A Landscape Analysis
Step one is ALWAYS the landscape analysis. To build a solid foundation we need to understand the competitive landscape, so we carefully research your target market, see who your competitors are and learn what they do well and what they do poorly. We need to know what your competitors do well because you need to be at least as good as they are and knowing what they do poorly lets us spot opportunity and low hanging fruit.
Often our clients tell us they know who their competitors are. This is a red flag, unless they are seasoned marketers. It’s not about who YOU think your competitors are, it’s about who your CUSTOMERS think your competitors are.
This is why we also interview your clients/customers. Not only do we learn who your REAL competitors are, but also learn about their tastes and preferences which allows us to build a better performing website and design better performing collateral.
The Value Proposition, Brand Strategy and Messaging
What is it that you do differently and BETTER than your competition?
“Outstanding Customer Service” doesn’t count. EVERYONE says that.
The Value Proposition is the most important part of the branding process and the part that even seasoned professionals often don’t seem to understand. And it’s hard.
Defining your Value Proposition is a lot like the game of GO. It is a question that takes a second to ask and a lifetime to answer. But don’t be intimidated, just 2% better is enough, you don’t have to be a million times better, just better.
If you can articulate what it is that you do differently and BETTER than your competition, marketing your brand is just about getting this message in front of as many people as possible, and never in the history of the world have we had more people on the planet or the sophisticated tools to get your messaging in front of them.
Your business or product name
Once you have identified your competition and crafted a compelling value proposition, you have a solid foundation to craft a name that sticks. The naming process is very personal, but also has a legal aspect to it. It’s not as simple as just coming up with a great name, we have to make sure it’s not being used by someone else in your sector – and what is even more difficult – we need to secure the domain name or come up with a compelling and memorable url.
Your slogan is a one sentence encapsulation of your Value Proposition. What you do differently and BETTER than your competition. The purpose of your name is so people remember you. The purpose of your slogan is to SELL.
Once you have a name that sticks, your slogan tells people the why: Why they should do business with you. Why they should buy your product. Why they should CARE.
It’s not enough to have a recognizable name, you also need a recognizable logo. A good logo builds trust and will help to pull your brand together. Don’t think that you need a symbol or mascot either. Some of the most recognizable brands use just text for their logo. This is especially powerful when you have a catchy name.
Remember though that Branding is NOT just a logo. That is why it is way down at step five in our process. The definition of branding is the promise you make to your customer. A logo is your stamp of approval.
Application of the brand to your website
Your website is the first point of contact for your audience. Before they come to your offices, they will visit your website and contrary to the adage people DO judge a book by its cover. Since the homepage is the most critical page of your website – this is where in milliseconds visitors decide if they will stay or if they will go – we like to focus on that first.
We create 5 mockups ranging from conservative to a little bit out there. Then you choose the one you kind-of, sort-of like the best and we make revisions to that until you LOVE the homepage. This is a VERY effective technique to focus in on what you are looking for and create a website that knocks people’s socks off!
The Brand Manual: Look of the Brand: colors, font, photo style, illustration style, etc…
This is where it comes together. Quality design should be a part of every one of your marketing materials. Your website, brochures, stationery, content posted to social networks, emails, etc. should all be designed for maximum aesthetic appeal and this is your guide.
To build and maintain a strong brand, every aspect of your brand should be as good as your product or service and you must be consistent in presenting your brand because brand consistency leads to familiarity, and familiarity leads to trust.
Many of our clients don’t have large marketing departments, often only one or two people, so we look at our job is to make their job easier. Unlike traditional branding agencies, our brand manuals are designed to be actionable, not only outlining strategy but to be a complete strategic roadmap with messaging and graphics for the website, ads and social media and instructions for using them.
Everyone on our team is a specialist with Fortune 500 and Big Brand experience. And collectively, we have worked with literally thousands of established brands and start-ups. One of the things that ALL the successful brands have in common is what is known in Silicon Valley as “Grit”. Starting a business is one of the hardest things anyone can do, and being able to persevere through adversity – with whatever resources you have available, no matter how limited – is AS important, if not MORE important than a great idea.
This is why we practice “Evolutionary Branding”. What this means is that – big or small – we like to be very mindful of your budget. We break the branding process down into 7 affordable “Sprints”. Then before we start a project, we assess your organization and your budget/resources and pick the best combination of these sprints for maximum impact.
Of course, doing ALL of the 7 sprints is the very best recipe, but many of our clients are startups, small businesses or nonprofits, so we choose an order and combination of sprints that will have the most impact for the least amount of money.
Now if resources permit you don’t have to stick with just one sprint either. If a client of ours wants to explore one step in more depth we often do several expanded sprints until get it just right.