When most people hear the word “branding” they think about fonts or logos. And while these things certainly are a part of branding, alone they won’t be enough to make your business stand out.

The truth is, your brand represents the way your business makes people feel. It is the experience they anticipate having with your company.

For instance, a six-year-old who sees the McDonald’s golden arch most likely feels happy. She associates that with happy meals which cater to her as a child. The golden arch is a part of McDonald’s brand and most people who see it will have a reaction, whether good or bad.

But if you’re new to this idea of branding, how do you get started? Well, in my experience there are four important elements that go into every successful brand strategy. Let’s look at each of these more closely below.

Outline Your Purpose

Figuring out the purpose for your brand comes down to answering two basic questions:

  • Who do you serve?
  • Why do you serve them?

This will be your guideline for building your brand and will help you clearly identify who your customers are. What does your company believe in? What is the difference you are trying to make in the world?

What one sentence can communicate your purpose to your potential client?

When working on our branding strategy here at Boomer Benefits, we listed out everything we do for people and then revised, refined and narrowed that until we came down to this purpose: we translate Medicare into English for baby boomers and seniors. In other words, our purpose as a Medicare broker is to turn something confusing into something our clients can understand. We want them to go from feeling clueless to that feeling of knowledge being power.

Our tagline “We Speak Medicare” was born, and in just those 3 words, we communicate our purpose to our target demographic.

Start with a blank sheet of paper and brainstorm all the people you serve and why you serve them and what you do that makes their life easier. Then reword that into shorter and shorter phrases until inspiration strikes.

Perhaps entrepreneur Simon Sinek said it best when he said, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Figure Out Your Unique Value Proposition

Now that you understand your company’s purpose, you need to understand what makes your company different. In other words, what is your unique value proposition?

Most successful companies have a unique value proposition they were founded upon. For instance, Howard Schultz founded Starbucks on the idea of creating the “third place” for customers. This is a place for their customers to enjoy a cup of coffee and relax, away from both home and work.

One of our employees is a former Starbucks employee. When she told me how every employee at Starbucks strives to make that coffee shop their customers’ third place – where everyone knows their name and recognizes their face – it blew me away. That’s just genius.

Whether you like Starbucks or not, no one can deny that they have developed a strong sense of brand loyalty with their customers. Once you understand your value proposition it will be easier to communicate to the customer how you can help them.

If you struggle with this one, call up a few of your best clients. Ask them why they chose you. What value do they consider that you bring to their lives? This can be very insightful.

If you don’t have any clients yet, pitch some of your friends and family who fit your target demographic. Ask them how they would feel about the service you are trying to develop. If you could offer them this one thing, what value do they foresee that would deliver to them?

Develop a Consistent Brand Personality

I know it’s kind of weird to think of a company as having a personality. But think about the company Apple for a moment — are there certain characteristics you would attribute to them? I am guessing the words “innovative” and “forward thinking” popped into your mind.

A brand personality is a consistent set of traits that your customers are familiar with and enjoy. The key word here is consistent. The problem many brands encounter is that their actions are inconsistent with their brand personality.

Let’s say you hired an employee who stressed during their interview how reliable they were. But then once you hire them they’re constantly late, they miss deadlines, and make excuses for their irresponsible behavior. They say they value reliability, but their actions tell you otherwise.

So once you settle for a brand personality, ask yourself honestly, “Do our actions actually back this up? Are we certain we can deliver this before we tout it to the world?” Are you really focused on customer service, efficiency, innovation… or whichever personality you aim to portray? Because if you aren’t, your customers will see right through it.

Figure Out Your Brand Messaging

Brand messaging could be (and probably should be) another blog post in and of itself. But I will try to at least partially tackle this here because it’s so crucial. There is a reason I left this last on the list — it’s important to understand the first three elements before you try to tackle your messaging.

Probably one of the most memorable examples of brand messaging is Nike’s well-known slogan “Just do it.” It condenses the idea behind Nike’s brand into one succinct phrase.

Think back to your tagline again. How can you communicate this in everything you do?

Brand messaging helps your customers relate to you and motivates them to buy your product or service. This is where things like visuals, blog posts, and social media come into play but it’s about more than just great copy writing or pretty logos. Brand messaging is how you relate your purpose, value proposition, and personality to the customer.

To get started with brand messaging, it can help to ask yourself three simple questions:

  • Is it different? In other words, what is the market value of your brand messaging? How are you differentiating yourself from your competitors? Research them heavily and find the thing that sets you apart from them.
  • Is it true? Again, in order for your messaging to be effective, it has to be true. Don’t try to fool your customers, it won’t work!
  • Is it relevant? Is your message even going to matter to your customers? In order to relate to them, you have to understand them and what they need from you.

So, there you have it: purpose, value proposition, personality and messaging. Four elements that will help you crown your brand king of your industry in not time.

What other things have you done to build your brand strategy? Let me know in the comments!