Branding Basics: Six Steps to a Successful Business Image

by / ⠀Startup Advice / December 2, 2012

“Branding” is not exactly a new business buzz word, but it seems that more than a few companies have forgotten the importance of a strong, consistent image.

So, what is a brand? More importantly, why should you have a good one?

According to our friends at the American Marketing Association, a brand is “a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” From this definition, you can see why a brand is important: it helps your customers remember you and distinguishes you from competitors. Even more importantly, your image will eventually become associated with a certain level of service and value. The point? A good brand will not only help you build business recognition, but it will earn you loyal customers and increase your sales.

Here are six things you need to do to ensure your business has an image that makes a lasting impression:

1.)     Research

A solid foundation is required to build an impressive, long-standing brand. Without a strong knowledge of your business, your brand will not work in the long run. Reflect on your business before you jump into the design and writing process. By doing so, you’ll be sure to create a brand that best represents you and speaks to your target audience. Be sure to do the following before you start designing:

• Define your company’s values and goals. Your company values provide the roadmap for your decision making and your goals give you something to measure. Your actions are determined by your values. For instance, Southwest Airlines is known as the low-price airline. Their business choices are made with the prerequisite that the decision does not raise ticket prices. Similarly, your marketing strategies will be determined by your company values.

• Create a mission statement. When you create a mission statement, you are honing in on the reason you’re doing business, and who you are serving. This will direct and influence your marketing choices.

• Unique selling proposition (USP). Your unique selling proposition is what makes you different and better than your competitors. A USP is central to your marketing strategy and should be highlighted in your marketing materials: it’s the building block of your brand identity. It will become what you’re known for.

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2.)     Choose the right name

Your business name will play a large role in your branding efforts. To pick a name that suits you, you’ll need to do some brainstorming. You will want a name that captures the essence of your product or service, without being so far out there that people don’t get it (if you need to explain what your name means, you probably need to do some tweaking). Consider the following:

• Alliteration: The use of the same sounding letters. For example, Best Buy and Coca-Cola use this technique. Alliteration is effective because it rolls off the tongue and the sounds stick in the mind.

• Numbers: Not a lot of companies use numbers in their names (I do: 13thirtyone Design). By doing so, you’ll not only stand out, you’ll reserve yourself a spot on top of directory listings.

 Imagery: Pick a name that will inspire an image in the client’s mind. For instance a name like “Success Architects,” conjures an image of someone literally building success.

In addition to the suggestions above, it’s important to consider whether or not you’ll eventually sell your company. If you’re leaning toward yes (or are unsure) you may want to leave your personal name out of the title. In addition, research your name to see if anyone else has already laid claim to it. You can find this information online through the trademark electronic search system (It’s always smart to check with a lawyer to be sure your name is not trademarked before you proceed with brand development as well.)

3.)     Identify target audience

In order to create a successful brand, you need a group of loyal followers that love your business and want to tell other people about you. These are the people you want to spend the bulk of your marketing efforts on: your target audience. By spending time focusing on them (rather than everyone) you’ll save money, earn more clients, and convert more prospects. Plus, when you know exactly who you’re trying to reach, you’ll have an easier time writing your marketing copy, developing a design that will make an impression, and creating an overall marketing strategy that works. To find your target audience, ask yourself the following questions:

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• How old are they?

• Are they men or women?

• Where do they live?

• Do they have kids? Are they single?

• What is their lifestyle like?

• What keeps them up at night worrying?

• What do they need to make their lives easier?

• What magazines/websites/blogs do they read?

• What is their typical day like?

• What TV shows do they watch?

This list of questions is by no means comprehensive. If it helps, create a profile about your ideal client or target audience. By answering these questions, you’ll know where to spend the bulk of your advertising and marketing efforts. For instance, you probably wouldn’t market a service for teenagers in AARP magazine.

4.)     Work with a professional designer

A professional designer is an essential piece to the branding puzzle. A graphic designer does more than just lay things out and make them look pretty, they help you develop and implement a brand strategy by considering your USP, target audience, and marketing goals. Here’s why you need a professional designer:

1. A graphic designer will create image pieces (logos, websites, brochures) that accurately represent your business while communicating your company values, mission, and USP to your target audience.

2. You can’t do it yourself. Even if you have design skills, you need an unbiased third party to walk you through possible image shortcomings, brainstorm ideas that work, and lead you to solutions that will ultimately help your business.

3. A professional graphic designer does research. Not only do they keep up with business trends, they keep tabs on what methods have worked (or not worked) in the past. When you work with a professional, you are investing in market research partner. A good designer will investigate your industry before they jump into the design process.

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When it comes down to it, a graphic designer is a helpful expert who will help you develop a brand that works. (If you need help in this department, let me know!)

5.)     Be consistent

The key to brand development is consistency. And repetition. You want all of your marketing collateral pieces to be streamlined so that they continually build on one another and reinforce your image. There’s nothing worse than having a different website, business card, and brochure. At best, this will make you’re image a bit messy. At worst, your clients will think you’re unprofessional. Make sure your marketing works together and your brand will thrive.

6.)     Advertise…with scrutiny

Save time and money by advertising and marketing only where it makes sense. You want to advertise where your business fits in and where you will best reach your target client. For instance, if you’re a business coach, you probably wouldn’t have a lot of success advertising on the back of a restaurant menu. If a local night club, on the other hand, were to use the menu-advertising method, they’d probably have better luck. Before you start advertising, go back to your research and ask yourself, “where would my target audience shop, read, etc.? Where can I advertise to reach them?”  Only invest in advertising methods that fit in with your goals, USP, and target audience.

Brand identity is the single most valuable marketing tool a business has. When you implement the six suggestions above, you’re sure to create a sustainable brand and loyal customers.

I’m a graphic and website designer who helps businesses with their promotional and branding materials. I also help in-house design teams with their overflow work and I also help marketing departments with no creative team bring their vision to life with branded materials. What I do goes beyond just designing a logo or a brochure; I keep your target audience in mind, work to understand or help to establish your brand positioning and weave marketing materials into promotional campaigns. Learn more at my website,

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About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.


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