The 5 Pillars of Strategic Brands

There are core strategies that successful brands implement into the DNA of their brand to ensure success and longevity. Here are the five essentials of every brand.

1: Your Brand Starts With Purpose.

The compass of your brand is its purpose.

Without a clear purpose that your team and customers can identify and define, you are injecting more hurdles into your company. I consider the purpose statement as the most important. Still, for large companies, the mission and vision statement can play a critical role in team focus and clarity.

A Purpose Statement

The purpose statement is far more reaching. The mission or vision can be fulfilled and even change in the future, but everything a business does should be sourced for a core purpose. This is the ethos of a brand, “To make the world a cleaner and healthier place.”

Customers care about what a business stands for, almost as much as they care about the product. If you have a weak or underdeveloped purpose, you’ll continue to struggle to connect with audiences and reap minimal gains. 

Your purpose statement is at the crossroads of your business, customer, and motivation. It answers this fundamental question: why does it matter that your business exists?

These are not flowery statements that don’t affect the bottom line of your business–they have real-world impact. Your Mission or Vision Statement impacts your business goals and how you will measure success. Your purpose statement influences the culture of your business and how innovation is applied.

A Mission + Vision Statement 

The vision statement is concrete goals typically expressed with a number. A vacuum company might say “To be in 1 million homes across the west coast.” 

Whereas the mission statement is more abstract but still focuses on a specific goal. That same company might have as their mission, “To advance the way we vacuum.”

2: Understand Your Customer in Concrete Ways

If you understand your customers, you’ll be better prepared to serve them in a way that matters. Businesses fail when they do not have a sustainable customer base. Some companies fail before they even start because they fix a problem that nobody has. Understanding your customer avoids these pitfalls. 

Demographics 

These are the non-emotional facts about your customer. They contain data and stats. They are typically external influences on their person. Income, marital status, ethnicity, or gender can all be influential in how you build your business strategy. 

Psychographics 

These are internal influences. They deal with their aspirations, values, and fears they hold. These are increasingly more prominent for businesses to understand as the climate of competition and customer expectation changes. 

Geographics 

All right, maybe I made this word up, but this third part consists not only of where they live (which can be included in demographics) but where they go. Where do they go shopping or hang out with friends? What is their daily commute? Where do they go to get information on items in your industry? Online or offline. Knowing where they spend time, tells our business what spaces we should occupy. 

Small businesses that are starting should focus on creating just one customer persona. We do this to focus on really understanding that persona. It is not something you want to gloss over or rush through.

The Story:

The first part of a customer persona is the story section. In the story section, you should have where they came from and where they currently live. You are not trying to develop a character with a full back story but a personality. The kind of things someone might identify as if they sparked a meaningful conversation at a casual gathering. 

Having this short story creates empathy and more understanding for you and your team toward the customer. 

The Motivation:

In a word, identify the most significant motivation your customer has for choosing your service or product. You should then briefly expand on how your customer sees this fulfilled by interacting with your product or service.

The Stats:

This section should have bullet points of their demographics, such as location, age, gender, values, communication style, or other content. These are informational attributes rather than feelings. Some of these items may be irrelevant or inappropriate to your business.

Obstacles and Frustrations:

What pain points does your customer face? What are their pet peeves? What makes them feel alienated by those in your industry? This list will help your team navigate what pitfalls to avoid and how to bring them delight with your brand.

3: Map Out Marketing Based on Goals and Customer Touchpoints

Marketing is more about how your customer interacts with your business than it is about making a sale. 

The entire customer experience-from discovering your product and finding out more, to purchasing and telling others, should be simple for your customer to navigate. It’s unfortunate how often businesses leave their customers at a dead end in their sales journey. 

The tactics of your marketing plan will continually evolve with the business. The strategy behind your marketing lasts a lot longer than your tactics, and if it does change, it will be more gradual.

A Positioning Statement is the Place Your Business Calls Home 

A position is a place in your customer’s mind that your company occupies. When I need a good deal on electronics with an exceptional guarantee, I go to Best Buy. Someone who needs quick and inexpensive business cards goes to Vista Print, someone who wants custom, quality business cards will go to Moo. A position in the market means consumers know clearly what you do and for whom you do it. Big businesses offer an assortment of products, but many do not own the position. 

An example is how both Target and Walmart have an electronic section. However, most of their customers still go to Best Buy to purchase their computers. The reason is, in regards to electronics, they do not own a strong position. They make sales in their electronic department, but holding a position sets your business up to succeed when competing with others. They don’t take on Best Buy at their own game. Instead, they carve a niche elsewhere. Target has the position of providing stylish lifestyle goods at an affordable price. In contrast, Walmart delivers the lowest price on home goods. Their target customers are different, and their position fits their customers. 

To develop a good positioning statement, you’ll need to have a working knowledge of both your customer’s mind and your competitors’ positions. Both of these are in constant flux, sometimes changing slowly, other times changing quickly. Owning a position is a long-term play. It’s a long haul to occupy the place and requires adequate resources to maintain it. 

There are templates for developing a positioning statement, but they all typically include these four things:

  • The target customer demographic

  • The specific target customer need

  • The leading quality which differentiates your product

  • Proof that what you are saying is accurate

 

Streamline the process your customer goes through by mapping out a Sales Funnel.

At each step in a sales funnel, there is a possibility of customers’ dropping’ out of the sales funnel. One of the greatest assets the sales funnel provides business owners with is the ability to troubleshoot problems regarding sales. 

Step 1) Awareness

The first part is ‘Awareness.’ Awareness is making leads. Before someone can make a purchase, let alone champion your brand, they have to know you exist. Most advertising budgets go into driving awareness. Business owners are aware of this first step of driving awareness and leads but sometimes misses the mark on how we should be generating those leads. 

Step 2) Research

There is a bit of ‘courting’ that takes place before people purchase an item. Some are quick, like choosing a pack of gum, others can be more time consuming, like figuring out which car to buy. We, as customers, want to know more about the product, how it operates, how it can improve our lives, and if we are getting a fair price.

Infographics, blog posts, and user-generated content all help the customer in researching your product or service. 

Step 3) Evaluation

Consumers aren’t convinced they need internet radio until they see a Spotify advertisement. When they understood all the great things Spotify can do, they became even more convinced. But, before they purchase, they compare what others provide. Suddenly after a Google search, Apple Music and Pandora Radio are contenders. 

At this point, competition is tight. The best approach to crossing the evaluation phase is to make sure the information you want customers to have is already in the back of their heads. You should already have answered in the research phase what makes you better than the competition. 

Step 4) Convert

For businesses that do not have set prices or for those which can be customized, there is an additional step baked into the convert phase, and that is the Decision Phase. The decision phase is where businesses talk over the scope of projects, contracts, and prices. 

When evaluating the convert phase, you should take a look at the ease and accessibility of those making a purchase. Payment gateways are the most apparent hurdles at this point. This phase may seem like a no brainer. Still, there are many lost sales due to long checkout lines, limitations of what payment systems are allowed, confusing processes, or an annoying amount of up-sells. 

Step 5) Continue

It’s not over with the sale. Those who think they’re done at the when the customer pays, set their company up for a yo-yo type business where you’re unsure from where the next purchase will come. The cost of acquiring a customer is a lot higher than maintaining one. 

What could you do at this point to delight your customers? Think about how the customer can continue with you. Would subscriptions be an option? Is there a new product that will complement the one they just bought? Acquiring email addresses or connecting on social media should happen now if it hasn’t already. There are also loyalty cards or other options that will help the customer continue with your business. 

Step 6) Advocate

Give them a reason to want to share–then make it easy for them to share. 

If you are a service-based business and there is a good rapport between you and your client, ask them to tell their friends or colleagues who may be interested. It can be a good idea to go through the hassle of making a social media post for your customers to repost. Make testimonial software part of your workflow. 

4: Craft Messages From The Perspective of Fixing Customer’s Problems

Messaging, which is sometimes referred to as brand voice, is what your brand says and how it says it. 

Brand Tone

Before you begin with what you say, let’s pause to consider how you’ll say it. The customer persona you’ve previously made clues you into their unique communication preferences. It can be adventuresome or confident, humorous or straightforward, brilliant, or rebellious. Whatever you choose, it should be relatable and consistent. 

How to Craft Your Message

Great messaging isn’t based on magic but is a linear flow of thought. The process begins by listing your products or services. From that list of products/services, you identify the ‘feature and benefits’ of each item and how they correlate to the specific target persona. Then highlight the value connected to the benefit. 

After these things are in place, we can start constructing the messaging you’ll use in your marketing, emails, packaging, and overall brand voice. In the long run, having a copywriter is an asset that can significantly benefit your business.

5: The Visual Identity: Chase Goals Not Trends

A brand identity is the visual representation of your business (the logo, fonts, colors, etc.). Without a strong identity, your business will struggle to move forward because it is the visual connection of your business with your customers.

My specialty is creating brand identities, I love crafting them, but they are an empty shell if not filled with the other brand pillars. They are the mountaineering backpacks of your business journey. It allows you to go the distance but finds its value in the things it holds (positioning, messaging, sales funnels, purpose).

A good brand strategist will represent all the aspects of your brand strategy into your business. They leverage colors, logo style, font weights, and even white space to communicate your brand to your audience.

 

These 5 Strategic Brand Pillars, rightly applied, have transformed many humble businesses into far-reaching brands with longstanding impact.

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