By Marissa Litty-McGill

When we hear “branding,” we think of those big-name, staple companies found in the kitchens, closets, and garages of 9 out of 10 homes. Recognizable logos, colors, packaging, and slogans are certainly part of the branding process, but there is so much more than assets. 

Let’s dive into tried-and-true branding tips that can help your mid-sized business nail it.

1. Build the Foundation, Then Document

Branding requires quite a bit of foundational work beyond font and accent colors. When you’re busy managing day-to-day marketing, it can be tempting to let all the “things you know” stay filed away in your head. Don’t overlook the importance of documentation, because brains aren’t as trustworthy as we think. Before you know it, everyone is capitalizing product names differently and using the wrong shade of green. 

What are foundational brand elements? They include the following:

  • Buyer personas
  • Style guides (design and copy) 
  • Mission statements
  • Values
  • Tagline and logo placement/use rules
  • Voice and tone

One study found consistent brand presence has been attributed to a 33 percent increase in revenue. Simply put, your brand cannot only live in the heads of your executive and marketing team, and it must be consistent. Without that guidance, you’re leaving your brand in the hands of individuals who may or may not get it right. With a documented brand strategy, you’ll avoid error, support future growth, and save time explaining your target audience to all your teams.

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2. Get Proactive

The year 2020 came for everyone and everything, including brand and audience relationships. Everyone from employees to buyers were closely watching company responses to the pandemic, political events, and social justice movements, which left many organizations scrambling to identify their position. When brands made statements, there were questions about authenticity, especially for brands that had been silent on those particular issues before.

This is an extreme example that affected all markets, but reactivity isn’t new. It’s that yearly confusion on how to organize an upcoming conference appearance or weekly indecision of how to approach a partnership call. A solid brand will not wonder how to react; it will lead the conversation. 

Kickstart proactivity with small things like templated letterheads and email signatures. Take it a step further by considering where your target audience is (physically and digitally), when they’re thinking about going, and what they’re talking about while they’re there. For example, maybe your target audience was a part of the 80 percent of people who started consuming more content after the COVID-19 outbreak, and so you think it’s a good time to give that podcast ad spot a try. Don’t wait for your competitors to get there first.

3. Ask “Why” a Lot

Why are you writing the press release? Why did you want that post going out on Monday and not Saturday? Why should your website include a chatbot? Why would someone read your blog? You should always confidently know the why behind the what—and it should never be “because we want to make money.” 

From the very beginning, your company was built to provide an answer to a problem. If your buyer doesn’t know the “why,” they won’t be motivated to sign the check or swipe the card. If you don’t know it, how will they? 

Always refer to your target audience and ensure what you’re doing is reflective of why they want you to do it. When you stop questioning your tactics, you start doing things because you’ve always done them, not because they work.

4. Stay Genuine

A group of researchers found 90 percent of corporations reference ethical behavior or “integrity” as an organizational value. Of course integrity is a good value, but is it really capturing what it means to work with the organization? 

Not everyone’s company can or will save the world, and that’s OK, so trust the value you bring your customers and tell it like it is. One of our SmartBug® company values is “Rock It,” because we always want to rock it for our clients. It perfectly embodies our voice and tone while explaining what we’re working for every day: client success

5. Solicit Feedback

Customer surveys can be a little scary, but by embracing feedback, you’re ensuring you’re upholding your company promises while gathering intel that could steer better strategies. In fact, negative feedback will be some of the most valuable for growth and improvement, so you should be hoping for candor.

When customers aren’t as eager to share, ensure your survey is approachable (short and simple to complete) and consider what’s in it for them. Can you offer a discount, free branded swag, or a gift card? Don’t be afraid to ask some of your peers for their insight, too.

6. Don’t Be Everything to Everyone

Look, even Coca-Cola has Pepsi. You can’t please everyone, and you can’t make everyone your customer, but you can get your niche audience swooning and advocating. This is why surveying and research are so important. 

Dive deep into company data and current customer profiles to see who your brand is already resonating with, and then listen to how they’re defining your brand and themselves. Do this regularly, because as years change so do your customers and, consequently, your brand.

7. Make It Influential

Influencers are all the rage in the branding world, and while the connotation right now usually revolves around individuals sharing products on Instagram, influencers have been and are so much more. Every company has the capacity to be a thought leader in its market. Think yearly reports filled with proprietary data only your company collects, quarterly webinars that help customers and partners understand the industry ecosystem, and bylined articles on industry outlets. Just remember to return to your buyer personas and ask “why?” before choosing the avenue of influence. 

Keep these seven branding tips in mind, and you’re sure to have a solid strategy for your mid-sized business.

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Marissa Litty-McGill

About the author

Marissa Litty-McGill Marissa's 8+ years of marketing experience spans both B2B and B2C industries. Though she received her Communications degree in Journalism & PR/Advertising, she fell for marketing before even walking across the University of Nebraska at Omaha's graduation stage. When she isn't geeking out over inbound, she's exploring the world with her husband and dog. Read more articles by Marissa Litty-McGill.

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