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.
Your 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 Brand Story
Now that you understand what your competitors do well and what they do poorly, and now that you can articulate what it is that you do differently and better than they do, it is time to tell YOUR story.
These 3 steps set the strategic foundation for everything else and will make marketing exponentially easier (and who doesn’t like easy).
While your value proposition explains HOW you are different and better, your story tells people WHY. People are story tellers by nature. It’s hardwired into our DNA. While being different and better definitely gives you an edge the reason WHY you do business instills trust and shows your customers that you care about them. Trust and caring of course is critical to the lifetime value of your customers.
This is a great way to persuade new customers to join your community, and remind current customers why it’s great to be there. After all it’s a whole lot easier to keep the customers you have than to always be looking for new ones.
Your business or product name
No organization will use anything as often as they use their name. Every business card, webpage, ad, business listing and sales pitch will prominently feature their name.
Once you have identified your competition, crafted a compelling value proposition and a heart-warming story, you have a solid foundation to craft a name that sticks. A good name differentiates your brand from the competition, it works into our cultural consciousness, it accrues honor and positive associations, it sets a tone for a relationship with the buyer, and it represents the entity to a massive degree in the minds of consumers.
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.
An effective name must be compact yet loaded with a lot of potential meaning in a small space. Slogans and taglines, by comparison, can have almost any format. They can be longer, more complex or very short and telegraphic. They can be humorous or descriptive of complex qualities or benefits — or they may be very suggestive and abstract.
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.
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. The most basic definition of branding is “the promise you make to your customers.” And your logo is your stamp of approval, like the brand ranchers put on their cattle (and where the term branding comes from). This is why a logo is so important. A poorly designed logo communicates that you have a poorly designed product or a poorly executed service but 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.
Your website and business collateral
This is where it comes together. Quality design should be a part of every one of your marketing materials. Your website, deck, brochures, stationery, content posted to social networks, emails, etc. should all be designed for maximum aesthetic appeal and this is your guide.
We like to start with your website because it’s the first point of contact for your audience and we want everything we create to be useful. Before people come to your office or storefront, they will visit your website. 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 – which is why we like to focus on that first. Then we design and code the rest of the pages.
Websites are very robust and in the process of designing them we also identify the fonts, colors and patterns, as well as the photography and illustration styles that make your brand sing. Since our clients are mostly small to midsized businesses, startups and nonprofits, rather than waste money and time on mood-boards and hypothetical brand applications, we want to focus on something real that you can use right away to build your community and generate revenue.
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.