Back to Basics: Build a Brand Story

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You can't be all things to all people. That's why even small businesses need to develop a strong brand story. A brand is a unique promise to your customer. It represents everything your business stands for (or does not stand for), according to Gallup. It also separates your company from its rivals, tells customers why they should do business with you, and defines what they should expect from your products and services.

Gallup's research reveals that brand promises “have a profound impact on business outcomes." Top companies deliver on their brand promises 75 percent of the time, and reap the rewards of greater customer engagement and profitability in return, the organization reports.

Know Your Business

To create a successful brand story for your small business, consider both who you are and how you want customers to perceive you, writes John Williams, the founder of LogoYes.com. What makes your business stand out from the pack? Are you known for great prices, unique craftsmanship, excellent customer service or innovative products? Understand your company's value to your customers.

To help define your brand story, Williams suggests the answering the following questions:

  • What is your company's mission?
  • What benefits do your products or services provide to customers?
  • What do customers currently think of your company?
  • What qualities do you want customers to associate with your company?

Don't guess the answers or make assumptions, he advises. Instead, do your research and find out what your customers actually think.

Define Your Audience

To create a powerful brand story, it's important to create a customer persona–a fictional character that has all the same traits as an “average" member of your target audience, according to Jayson DeMers, author of the e-book, “The Definitive Guide to Marketing Your Business Online."

Base your customer persona around verified demographics such as age, gender, education level and income, as well as personality traits such as being adventurous, fashion-forward or health-conscious. It's also important to be aware of your customers' social media conversations, reviews and feedback, as well as how they interact with your brand, he says.

Share Your Message

Communicating your brand to a target audience requires more than a great catchphrase. The way you communicate your message is as important as the adjectives you use to describe your brand, writes sports marketer Lou Imbriano.

Think about ways to engage your customers and answer their questions that are consistent with your brand message. It's also important to consider whether your marketing channels are the best match for your brand. A luxury travel site, for example, may not be the best location to promote budget-friendly camping supplies. Sponsoring a scouting event, however, could be a great way to create brand loyalty among current and future customers.

Also make sure that your business partners and vendors have brands that align with your own. A shipping company with recyclable packing materials, for example, might be a great match for a retailer selling eco-friendly products.

Keep Your Promise

To keep your brand promise to your customers, make sure it's credible. "Aim high, but remember: your brand promise must be deeply rooted in the possible," states Market Street Research.

It's also critical to make sure that you have the tools and resources you need to back up your claims. Review your entire sales process from the first click to the final purchase to make sure you can deliver on your brand promise during every step of the sale.

Your brand story represents not only who you are, but who you want to be to your customers. To set your small business apart, remember that a brand is a promise—and that successful companies ensure that they can deliver on that promise in every transaction.