Starting a new business is an exciting time.
Passion and enthusiasm keep you moving forward.
You work long days and late nights to make your dream a reality.
But, in all the excitement, it’s essential to pause and make sure that as you start your business, you’re not letting your doing get in the way of your thinking.
There’s a misconception that you can launch first and wait to create your brand identity later.
But, the best time to think about branding and brand strategy is before you’ve launched your business. As we’ve previously pointed out:
Every business has a brand.
This is true for your business whether you’ve made a single conscious branding decision or not.
And that’s why it’s vitally important to make conscious, consistent branding choices. The decisions left unmade and a brand left untended may hurt your business.
The moment you start interacting with clients, customers, or vendors, your brand starts taking shape in their minds.
That’s because a brand consists of:
- the elements you deliberately bring to it,
- the elements you unintentionally bring to it,
- and (importantly) the experiences of the people who engage with your business.
So, if you don’t give your brand and brand identity some thought early on, it’s likely to get away from you quickly. But not all is lost even if you determine that you have a weak brand identity This may be the perfect time to rebrand and develop a fresh brand identity.
Here are 13 questions to guide your brand identity:
Use the following questions to fill in all of the crucial details you should consider as you flesh out your brand.
Once you’ve answered these questions, you should have a clear idea of “who” your brand is, what makes it unique, and how it will stand out from the competition.
1. What is your why?
Every business should have a greater purpose beyond making money.
This purpose is your “why.”
Your why should motivate the choices you make as a company. It should inform the branding messaging you use to communicate with the world. And, it should resonate with like-minded people who will be motivated to become your customers.
Your why should be your business’s core guiding principle – the north star it returns to again and again.
It’s also the emotional hook that will draw in potential customers and help them align with your vision.
For more information about the power of your “why,” check out this fantastic TED Talk by Simon Sinek.
2. Who is your best customer?
No business can appeal to everyone. And, it’s a waste of energy and resources to try.
Identifying your best customer will allow you to target your messaging specifically for them.
As a result, they’ll perceive your brand as likable, relatable, and “for them” – increasing the likelihood that they’ll purchase from you.
So, who is your “best customer?”
Your best customer is the person who needs or wants your product or service. It’s the person who shares your brand’s core values and relates to its personality traits. And, it’s the person who can afford to buy your product or service.
3. How does your product or service benefit your customers?
Customers care more about themselves than they care about your business.
That’s why you need to know – and lead with – the benefits your product or service will offer to them.
Your brand should be known for these benefits. And outlining them now means you’ll be able to share them in your brand messaging from day one.
Pro-Tip: Don’t confuse tangible or emotional benefits for your customer with product or service features. One focuses on your customers’ experience, while the other focuses on your product or service.
Powerfully simple strategy for business growth
Our brand identity workbook has actionable insights and steps to help you build a strong brand identity.
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4. Which values will guide your business?
Every business should follow a basic code of ethics.
But, the nearest and dearest values to your heart will naturally manifest in your business in a more significant way.
You’ll make choices based on these values without even realizing it. And, to create a consistent experience for your customers, you’ll want your employees to act following these values, too.
So, it’s crucial to identify and articulate the values that will guide your business. Through consistent application, these values will become associated with your brand and attract customers who share them.
5. What is your unique value proposition?
Every product or service should have a unique value proposition (or UVP).
Your UVP is the core benefit or solution that differentiates your product or service from the competition – expressed in a single concise sentence.
Your UVP helps people identify what’s unique about your product amid a sea of similar products. And, ideally, it will help people see your offer as the best possible option on the market.
Your UVP will help create the foundation of your brand messaging. It’s one of the things for which your brand will be known.
So, figure it out now to guide your brand messaging from the start.
In fact, if you write a business plan, you’ll need to address your unique value proposition since investors and lenders will be carefully scrutinizing your plan to evaluate whether your business will succeed.
6. What are your business’s strengths?
Your brand should highlight your business’s strengths. These strengths are separate from your UVP. They reflect your business as a whole, not just your product or service.
These strengths will help to show people why they should do business with you. They may include anything that your company does well:
- prompt, cheerful customer support
- respectful marketing policies
- innovative product design
- airtight punctuality
- industry-leading safety practices
- anything at which your business excels
Take the time to identify the things that your business does well. Include them in your marketing and branding messaging.
And, remember to present them from the perspective of your customer. How do these strengths benefit them?
7. Who is your competition?
Your new business will have competition.
You need to know who they are so that you can assess your brand’s place in the market.
Don’t define your brand entirely in reaction to your competitors. Competitive analysis can help you learn who they are, their strengths, weaknesses, and unique brand identities.
This will allow you to tweak your brand identity to help it stand out.
8. What is your brand personality?
Cultivating a brand personality helps make your brand more relatable.
But, don’t mistake the word “cultivate” to mean “create out of whole cloth.” The best brand personalities are genuine extensions of the people behind the business.
Especially in our social media-driven world, brands take on a human-like presence. And, that presence will be received best if it’s authentic.
So, what traits define you? Which of those traits will appeal to your ideal customer? And, which of those traits do you want to share through your business?
These characteristics will make up your brand’s personality.
9. How is your business different from competitors?
If you want people to choose your business over competitors, they need to see how your business is different.
Your UVP shows how your product or service is different from the competition. But that’s only part of the picture.
Your brand needs an identity that stands out as distinct in your market.
So, what makes your business different?
Is your business friendlier? Are you more affordable? Maybe you’re more honest and put your customers first.
Whatever characteristics, policies, or behaviors make your company unique from your competition should be featured in your brand.
10. What is your brand voice?
Once you’ve defined your brand personality, you can start the think about how that personality would speak.
Using a consistent voice that embodies and projects your brand’s personality traits will show the world that you know who you are and that you live the identity you’ve shared with the world.
How would you speak to your customers if you were chatting one-on-one?
That should be the starting place for your brand voice.
11. What is your brand story?
Every brand has a story.
- What motivated you to start your business?
- How did you get from point A to point B?
- What setbacks did you overcome along the way?
- And, how does your brand interact with the lives of its customers?
Your brand story is an opportunity to humanize your brand. Stories allow us to relate to each other and find connections through shared emotions and experiences.
And, people love stories. So, use your brand story to help people get to know and relate to your brand.
Pro-Tip: Your brand story doesn’t end when you launch your business. As your brand grows, your customers become a part of the story. So, show how your customers and your brand continue the journey together.
12. How do you want customers to describe their experience with your business?
People’s experience with your brand impacts how your brand is perceived.
In fact, customer experience is an inextricable part of your brand as a whole.
So, it’s important to understand exactly what you want your customers’ experience to be and make conscious choices about how you will deliver that experience.
13. How do you want others to see your brand; and what actions are you willing to take to ensure that happens?
This final question is a two-for-one. Because, truthfully, one doesn’t matter without the other.
Brand perception is essential.
You can tell all the brand stories and list all the values you want. But, if the way people perceive your brand doesn’t align with those values and stories, public perception will win out every time.
So, how do you want people to see your brand? And, what are you willing to actually do to help people see you that way?
Make sure you have a plan in place to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.
Don’t forget your brand identity
And, once you’ve thought through your answers to all of these questions, it’s time to start considering brand identity.
Brand identity is:
…a collection of visual elements that makes your business unique and different from other businesses. Brand identity is what you, customers, and prospective customers can see…
So, your company logo, business name, signature brand colors and fonts, branded graphics or illustrations, signage, website design, business cards, and more all fall under your brand identity.
Brand identity is vital because it encompasses all of the elements that your potential customers will use to recognize and remember your brand.
And, while you don’t need all of these to get started, you will need a brand name, logo, brand colors, fonts, and a website (at a minimum) to launch your new business.
Luckily, you don’t have to create an entire brand identity on your own. There are design resources like crowdspring that can help. And, branding doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Inconsistency makes your business seem unreliable and untrustworthy. That’s why it’s essential to think through your brand identity early so that you can present a consistent identity from your very first impression.