With the level of competition that exists in the ultra-competitive marketplace today, it has become more important than ever for you to be unique and original, and to stand out from a crowd. In other words, you need to build a strong brand to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Importance of Branding Today
A great deal of misconceptions generally exist around the notion of brands and branding in general. Many businesses either do not understand what branding is really about, undervalue branding or don’t know how branding can help them develop their business.
They don’t think of themselves as a brand and therefore put zero focus on establishing their business as a brand.
In fact, some business owners will scoff at the suggestion that they need to be a brand. Consequently, they end up missing out on the key benefits of building a strong brand.
While this is a problem for most businesses who don’t purposefully build their brand, it makes it an incredible opportunity for those that do understand the value of branding and put the hard work into building their brand
What exactly is a brand?
Generally speaking, the dictionary definitions of “branding” place emphasis on the brand name and image . The business world, however takes this further.
Today, having a strong brand is vitally important because it is the only way to set you apart from the competition.
Some of the key benefits of having a strong online brand include:
- Brands are recognised as experts and market leaders in their fields of expertise;
- Brands develop a strong emotional bond with their customers and a high level of trust.
- Brands are able to charge higher prices for their products or services because their customers know they are getting real value;
- People who use brands are likely to become customers for life;
- People tend to be more forgiving of brands when they make mistakes;
- Brands are able to get away with sending large amounts of promotional messages to their followers on social media channels;
- Brands are able to attract customers without having to sell themselves.
That is what sets your brand apart from the competition, and what makes your brand both different and better than the competition. That’s what needs to come across in your messages.
Some examples of well-known brands are Nike, Mercedes-Benz, Apple, Oprah, Richard Branson. However, branding isn’t just for large corporations or the rich and famous. Nowadays, branding is being applied to local businesses including plumbers, hairdressing salons, restaurants, dry cleaners, photographers, moving companies, etc.
Branding has even evolved to personal branding – whereby graduates, freelancers and other career professionals are marketed as brands. Social media has provided us with so many tools and resources that we can use to build meaningful relationships with our target audiences and develop our brands.
It’s generally difficult for most individuals and small business owners to believe that they can be a brand because of the general (outdated) perception of what makes a brand.
However, the reality is, as long as people can form an opinion of you or your business, you have a brand. People in your target audience already have a general perception of who you are and what you stand for. That perception is your brand.
And here’s the thing – a brand can be negative as well as positive. If a customer has a poor impression of you, your company, products or services, then that is how your brand will be perceived in the eyes of that customer. That perception of your business will define the type of conversations that that customer will have with his social network about you and your brand.
You want to ensure that every conversation your customers and prospective customers have about you and your brand is, for the most part, positive, and serve to enhance your reputation in the marketplace.
The ultimate objective to develop your reputation as the go-to authority in your industry, demonstrate your credibility, and develop meaningful relationships and trust with your target audience.
Everything you do must be geared towards establishing credibility and building trust with your target audience. If you are unable to do this, then you will find it extremely difficult to compete and stand out in your niche market.
For example, if you are a financial consultant, you want to be perceived as the first financial consultant your target audience thinks of when they need a financial consultant.
Your aim should be to establish the reputation of a competent, likeable professional that solves your customer’s problems, rather than just another bland, faceless company that only wants their money, and blasts meaningless and annoying marketing messages that mean nothing to them.
The objectives that a good brand will achieve include:
- delivers the message clearly
- reinforces a good reputation
- encourages loyalty
- assures quality
- conveys a sense of greater worth
- confirms your credibility
- connects your target prospects emotionally
- motivates the buyer
- concretes user loyalty
In essence, your “brand” is the representation of your unique competitive advantage over your competitors in the marketplace. Branding is about showcasing your credibility and building meaningful relationships with your customers and prospective customers.
It involves identifying and actively connecting with your target audience, building up trustworthiness, and connecting with a variety of emotions (including motivation to buy).
In essence, the true meaning of marketing means maximising relationships. Relationship building leads to new customers and referrals from existing customers. One of the core pieces of relationship building is solidifying the trust and credibility of your business.
Once you’ve built a strong relationship with your customers, it becomes very difficult for your competition to get your business, no matter how much cheaper they are than you.
You develop your credibility with branding in the same way that you develop any relationship – through identifying, understanding, communicating and engaging with your target audience.
When you combine both concepts successfully, branding and marketing will create and promote value, trust and confidence in your company’s image, its products and its services.