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Core Elements of Building Your Brand: What Every Business Owner Should Know

I recently had the opportunity to speak at a workshop for the Small Business Development Center of Frederick (SBDC) at the Frederick Innovation & Technology Center Inc. (FITCI). While speaking with local business owners at the event, I realized that certain topics – like how to effectively build your brand – come up often in my conversations with clients. The following blog is an adaptation of my notes from my workshop.

At its core, marketing is communication. Everyone is communicating all the time, so why do we still find it difficult to craft the perfect marketing slogan or tagline? Maybe it’s because marketing forces us to be both a big-picture thinker and detail-oriented at the same time. Often, people fall into just one of those categories, so we find it difficult when we have to approach problems from both angles.

Big-picture thinkers have the vision; they know where they want to go. However, when it comes time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), they get stuck.  Detail-minded folks can jump straight into a task with surefire tactics. However, when you look at the execution of a detail-oriented person’s plan a few months down the road, it may lack consistency. The next three tips are HighRock’s key to helping you balance the details and the big picture to craft a marketing strategy that works for you:

1. Strategize: Understand your purpose and guiding principles

What does your brand do? In order to clearly convey your brand to your customers, you’ll need to be familiar with all of the products and services you offer. In addition to being able to explain what your brand does, can you explain why you do it? Why is what you do important? Tap into that story – the why – to find the guiding principles for your marketing plan. How do you fill a gap in the existing market?

Easy-to-use Branding Tool: Another exercise I recommend is trying to describe your brand personality in five keywords (or less). Imagine that your brand is a good friend of yours, and someone asks you “how would you describe so-and-so?” Those five words are an easy-to-use tool when deciding if you are “on-brand.” For example, if a new designer gives you a proof of a postcard and it doesn’t feel “right,” ask yourself if it upholds your five keywords. If any of them don’t ring true, tell your designer, and ask for another proof.

Wide shot of Katie speaking at a small business workshop

2. Create: Figure out how to communicate your purpose to other people

When it comes time to create content to share with your customers, start with where you’re most passionate. For a personal example, last year I was asked to write a blog post for our website. I found myself struggling with writer’s block, so I wrote about something that was important to me – website accessibility. Much of the web is not accessible by people with visual or hearing impairments. My mom is losing her eyesight, so I feel strongly that the web should be more accessible, and HighRock has been working diligently to move the needle at least with our own clients.

Be aware though – your passion may not engage all of your customers. While my posts about accessibility felt worthwhile for me, and were useful for web developers or marketing directors, the rest of the world finds the minutia of accessibility incredibly boring. One of my other posts about “getting content clicks” does much better, because it speaks to a key problem facing our clients. (That, and its thumbnail image is an adorable animated spider.)

Once you figure out the brand identity you want to convey, it’s easy to go in a million different directions at once. Instead, create boundaries for consistency so that posts from this week will relate to what you do a few months down the road.

Steps to stay consistent:

Create a Content Calendar: To make the process easier, HighRock creates a monthly “Content Calendar” for our clients. This lays out the date, platform, and post content so that you don’t need to worry about coming up with the perfect caption in the moment – you know what you’re posting ahead of time.

Choose your Colors: Choose colors from your logo, colors that complement your logo, and colors that exemplify your “five words” and try to stay there.

Commit: When taking pictures or buying stock photos for use on social media or your website, remember your brand keywords, and stick to your color palette. Consider textures and lighting as well, and keep them similar once you find something that works for you.

3. Maintain: Review, Revise, and Repeat

Now it’s time to review your progress:  Did your strategies work? How do you know? Take this opportunity to assess online and in-person interaction. Review what types of content did well and what didn’t. What time of day were the more popular posts vs the less popular ones? If you’re able to gather impressions from your customers, now is the time to do so. At the end of the day, did your leads or sales increase? What was your ROI?

After you review, revise! Continue the strategies that work and change up the ones that didn’t get engagement.

After you find what works for your brand and your customers...repeat! That doesn’t mean only continuing to post the same things – make sure you continue to review and revise your strategies. Marketing moves fast, especially with the rise of social media. When you’re online, respond to both your customers and local business partners. They’ll teach you what is most important for your business, and you’ll gain notoriety for being a part of the conversation.

Want to see other brands that are doing these three things well? Check out our Work page for examples of projects where we got to do what we love best!