A great business is nothing without great branding. If you want your business to have staying power and reach more clients, you’ll have to work to make sure your company shines above the rest. ESSENCE.com caught up with Vanessa Wade, founder and CEO of Houston, Texas-based Connect the Dots PR, to get her best tips on building an unforgettable brand. Here’s what she had to say.
Branding is your company's voice to your target markets. It is your opportunity for customers to know and understand not only what you’re doing but why you’re doing it. This "voice" has always been an important component in a successful business. While in the social media landscape it is impossible to maintain full control, you can establish a clean starting point. Branding is that starting point and continual reminder of what your business stands for. It’s not solely logos and a catchy tag line, but what people are saying and feel about you. Social media is the new background check, so make sure you are putting your best foot forward, sharing any accolades that come your way, and doing damage control if needed.
It's a combination of persistence, relevance, and patience. The best personal and business brands know how to evolve without losing authenticity and evoke emotion. They add value. They ignite dialogue. They create a cult-like following. They are human. That's where the power of storytelling takes center stage. You take on the brand. Wear it. Blog about it. Tweet it. Share it. Capture a person's attention and never let it go!
If after a brief conversation about your business a person looks bewildered, you have a branding concern. If people don't know how you can help them, you need a branding face lift. How do existing customers describe your business? Are they saying things you didn't want to hear? Are their replies in tune with what you have been projecting or working toward? If the feedback is not meeting your branding goals, it's time to refresh and refocus. A bruised ego is better than going months and months in the wrong direction. Even if your messaging and branding are strong and recognizable, plan to update and tweak it every two to five years to ensure you sound relevant with the world around you. Keep that update tied into the core of the brand and business you have built.
Don't get discouraged if your "branding" starts off slow. It takes time and resources to create the brands we've come to love and respect. Be consistent in your efforts. Ask for feedback. Share your information and if no one seems interested, find out why. Is it wording? Is it the time you post? Are they unclear about your exact offerings? Are you speaking to the right audience? Are you speaking in a way that invites your target audience to engage with you? Speak their language. Seek out mentors or other business owners that can help you elevate your platform. In the beginning it may seem like you aren't getting anywhere, but be consistent and committed, and in time you will make progress. One more thing on the branding to-do list is make sure your brand is consistent online and offline. If you are energetic online, that same happy person should show up to do business!
Whenever I host a branding or public relations class, I encourage attendees to do the following:
• Do take time to invest in your brand. Take a class, ask past clients or friends what words come to mind when they see or hear your name. Update your website. Research. Craft a meaningful message that people care about. Tap into what naturally brings you joy. I enjoy seeing faces light up when they have that "aha" moment!
• Do factor in time to implement those ideas—strong, profitable brands don't happen overnight.
• Do take the time to figure out what you want to be most known for.
• Don't try to be “one size fits all.” Everyone is not your client.
• Don't overthink it. Usually the answer is right there; don’t obsess over finding it.
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