1. What are your clients thinking?
You must get closer to your clients. Talk to them. Get someone else to talk to them. Interview them. Survey them. Understand them. Truly uncovering why your clients decided to use your services can easily get lost in the day-to-day grind. Make it your job to find out what they are thinking. It will often lead you to a core idea for your business that may have been there all along, hidden from view.
2. Have a clear plan
Get your business plan in order and have a clear point of difference in the market that you can defend and consistently deliver. Branding is about sending the right signals about your business to your audiences. If you don’t have a core idea that differentiates you in the market, you are on a rudderless boat.
Without a core idea it is hard to know what your brand stands for. You can tell this is the case when a brand resorts to gimmicks or purely competes on cost.
3. Get to the message
Once you have a core idea to centre your thinking, it becomes easier to start shaping your key messages.
• What does your brand stand for?
• What benefit do you provide?
• Is there a process that makes you unique?
These are good starting points. Once you know the messages you want to communicate, you then need to be consistent and single minded in staying on brand.
4. Think about the entire experience
Gone are the days when a brand was considered just a logo, or a clever catchline. You need to start thinking about every way you are signalling your brand to your clients. For a service business, brand signals can be broadly broken into visual, behavioral, physical and communication perspectives.
• The visual perspective covers your visual identity – including your brandmark, visual style, typeface and colour palette.
• The behavioural perspective covers the way you interact with clients – your attitude, your turnaround times and how you handle problems.
• The physical perspective covers anything tangible your client may interact with – including your office space, wayfinding signage and furniture.
• The communications perspective covers the content and channels you use to interact – be they in press, online, print or in person.
Think about all the ways your clients interact with you – the application forms they use, to the chairs they sit in. Everything communicates your brand.
5. The hard part
Once you have a core idea and your team are behind it, then consistency becomes critical. You need to consistently reinforce your messages internally so your team can live the brand with your clients.
Creating and maintaining a strong brand is hard in itself. It is as much about “doing” as it is about “saying”. That is why so many do it poorly. Poor brands have a shallow promise. Strong brands come from a core idea people believe in.