In this article we go through the complete journey of building a brand from scratch. Depending on where you are in your brand building journey, you may want to skip some of the steps. But getting to know each of these steps intimately will enable you to evaluate what you have done so far in terms of creating your brand and check the critical task items off your list.
10 Steps You Must Follow To Build A Winning Brand
Step 1: Positioning & Brand Strategy
I always start any brand discussion with brand and positioning strategy. This is one of the most underrated aspects of brand building and one that is most often ignored by entrepreneurs and brand founders either intentionally or because of lack of knowledge.
Imagine you want to go for a vacation to Cyprus in the Mediterranean. From the day you thought of doing this trip till the day you complete the trip and head back home, you would need to think about, research, plan and execute dozens of activities to make the trip a success and to get the most ROI.
The same goes for creating a successful brand. Without a brand and positioning strategy, it would be like heading to the airport on a random day, buying a flight ticket to Cyprus – if it is available and then jumping on a plane with no idea of where you are going to stay, what you are going to see and experience and how and when you are getting back.
To create a robust positioning and brand strategy, you would need to do the following things, at the very least:
- Do some market research – understanding your market segment is critical to your brand success. You may think you know a lot about your market, but a proper analysis is required to make sure you really understand it. Here is an article on how to do this.
- Conduct a competitive analysis – Understanding your competitive is another important piece of the brand success puzzle. A lot of founders believe that they know who their core competition is but are very vague when it comes to their overall competitive landscape. It is very important to know who all your competitors are. Here is an article that will shed some light on this.
- Analyze your customer segments – Understanding and segmenting your customers is very important. Creating buyer personas that accurately represent your customer segments would enable you to offer the right services/products and become successful. Here is an article that guides you through creating buyer personas.
- Work out your brand differentiation – This can be done through constructing your brand core values, mission and vision statements and finding your brand value proposition. Here is an article that outlines how to create brand differentiation.
- Create the brand story – Armed with all the above items, it is time to create the brand story that will communicate your value proposition to the world and help create the right kind of perception. Here is an article that tells you how to create the perfect brand story.
This is a deep topic and there are tons of other things to do – if you have the inclination, time and budget – to create the right brand. Please read this article which goes in-depth into each of the topics listed above.
Step 2: Brand Name
Once you have created the positioning and brand strategy, the next step is to create a brand name that would add value to your brand. Although it may appear to be a simple task, coming up with the right brand name can be a challenging task. Do not underestimate the importance of having the right brand name in a world which is so noisy and saturated that nothing but the most creative and meaningful will gain traction. Here is an article that will help you create the perfect brand name.
Step 3: Primary Logo Design
After creating the perfect brand name, it is time to create the visual language of your brand. Ideally you must aim to create the complete brand identity system but at the very least start off by creating the perfect primary logo design for your brand.
A great logo design should meet the following criteria:
- It should be original and unique
- It should be distinct and meaningful
- It should be versatile and be applicable to various touch points
- It should be targeted and focused
- It should be memorable and timeless
Step 4: Brand Identity Elements
Although technically you can move forward with just the primary logo design, it is always advisable that you actually create a brand identity at this stage. More often than not, entrepreneurs find themselves so occupied with other brand building exercises that they never get to actually building a cohesive brand identity with the result that they end up having a brand that looks patched together.
Brand identity elements can include the following items:
- Secondary brand mark – A very useful addition to your visual brand arsenal, the secondary brand mark can be used where using the primary logo would be an over-kill or would lead to over saturation and dilution of the brand image. Examples of usage can include apparel, package design, print material, social media channel avatars and more.
- Official brand pattern – Any brand that is serious about making an impact and becoming successful – at least in terms of perception – should have an official brand pattern. The usage of the pattern on strategic brand touch points will elevate the brand to the super star status. Example of usage can include package design, website, posters, print material and more.
- Matching stationery design – It is a must that you create a consistent brand image by creating matching business cards, letterheads and envelopes. Do not fall into the trap of thinking or believing that business cards and stationery are dead. On the contrary, they are still used to show professionalism and brand status.
Step 5: Print Elements
I should have included matching stationery design under the print elements topic but I wanted to differentiate between non-marketing and marketing print elements. Business cards and stationery design elements are non-marketing – strictly speaking – and are part of the brand assets. Marketing print material can include the following:
- Brochure designs
- Power Point templates
- Package designs
- Product/Service data sheets
- Sales letters
- White Papers & eBooks
- Company/Business profiles
- Email templates
- And more…
Step 6: Domain Name Registration
Before you even think about getting a website designed, you need to register a domain address for your website. This is another exercise that will frustrate you as you start to realize that almost all the brand names you think of will have already been registered as domain addresses. So this step actually ties back to Step #2 and should be done in tandem. You will also realize why it is a good idea to pick a unique, invented or made up brand name as that will make it easy to get domain addresses, social media handles etc.
Make sure the domain you select has the following criteria:
- It is short and directly aligns with your brand name
- It has top level domains (.COM, .NET etc)
- That it is a whole word and not hyphenated
Step 7: Website Design
The next major investment you can make into your brand is your custom website design. This is one asset you do not want to go cheap on. Your website is your best tool in building brand awareness, trust and ultimately increasing revenues. Even if you are a brick and mortar business, your website is a powerful touch point that a lot of your target audience would reach out to before they do business with you.
At the very least, you website should have a CMS (content management system) and a BLOG.
- A CMS enables you to edit the pages, create new pages, upload images and videos etc to your website and they get automatically published live with out the need to run to a website designer each time you need to make a change. This will save you a lot of money in the long run.
- A BLOG is a news section of your website which enables you to post fresh new content on your website on a regular basis which will increase your authority as well as your Google rankings and traffic as Google loves websites that have fresh content.
When getting your website design, make sure these 7 deadly website design sins are not being committed:
- The website should not be slow
- A dated design with too much text
- The website should not be ugly on the mobile phone
- Do not use images that are low quality and ugly
- The website should have great branding including a logo design and corporate color palette
- The website should use fonts judiciously
- You should not use a free website builder for your business website
- The website should be SEO friendly
The bottomline is that going cheap on your website design will have dire consequences on your brand image and your revenue. Not investing in a professional website will have opportunity costs.
Step 8: Hosting & Email
Once you have a professional and beautiful website design, you need to house it somewhere so that your site visitors can visit. The place to house your website is called hosting and you would need to pay a monthly or yearly fee – as long as your website is live.
Selecting a hosting company can be tricky and like with anything else in life, you should not choose based on price alone. Hosting prices can range from as little as $3/month to over $300/month. The costs depend on whether your website is a simple 5-10 page brochure site, a functional website with features such as user registration, advanced galleries etc or a full fledged e-commerce online store website.
The most important things to consider with your hosting are uptime and tech support.
Uptime is the time your website is live and does not go down. A website going down or dark is natural when servers are rebooted or networks are being updated etc. A good host would have redundant servers and networks to balance the load and this will ensure the uptime is great. Look for at least 98% uptime.
Hosting support is very critical and most cheap hosting providers have really bad tech support. That is when you could get frustrated a lot and end up paying a lot of money to hire a freelancer or a web services firm to help trouble shoot.
Along with hosting you would also need get an email service. Usually your hosting service provider would offer you email bundles. You can also set up your emails with Google Suite which is very robust, secure and reliable. Whatever you do, do NOT ever use free email addresses such as Gmail or Yahoo for your business email. That would look very unprofessional!
Step 9: Social Media Channels
After the website has been designed and hosted, or even before the website and after the brand identity, you would need to create your social media channels, design the branding for them and optimize them to help you with your social media marketing.
Depending on the market segment you are in, you should choose 2-3 main social media channels to focus on. For example, if you are in the clothing, apparel and fashion business then you should focus on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube in that order. If you are a law firm or a financial consultant, then you should focus on LinkedIn, Twitter and Youtube. And so on.
Step 10: SEO & SEM
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing. Both of these deal the activity of increasing traffic to your website through search engines such as Google. SEO is usually considered to not cost money while SEM is paid advertising on the search engine.
Every business owner should strive to increase natural organic traffic from Google, Yahoo, Bing, Baidu etc since this kind of traffic is very targeted and usually does not cost as much as paid advertising. The only cost would be in terms of time and effort spent. SEO involves optimizing your website content for your major keywords and getting your website linked to from other websites.
SEM involves paid advertising such as Google Adwords where you pay for each click on your advert on Google. This can turn out to be costly and ineffective if you do not know what you are doing. For SEM, it is always recommended to hire an experienced PPC agency to handle the Adwords management for you. They would charge a fee, which can be quite hefty, but the results would be much better and you would not end up wasting a lot of money on useless advert strategies.