A brand isn't something only large, well-known companies have. It is a necessity for any person or business -- from freelancers to international e-commerce sites -- to establish themselves as an authority in their industry.
A brand is not just a logo; it's a reputation. It's a way to attract and communicate with your audience. Because people are often exposed to your brand before actually interacting or doing business with you, it also acts as a way of setting expectations.
To effectively brand yourself, you first need to understand the different components involved, why they are important and how to properly implement them. Below are some of the essential aspects and steps involved in successful branding, regardless of your industry or budget.
Clear mission statement
Building a successful brand begins with uncovering who you are and what your purpose is. Your mission statement is the core of your brand. Every decision you make stems from it -- a few lines that clearly state the goal of your brand and, in turn, also reveal your style and tone.
It is important to know your competition so you know how to position yourself amongst them. What do you offer that others can't? Don't just focus on what makes you great, but rather what makes you different. Search for other well-established businesses in your industry to see how they are marketing themselves. Learn from them. What are they doing that you like? Mimic those tactics. What can you do that is different, better?
If there is any step of your branding you don't want to skimp on, it's your logo. Is it eye-catching? Does it look too similar to other brands? Your logo is how people identify your brand, and one of the most frequently used and seen elements, so it needs to be high-quality and accurately representative of your style.
For a flat-rate fee, some designers will create a number of different logos for you to choose from. However if you don't like any, you're pretty much out of luck. Instead, to ensure you get the biggest bang for your buck, and don't end up settling for a logo you are less than ecstatic about, use a site like 99 Designs. After having you fill out a questionnaire and giving you a free design consultation, designers from around the world actually compete to create a logo you'll like and, if you don't like any of them, you get your money back. Plus, you get full copyright ownership.
In this age of technology, the importance of having a website is obvious. It doesn't have to be fancy, but you need at least a basic one with all relevant information and, ideally, one that translates to mobile platforms. You will need to purchase and register a domain name as well as hosting. Two of the more reliable and affordable sites to do this are GoDaddy, where you can also search to see what names are available, and BlueHost. You could use a .net since it typically costs less, but a .com looks more professional and trust-worthy.
If you're on a budget, there are plenty of platforms to create your own website, such as Wordpress, where you can also choose from a number of free, easy-to-use templates.
Personal style and voice
Branding isn't just about what you look like, but also how you sound, how you communicate. Your brand acts as your voice -- what do you want it to say about you? Are you casual and laidback? Or serious and technical? Whatever the personality, make sure it shines through to appeal to your target audience.
In order to appeal to the right audience, you need to figure out who your ideal customer is. Are they male or female? What are their demographics? What social media platforms do they use? What are some of the biggest struggles they face, and how can your brand help? Narrow it down as specifically as possible. It is easier to market your brand with one specific type of person in mind rather than trying to appeal to everyone.
Social media presence
Social media is one of the most effective marketing tools out there today, and the least expensive. It is a great way to build a following, increase brand exposure, spark consumer engagement and drive revenue. But don't waste time using platforms that your target audience is not using. Implement tracking and analytic tools to measure the effectiveness and reach of each post to learn when the best times are to post. Stick to major ones, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ at first. This is also a great place to provide valuable and shareable content.
Strong content strategy
It is hard to stay relevant in conversations online today if you are not participating in them. While you could hire a copywriter or blogger to help produce content on a regular basis, if you are on a budget all you need is some time, patience and creativity. Your content is a way of taking your brand and letting it shine. Where you logo is a first impression, your content allows you to make a lasting one. Read up as much as possible on SEO trends and keyword planning by following industry leaders such as HubSpot and Copyblogger. Identify what questions your target audience is asking, and provide them with consistent communication to position your brand as an invaluable resource.
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