, and advisory services.

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