Building blocks

So you’ve started a business? Or you’re thinking about it.

There’s one thing you’ve got to get straight before diving too deeply into that business: You need a brand. A business without a corporate brand is an entity without staying power, without heart…without any significant potential for flexibility, growth or success.

What is a corporate brand? It is the imagery (logo, colours, fonts) used to visually identify a business. However, that definition only scratches the surface. A corporate brand is more about what you can’t see. It’s how you make people feel; it’s what people say about your business. It’s all the things that come to mind when people see that logo.

So how can you create all of this for your business, to promote growth and staying power? We’ve got some guidelines to get you started on the straight path toward owning a strong corporate brand.

Corporate Brand-Building Guidelines

Before you name your business, assign a tagline or create a logo, I suggest following these pieces of brand-building advice:

  1. List your top five corporate values. People will choose to work with your brand (or not work with it) based on the values you demonstrate through your brand. These are the things that are most important to you in business. Some examples are integrity, excitement, professionalism, humour, creativity, support and precision. After you name your top five, name your number-one value. Give that centre stage in all communications (verbal and nonverbal), whilst giving the others strong supporting roles. Doing so will attract people with similar values—and that’s the start of long-term, loyal business relationships with dream clients.
  2. Name benefits. Every consumer wants to know What’s in it for me? All potential buyers will perform a calculation in their heads, whether they’re conscious of that calculation or not. They will total up the benefits (value, material goods, positive emotions) and subtract the total costs (time, money, hassle). If the net result is a positive one (greater than zero), they will feel more compelled to do business with you. You can affect this process by offering as much value as possible and then communicating those benefits clearly. Keep this up, and being associated with your brand will become a benefit in itself.
  3. Identify your USP. Having a USP, or Unique Selling Proposition, is imperative for standing out from the competition. Let’s face it, markets are saturated and doing the same thing, the same way, is not going to gain your business any level of attention. Find that one thing that your business does better than the others, or the one way in which it can solve a problem unlike the others do, or how it fills a gap that others have overlooked–then convey that and let it shine.
  4. Create a client avatar. Can you picture your ideal client? You should be able to name characteristics like age, gender, career, marital status, health status, pass times, geographical location and more. And when you do, I recommend that you draw up a sketch of that person, accompanied by his or her description. Now, every piece of communication that comes out of your business should speak directly to that person, so they get the feeling that you’re speaking specifically to them. This will attract ideal clients to your business and will plant the seeds of brand loyalty.
  5. Choose visual elements that best represent you and your business. More people are visual learners than any other type. They remember what they see, particularly when they see those things often, as they’re doing something unique, different…and enjoying themselves. Research the messages conveyed by colour and choose one primary colour and two or three supporting ones. Do the same with lines, shapes and fonts. These elements will communicate valuable information about your brand to everyone who sees them. This is an area where investment in a professional will pay off.
  6. Establish a brand language. There are words used often in your industry niche; they are known as keywords. Use them as a basis for your brand language. Add to that words that describe your business’s USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and your personal brand, and you’ll have a broad foundation on which to build a language that your followers will come to recognise as yours. Share this branded language with all team members and encourage them to use it in all communications, written and spoken.
  7. Get personal. A personal brand (and a personal brand for all major corporate brand players) is imperative for building the types of relationships that will prove to be fruitful for your business. Reach and engage with ideal clients. Establish a presence in all the places where your ideal clients are hanging out. Show an interest. Listen. React. Support. The personal relationships that result will be the hooks on which your business can hang its hat.
  8. Focus on building trust and expert status. People want to do business with people they feel they can trust. Work to establish this by keeping promises and going above-and-beyond what you say you will do. They also want to maintain a direct line with someone whom they feel is an expert in their field. Prove this by consistently offering valuable, relevant advice wherever it’s needed.
These recommendations provide the basis for building a corporate brand with everything it needs to usher your business to success. Do this right, and the steps necessary for corporate branding will fall into place, with little effort and high ROI.

By Sammy Blindell of How to Build a Brand