Webinar: Developing your small business brand
In our latest webinar, Robert Mathers addresses the issue of how a small business can develop its brand. In it, he explains the value of branding and how you can use it to your advantage. Remember, if you’ve got any questions or comments regarding the webinar, leave them as a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Enjoy!
I just want to give a brief overview of what I’ll be talking about today. Firstly, I’m going to give a definition of branding, just so you know the kind of angle that I’m coming towards, and then I’m going to show you how you can start developing your brand, firstly by doing some targeted audience research, then by taking that audience research and forming it into tangible brand values, and then how you can implement those brand values through your tone of voice and through your design.
To get started, branding to me means defining a collection of perceptions and working to consistently generate them. This is about setting up exactly what your brand is and then trying to show it to people at every opportunity you get.
One other thing that I feel about branding is that branding is actually a lot bigger than marketing. For example, say you’re a builder and someone gets in touch with you and wants to work with you because they’ve seen the marketing on your website and they really like it. But then, when you’ve done the project with them they’re less pleased with how the job has been done or problems arise during it. They will then have a negative experience of your brand, regardless of the fact that they will see no more marketing from you. So it isn’t just marketing you have to consider when thinking about your brand.
We can see this here: everything is relevant to your brand, including your support, your sales, marketing and your product because all impacts the perceptions that people have of you.
I’d also like to speak quickly about how branding can generate value for you. There’s a few ways in which is can do this. First of all, branding can help you to get more new customers, whether through word of mouth referrals from people you’ve already worked with, or from customers who come to you directly, whether they find you through Google, PPC, or any other method of marketing that you are using.
Also, branding can help you get higher retention rates with your current customers and also, because of this, they’ll be less likely to go elsewhere if they need services again in the future.
The bottom line about branding is that is helps you become more than a commodity to your customers. You are showing them that you are providing more than simply a product or a service. You are a brand to them so therefore you mean more.
The first step in defining and developing your brand is to do some targeted audience research. The first step I believe in doing this is to start by segmenting the market. Markets are huge whatever you’re working in so it helps straight away to define what areas you think you’re most relevant to.
After you’ve segmented the market you want to look at, you want to find out a variety of different information. For example, you might want to consider the background that your customers have: what job they’re in, what industry they work in, how big their company is, what their education is and their hobbies.
You also want to consider their demographics: what kind of gender balance are you working with, what age range are you working with, and what kind of income or budget do they have for working with you.
Also, you want to consider the type of goals that are involved: what are their primary goals, what really matters to them, what are more “nice to have” goals that they’re still looking to work upon. Challenges are the same: what are their primary challenges, what are the ones that they’re trying to achieve but are less important.
Then you also want to consider how you can help with these, how you are going to be able to help them solve their challenges and their goals.
You also want to consider what their common objections are likely to be so you are able to allay any fears that they have during the sales process on your website. You also want to consider what sort of interests do they have, no just professionally but personally as well because this will all be relevant when you’re speaking to them.
Also consider what sorts of content they consume. Are they consuming articles, webinars, whitepapers, and what kind of topics are they interested in: are they looking at things about design, development, cooking, anything else? You also lastly want to consider where they consume their content: what sites are they visiting to get this information.
I’ve now explained what you need to find out, but I’d also like to explain how to go about getting this research. The first thing I think is important is not to ignore your own anecdotal knowledge. You’ve probably been working in this area for quite some time and you will have noticed some patterns with customers with which you work. So I would approach answering these questions yourself. If you are an army of one, you can answer these questions just by yourself, but if you have a team I would get them involved as well because this will only give you a broader picture and more interesting results.
You can also ask your customers directly. There’s a variety of ways in which you can do this. If you’re geographically close and you have a close relationship with your customers, you might be able to get in touch with them by phone, meet each other, get a coffee together and discuss these things. Or you might be able to send out a social media poll or an email poll as other options.
There are also some really great tools that can help you get this information, the first of which is Google Analytics. There’s a variety of things that you can do with this but I think some of the most relevant for this sort of research is that you can find the keywords used to discover your site.
For example, if you are finding that people are searching for you with a common search term, for example “cheap” then you know that price is not only one of the most important think in terms of your brand, it could be the most important thing when people are looking for you and that can influence the brand that you create.
You can also find out the locations of your site visitors: whereabouts are the people who are interested in you? You can also find how they found your site, what sources of traffic are working to get people onto your site, what pages they’re most interested in on your site. You can also find out what industries they work in which I explained is crucial to understanding the people you’re targeting.
Another bonus about Google Analytics of course is that it’s completely free so I recommend using it.
You can also consider different tools to help you get survey information from your prospective customers. For example, Survey Monkey is a great tool for this because it allows you to create a survey, define the customer audience that you want to speak to. For example, you can focus on a particular size, industry, location of people you want to get these answers from and you can receive the results in days after setting this up. There is free pricing for Survey Monkey which allows you to get ten question survey for 100 respondents.
Google Consumer Surveys is another tool you might consider which also allows you to create questions, define who you want to answer them and get the results in as little as 24 hours. Google Consumer Surveys is slightly different to Survey Monkeys because it also offers you the opportunity to ask questions with regards to images. You could even say to prospective customers “Which version of our logo do you like better?” for example. The pricing for Google Consumer Surveys is paid but it costs very little. You can have one question asked and that only costs the equivalent of 10¢ and you can go all the way up to ten questions for $3.50.
So, that’s the audience research that I think is important to conduct. Then you want to move on to taking this information and turning it into tangible brand values.
I want to explain first what I mean by brand values. To me this means the concept that make up your brand, what different things work together to give the full picture of what you are trying to achieve.
To start defining your values, I think it’s important to look back at the audience research that you’ve done and think about it in relation to your products and services, and also what you can offer beyond your products and services. You would want to have at least one value for each of these areas and a maximum of two. So, you’d likely have a minimum of two values and a maximum of four. Any more than four values can be difficult to manage so I think that’s the upper end of what you should be aiming for.
For your products and services you might go with flexibility and quality. For areas beyond your services, you might go for trust and trying to be inspiring. Once you’ve created your brand values, I think it’s important to assign some rules to them because this will allow you to measure how you’re doing or working on your values and give you something to work towards.
For example, if we take the value of quality, you might create rules for it like you’re going to provide additional services to your customers. You also might say that you want to use tools to increase efficiency with your working so you can provide better quality to your customers. You might also say that you want to have regular communication with your customers because that means that you will have a better end product working with them.
Moving forward with your values, over time you may be able to do more with them. There are a couple of ways in which you can do this. The first of which is that you can add completely new rules to your values. The other way is that you will able to make your current rules deliver even more value. For example, you might be able to produce quicker results by investing in tools to further increase your efficiency.
When you’re doing this, the thing to consider is that I wouldn’t add too many or change them too much. I would phase these in because if you try to set yourself a too high a goal then it’s easy to miss this mark and end up breaking some of your brand values.
So that’s your brand values and now I want to move on to talking about your tone of voice. But first I just want to explain what I mean by that. Tone of voice is how you talk to your audiences across your different touchpoints.
To define your tone of voice, you want to go over the interests, content they consume and where they consume their content sections within your audience research that you’ve already done. You want to look at the tone of voice that’s used on the sites that your prospective customers are looking at. You do of course want to be completely unique in your own tone of voice, but it’s useful to see the sort of tone of voice that your customers are already engaged with so you can see what kind of thing they might be interested in.
To do this, it’s important to think about different levels of formality. Tone of voice largely is like the clothes that you wear. So, if you’re going down to the pub with your mates you might be likely just to wear jeans and a t-shirt but if you’re going to a wedding then you’ll be much more likely to wear a suit.
Tone of voice is the same way because it’s the same you always but it’s presenting yourself into slightly more formal or less formal ways. You have to consider across your different touchpoints what level of formality is right.
Another way to define your tone of voice is to think about the words, terms and phrases that you’ll be using so you can use these when you’re writing straight away. For example, the type of words that you might like to use could be “convert”, “straightforward” and “creative”. The type of terms you might use, you might call things “ideas”, you might have an “approach” to something, and you might have a “team” as opposed to a “group of employees”.
Phrases are important as well. You might say that you want to be “equal partners” with your customers. You might use something like “Find out more” for a call-to-action as opposed to “Buy now” and you might also want to say that you’re “forward thinking” rather than for example “progressive”.
So now I’m moving on to talking about design. Similar to tone of voice, it’s useful to go over the interests, content they consume and where they consume their content sections within your audience research that you’ve done. You want to look at the type of design that’s used one the sites that your customers are interested in. This will give you a kind of directions in terms of what design styles they’re very interested in.
You might find for example that a large amount of the sites that they look at all have flat design. That might imply that it would be useful for you to adopt that style.
With defining your design, I think the first step is to define what colours you’re going to be using. It’s important to just use basic colour psychology at this stage to think about the type of colours that are going to work.
A great tool to do this in is Adobe Colour CC which allows you to create the palette using a variety of different colour rules. If for example you have a photograph that you really like the colour scheme in, you can import this and I’ll take the colours straight out of it. So it’s a very useful tool.
Using basic colour psychology you might use the colour blue if for example you wanted to show integrity, trust or authority. You might also want to use the colour green if you want to show something about growth, maybe nature, something environmental. You might also use red if you wanted to show things about power, love and excitement for example.
Moving on to talking about the type of logo that you want to use. You always want to keep things simple and you can see examples here from some extremely well-known brands: McDonalds, Shell and Adobe. I think it would be difficult to make these logos much simpler than they are. This means that they can use it in a variety of different situations, print it in a variety of different sizes and then never lose the definition of their logo and people can easily see what is being represented.
Once you’ve figured out the type of logo that you want to use, you want to establish the different variations of it and where you’ll be using them. You can see here a variety of logos that Android created and they’ve been extremely good with deciding where and when they’re going to be using these types of logos. This is great for establishing consistency across your logo design.
Moving on to speak about icons. You again want to have a consistent visual style for your icons that ties into your larger design style. You can see here five different icons and they all represent mail. This is to show that you can show the same thing in a variety of different ways depending on your design style.
Try to pick a single source for your icons so that your icons all look consistent together. For example Font Awesome is a fantastic icon font that you can use for this, completely free and it will make sure that your icons look consistent.
Also, you want to establish consistent rules for the icons that you’re using. You might say that you don’t want any strokes on vectors, you want shapes and silhouettes to be front facing, and other rules such as those.
Typography is another area that’s quite key in terms of design. You want to define between two and three typefaces for your brand. The first one should be used for your heading fonts, alongside your logo for example or in taglines and straplines.
You’ll also want to have a font that you’ll use for your body copy which will be different to your first one. You might also want a third font that you can use for occasional examples, maybe in quotes, annotations or subheadings. You also want to consider rules for the different sizes and weights that you use for these different typefaces to maintain consistency.
After you’ve done all this work, I think it’s important to put it together into some coherent brand guidelines. These are great because you can give these to all the different members of your team and to new starters to quickly get them to engage with the brand that you’re creating. Even if you’re an army of one, having brand guidelines is crucial because it allows you to regularly check if you’re being on brand and to make sure you’re being consistent.
You also want to review your brand guidelines roughly every six months because trends change and it’s important to keep up with them. You always want to consider changes to your design or your tone of voice within the larger content of your brand.
You want to make sure if you’re making a change to those that it is still relevant across your brand and you don’t need to make further changes to, for example, your values or different areas.
In summary, to develop your brand you want to start by segmenting the market to do your audience research. Then you want to define your values with a variety of measurable rules so you can tell how you’re doing at achieving them.
You then want to take these brand values to create a consistent tone of voice across all your communications and you want to do the same for design. You want them to always be consistent. Lastly, you collate all your findings into a brand guidelines document that you can give to all the different members of your team and new starters as well.
That’s it. I wanted to say thank you very much for listening and if you have any questions or comments you can submit them via the blog.