You can’t go very long without hearing someone in mainstream media, on social media, or in your various adventures in Google search talking about “your brand”, alongside all kinds of opinions discussing how important it is. In the midst of that widespread conversation about brands, though, real explanations and discussions about what it really means and how to cultivate your brand are in short supply.
That’s why we’re writing this post, to answer a lot of the simple questions that many business owners have about building a brand, instead of referring to it in a vague fashion that isn’t all that helpful, as many other sources have been doing for years. We’re going to describe what a brand translates to in the real world, as well as how you can start building yours today.
Start Building Your Brand Now
Many new business owners tend to think that creating a brand is something that you can do pretty much instantaneously, that it kind of builds itself as soon as you start a company. This fallacy is due to a few misconceptions about branding, in addition to a lack of knowledge about it, or even what a brand really is. We’re going to get into what it means more in the next section, too.
As a home business owner, you have just as much of a responsibility to gain maximum exposure for your company as any other business, and as you gain more and more exposure, conveying clearly who you are should be a large part of that.
Branding needs a few key elements to actually work, and it works over time. It’s not something that you can build overnight and rarely picks up speed until you’ve been working on your brand for some time.
Due to the time it takes to build, you need to start working it as soon as possible, and not only that—be very diligent and consistent about it. A large part of creating a successful brand, in fact, is being very consistent with every move you make that is related to your company (or whatever you’re aiming to promote).
If you have a brand new small business, for example, then you should already know who you’re targeting with your product, what you stand for, and what your values are, just for starters. This is primarily what makes up your brand, and you should actually be working out those aforementioned elements early on, in the planning stages, before you even open your new business.
What is a Brand, Really?
Everyone assumes they understand what a brand is and how to develop it. Think about it for a moment… can you explain what a brand actually is, in your own words? If you have a good grasp on the concept and some experience with it already, then that’s great, and you may not even need to read this; however, chances are that you either can’t define what it is or have an erroneous idea of what it is.
What it means to your company may vary slightly depending on your particular goals and environment, but the basic idea remains the same. One good definition of a brand is: A distinctive set of values consistently cultivated and promoted by an individual or organization, usually recognizable by a specific name or image.
That’s even a little verbose. A brand really just boils down to the values, characteristics, ideas, etc. that you want to be known for. Figuring that out is the toughest part, but once you know what your brand represents, then all you have to do is adhere to that over time, don’t change it too much, and promote the hell out of it.
There is also an unfortunate phenomenon among home business owners that makes them somehow feel that the concept of branding doesn’t really apply to them, but nothing could be further from the truth. Your customers and the general public don’t know that you’re running your business out of your home, and to gain more attention and trust from your customers, you have to build and promote your brand all the same.
One thing that a lot of entrepreneurs miss is that consistency is key when building your brand, as the brand doesn’t have too much value if people are unsure of what it represents. Making sure they know just what you stand for comes from establishing it early on, publicizing it with every action you take with your company, and being sure that remains consistent over time.
Know What Your Brand Is
You obviously can’t build a brand for yourself or your company if you don’t know, yourself, what your brand stands for. As we’ve mentioned, it’s important to start this early. Establish the values that you want to represent as a company, and then do your best to make sure everything your company does reflects those values.
It has to be crystal clear to the public and easy for them to comprehend without really thinking about it, and that’s only possible if, first of all, it’s perfectly clear to you. Then, once you accomplish that (which is no small feat, in itself), the next step is to boil it down, and then boil it down even further.
Don’t think of your brand as a mission statement and a logo, but think of it more as a promise to the public, so that when they see your name or logo, they know exactly what they’re going to get. Then, of course, you need to fulfill that promise every time. Create a brand that stands out. Standing for quality or efficiency or speed of service are great traits to have, but there also has to be some kind of unique element.
For example, you might set out to make quality products that also appeal in some way to a certain age group, or a specific demographic. That might mean designing your products to be culturally relevant, or maybe kind of old-school, or something along those lines.
It can be any defining element, though, that sets you apart from other businesses and especially your competitors. The thing to remember with this is to define exactly what your brand stands for, so that when people see that it’s you, they immediately know what qualities to expect from your brand.
Promote Your Brand
So, once you establish a brand that is very clear and easily communicable to the public, you can then explore various avenues to promote it. At first, you may even want to refrain from doing any active, deliberate promotion of your brand, but instead just putting it out there as you do business and watch how people react to it.
This would be in the early stages as you’re just starting out, so that you’ll get an opportunity to shift if necessary and make changes to the brand you want to show the world. One of the signs that you have a good brand is when people attach value to your company or name without you even making any efforts to tell them to do so.
This is a perfect example of the power that your brand can have even before you actively promote, which is a good indicator of how successful it can be when you do start to push it and amplify its power even further. This doesn’t mean that you have to constantly push it. It just means that with every initiative you take for the business, you remind people who is doing it.
That is, every item that you sell, every time that you provide a service to a customer, and every advertisement that you put out should clearly connect to your brand. That might mean simply including your logo or slogan with all your products, or you might just keep the same color scheme in all your ads; it depends on how your business is structured and how you promote for it.
So, the way you promote your brand can be very subtle and almost naturally integrated into everything associated with the business, or it could be more overt and deliberate. The approach you use will also be informed a great deal by what type of business you have and who your customers are, which can obviously vary quite a bit.
You can also reinforce this effect by putting your name out there using various channels, such as social media outlets and different kinds of advertisements. Social media, in particular, can be extremely effective for promoting your brand, which you may or may not already be utilizing. To learn how you can use social media to your greatest advantage, check out our post on exactly that subject here:
Connect Your Own Personal Brand
You can be simultaneously building your personal brand just by doing what you normally do, but by doing it more publicly on social media and other channels, you’ll be profiting from it instead of just expressing yourself arbitrarily. Your own personal brand can be more of a challenge to cultivate, but it’s really only more challenging if you overthink it.
What you want to do is to, first of all, simply become more active and add more channels through which you’re posting personal content. In addition to your standard posting platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you can also start engaging on platforms such as Reddit, Quora, LinkedIn, or others.
Then, as you become more active with social media, it’s also a good idea to begin creating posts that are more related to your area of business in whatever way that you can without turning your personal social media accounts into business accounts.
Over time, you can build a solid following using the same principles that you would use for your business. The idea is not to convert your personal brand into an extension of your business, but on the contrary, to keep your personal brand as an expression of you as an individual, as a professional, and as an entrepreneur.
As more people connect and engage with you as an individual, you should be continually communicating to people (not necessarily in an explicit way) what you stand for and what you believe in. The greater the engagement and following that you get for your personal brand can then be an asset that can fuel your company brand because you can connect those people with your company brand.
The basic idea is that you should be cultivating both your personal and company brand all the time, and your personal brand can have great value for your company because people tend to identify much more easily with individuals than they do with companies.
Just because you’re running your business out of your home makes no difference as to the importance of being conscious of your brand at all times. This is most definitely an area to which it’s worthwhile to commit some time and effort because building your brand, home business or otherwise, gives people something that they can grab onto.
It tells them exactly what to expect from your business, and that is really the key to having a clear, solid brand. If there was one thing that you take away from this article, it should be that you need to start working on this right now.
If you’re just setting out on a new business venture or haven’t even started yet, then it’s the perfect time to begin establishing what your brand will be. Define and clarify it to the point where it is easily understandable to anyone who encounters your brand.
Check out all of the articles in the series, Growing Your Home-Based Business: