How to develop a brand strategy: a five-step guide to success

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When it comes to knowing how to develop a brand strategy, many businesses feel overwhelmed. It can seem like a daunting task, but with these simple steps, you can create a successful plan that will help your business grow. A strong brand strategy is the backbone of any successful marketing plan. It defines your company and allows you to better connect with your target audience. It helps you to identify the core values of your business and where it’s positioned compared to your competitors.

77% of B2B marketing leaders say that a strong brand is crucial to their growth plans. And a Forbes study on B2B branding assessed 700 executives and found that, as with consumers, business buyers are less value-driven than you’d probably think, with most relying on a brand’s reputation to simplify the evaluation process.

In a market saturated with options, companies pitching their products and services to other businesses need to find a way to set themselves apart from the rest. How to develop a brand strategy is a long-term game plan that sets out your agenda for the future.

Like everything in business, understanding how to develop your brand strategy should begin with the objectives you want to achieve. Your overall business aspirations will lay the foundations for your marketing goals. Perhaps you want to increase sales by 20% within two years. Maybe you want to improve your customer retention. Perhaps you want a larger share of a growing niche in your market.

OK, good start. But where do we go from here?

Step 1: Understand your target audience

You probably have an idea of the kind of customers you usually serve, but that is not the same as a clearly defined target audience. Without fully understanding who you’re talking to, it’s going to be difficult for you to connect with them. It will also be even harder to generate interest in your product or service.

When we say ‘know your audience,’ we don’t just mean identify a demographic group. Granted, demographics like age, gender, location, job title and income level are important. But you also need to know what makes your customers tick and their responsibilities, their motivations, and what they struggle with.

The narrower your focus on who you’re talking to, the more success you’ll find from your marketing efforts. This is especially true given the level of targeting available in digital marketing.

You can directly reach promising leads and pinpoint those who are most likely to be interested in a product or service. But none of this matters if your core demographic doesn’t relate to or identify with the brand identity you’ve created.

Conducting audience research is necessary to gather insights on what your audience are looking for now, rather than working on some outdated assumptions from your sales team. This can be simply done by talking to your customers, or you can invest in audience interviews, focus groups or surveys. Whichever route you choose, it’s important not to skip this step.

Step 2: Nail down your brand positioning

Your brand positioning is made up of what you can credibly claim as a business, why people should choose you over the competition and how you are going to communicate this in a way that is relevant and motivating to your target audience.

Our guide to a successful B2B brand reboot goes into depth on how to hone in on your positioning, but after getting to know your audience, a good place to start will be to examine the brands you know your target demographic likes, then decide where your company fits in with these. How is it similar and in keeping? Crucially, how is your business different?

The end result will be a positioning statement that captures who you are and what you offer that sets you apart.

If you’re struggling, a simple way to phrase it can be like so:

For…(key audience/s) who…(key audience need) we provide… (product or service) that… (key benefit).

Step 3: Connect with emotion

What is your brand personality? What do you stand for? What keeps customers coming back?

Of course, your product or service has to deliver, but long-term loyalty is built by offering consistently positive interactions with your brand.

This is where brand storytelling comes into play. Your story is your personal touch. It assures your audience that, even as your business grows, it still holds the same values, and it still values each customer.

Emotions help your audience retain positive long-term associations with your brand far more effectively than facts and stats. Brand stories are not marketing materials, ads, or sales pitches. They express your brand’s persona consistently across every channel – and they should stay with your prospects long after they have finished interacting with them.

The next time they engage with your brand, the aim is to reinforce that same emotion. Consistent. Positive. Interaction.

Use the brand proposition statement and your understanding of the products and services you offer, to develop the primary messages you want to communicate with your audience. Consider the tone of these messages. Whilst the content and approach may vary per campaign or channel, a set of key messages or a brand story statement will act as a template when producing comms.

Step 4: Create your brand identity

As we have outlined before, the concept of a brand identity is often misunderstood and we’re constantly trying to rectify this.

It’s not just your logo and your name, your brand identity is the tangible articulation of everything you stand for.

A strong brand identity incorporates every element of your company’s existence, including your website, social media, typography, tone of voice, icons, colours and images. Not to mention your packaging, uniforms, videos, business cards, email footers and illustrations. Even the words your customer service agents use when they pick up the phone.

Your brand proposition and brand story will inform the creative brief when it comes to developing or enhancing your brand identity.

Step 5: Launch your brand strategy

From your positioning to your messaging, everything must now be tied together to create and communicate a consistent brand across all of your channels.

A truly successful brand strategy offers the target audience a completely seamless transition across the different interactions with the brand.

From social media, to store-front, to product, to the Q&A section on your website – the identity should be so intrinsic that your customer barely realises they’ve shifted channels.

By clearly setting your customer’s expectations of who you are, it is your responsibility to meet them at every opportunity.

Doing so will build long term customer loyalty. Failing will leave your prospects feeling confused and disconnected.

Creating a strategy document and a cohesive set of brand guidelines will help everyone in your business stay on the same page.

Some final points before we go:

Before we release you into the wilderness to champion your brand, now that you understand more on how to develop a brand strategy, we’ll leave you with a few important things to consider as your strategy evolves.

  • There’s no ‘one size fits all.’ You’re here to read about brand strategy but no blog article is going to make one for you. Your strategy should be personal to you and your company.
  • Accept that your strategy will change and develop. Be flexible and move with the times. Brands that don’t evolve risk getting left behind.
  • Your strategy is only as good as its execution. Ensure you’ve got a killer marketing team full of like-minded individuals ready to make it work.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Our team is always on hand to discuss all things to do with brand identity, brand strategy, and anything to do with branding. We’re a bit obsessed actually.

Get in touch. We’ll help you craft a fool-proof strategy for branding success.

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Written by

Luke Wilkinson

Strategic Marketing Manager

Luke brings his creatively strategic talents to the team, helping our customers produce bespoke strategic marketing campaigns to suit any audience.