Branding Basics for Entrepreneurs: Building Your Message

WHAT IS BRANDING AND WHY IT MATTERS

Google “What is a brand?” and you’ll find so many definitions it will make your head spin.

So let’s keep things simple. A brand is a promise. Your brand tells your customers what you do, what they can expect and how you’re different from the competition.

Yet that’s where branding can become challenging. You don’t want to over-complicate your brand, which is why every element of your branding should be deliberate, strategic and thoughtful.

After all, one of the reasons why your brand is so important is that it helps customers connect with your business while boosting your presence in a crowded market.

That’s because a brand doesn’t just represent the products or services you offer. It’s also a reflection of your company’s identity. It can be difficult to think about a company and a brand like you would a person, but that’s exactly what will make your brand effective.

Keep this in mind: every business has a story. And that story starts with the brand. Let’s look at some ways you can start your own brand-building with a critical element: your brand message.

HOW TO IDENTIFY YOUR BRAND MESSAGE

Branding, like small business marketing, should be strategic. Just as you identified the personal vision that guides your company, you should create a branding strategy that serves as the foundation of your brand. And that strategy starts with your brand message—or, in essence, the definition of your brand.

Before we look at some ways you can create your brand message, let’s try an exercise.

Take just a few minutes and think about a few brands you admire. Jot down their names, then a sentence or two about why the brand resonates with you.

Now, turn that reflection inward. Look at what you wrote and think about what you want your brand to reflect and say. As you start to formulate your brand message, answer the following questions:

  1. What does your company do? 
  2. What benefits do your products or services offer?
  3. What qualities and emotions do you want customers to associate with your company? 
  4. Why should customers care about your company? 

That information will help guide the creation of your brand message. You want to keep your message fairly brief, although once it’s finalized, you can further condense it into an elevator pitch that will be a part of your external communication strategy.

And if you get stuck? Don’t beat yourself up. Company branding is challenging and complex—in fact, many entrepreneurs enlist the help of branding firms to help with this part of the process.

We have another solution: Kauffman FastTrac. These free, self-paced online courses guide you through the process of starting a business, and that includes defining your company’s brand and marketing.

One of the benefits of FastTrac is that they’re designed to fit your specific needs. If, for example, you hit a wall on your branding, the courses will act as your guide. Or, if you prefer to tackle your own branding and want to evaluate your work, the courses can help with validation and feedback.

Once you’ve defined your brand message, let’s look at three ways you can communicate and support it.

3 WAYS TO COMMUNICATE AND SUPPORT YOUR BRAND MESSAGE

Once you’ve created your brand message, you’ll have the foundation on which to build the rest of your branding elements. Here are three key ways that you can communicate your brand message:

YOUR LOGO

Your company’s logo is arguably one of the most important parts of your brand. After all, it makes an instant impression. And it’s likely one of the things that people will most often associate with your company.

Your logo should be a visual reflection of your brand, which is why it’s important to first develop your brand message, then your logo.

Think of your brand attributes and what you want people to associate with your brand. How can you reflect those outcomes in your logo?

This is also a prime time to think about your company’s color palette. You don’t want to just pick colors on a whim. Remember: everything about branding is strategic, deliberate and thoughtful.

Let’s say, for example, that part of your brand is energetic. You’d want to choose bright, vibrant colors to reflect that energy, rather than, say, a muted neutral palette.

Revisit the list of your favorite brands and think about their logos. This isn’t to say that you should copy them. Instead, it’s an exercise to help you identify what connects with you, what moves you, what provokes an emotional reaction, because you want to do the same with your brand and customers.

YOUR COMPANY VOICE

Remember when we mentioned earlier that your branding is a reflection of your company’s identity? To communicate and support that identity, you’ll want to create your company’s voice.

Again, revisit your brand identity and your brand attributes. What sort of voice supports that message? Are you informal? Straight-forward? Casual with a dash of professionalism? Slightly snarky? Approachable? Authoritative?

Once you identify your company voice, you should use it to create all of your marketing materials and collateral, as well as guide other marketing efforts like your social media presence. Brand consistency is critical, especially when you’re launching a business and in the early stages of building brand recognition.

YOUR TAGLINE

Your company’s tagline summarizes your brand in just a few words—maybe some of the most important words you’ll choose as a business owner (no pressure!)

Go back to the work you’ve already put into your branding: your message, your logo, the list of brands you admire. Use all of that information to guide the creation of your tagline.

This is a prime time for a brain dump. Grab a piece of paper or head to a whiteboard and just start brainstorming and writing. Don’t worry about the quality of your output—the goal is to create as big of a list as possible, then you’ll evaluate your options.

And don’t hesitate to bring in a few close friends, associates or mentors to weigh in on several of your strongest choices. Not only will you get valuable input, but you can also conduct a small test of your branding and how it resonates with your target audience.We know: it’s a lot. But branding really is such a thrilling part of your entrepreneurial journey. This is the point in the process when your business really starts to come to life and you’re that much closer to launch.

And just remember: if you need help, we’re just a click away.