Building a brand is a challenge all businesses, large and small, face as they grow. The task is to build awareness in an environment where there are many competing messages from every source imaginable. The challenge is to find a way to connect with buyers who have a need, want or desire that the brand can fulfill. The process of brand building is taking buyers through the buying continuum. Almost every buyer starts with being unaware of who you are, what you do, and what your offer is in solving the “pains” they have, to make your brand a “gain.” ( www.strategyzer.com) After you gain awareness, buyers need to believe in your offer, then trust that you can bring value to them, leading them to buy, recommend, or refer you to others. As a brand manager, the perspective needs to focus on the buyer, not you. Telling your brand story has to be cast in the buyer’s perspective, not the seller’s. So what are some ways to build a brand? Be data focused. Understand your SWOT. What are your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats? Know these elements of your business intimately so you know how to approach your customers and prospects. Know what has worked, what has failed, and what needs to be adjusted in order to deliver your brand message in a way that will resonate with your targeted customers and prospects. When you become a brand analyst, you understand the data and generate tactics to use the results to reach your customers. Brand building doesn’t happen overnight. Patience is a key to positioning your brand with the buyers that count. Patience means taking an action, analyzing its impact, then selecting your next move. When you can understand what will make the customer act in the manner you have designed, then you can replicate the process. Be observant and curious. You need to know your competitors. What is working for them? What are they offering and how are they reaching their buyers? How is your value proposition being received? How can you deliver your message in a more efficient and effective way to reduce your sales and marketing investments? How can you position yourself so that you are perceived as having no suitable substitute? How do your various promotional messages work in driving traffic to your physical front door or virtual front door – your website? How did a new customer find you? What in your message connected to them so your brand stood out among all those that are competing for their attention? Be mindful. Do you know at what point your message connected with customers to buy more or new buyers to initiate the buying process? How can we gain the high ground of positioning in the mind of buyers? What about your brand message allowed you to take the “high ground” position among all the others that are competing for that position? Be imaginative. The key to brand building is creating competitive advantage – positioning yourself in the mind of buyers so they see no suitable substitute. To gain that position, you have to reimagine how buyers evaluate how they receive information, assimilate it and decide based on messaging you are delivering. Being imaginative means engaging in “ideation.” Jerome Conlon, in “Brand Management,” recommends: getting away from the traditional day-to-day, have some fun, think like a kid, forget the old rules, work in small groups, invite outsiders to contribute to your creative process, use exercises and most of all set the rule; no idea is a bad idea. You might want a facilitator from your ad agency, marketing service company or a trusted advisor or mentor to drive the process. The big question that needs to be answered is: can you take your brand message to a new level so that it addresses the pains of buyers to become gains for you and them? Put a human face on your brand. Brands are perceptions. Perceptions become facts. Brand management is all about storytelling. When buyers see your brand, they see the soft side of the business equation. Does it display the human side of your business? Does it tell a story allowing connection with potential customers and reinforcing current ones? Does it make the connection to allow you to generate a greater share of customer purchases? When you are trying to get your message to resonate, it needs to show your empathy with the needs, wants and desires of the buyers you are trying to attract. Integrate your marketing. Effective brand building is part of an integrated marketing initiative that connects you with buyers at a variety of levels. Today we have both traditional and digital channels. The challenge is to determine what channels your target customers tune into. Where do they get their daily news? Is it a print or digital edition? Do they use social media? If so, which channels? Do they like to receive mail? Postcards, letters, flyers? Do they read newsletters? If so, what content do they want? You might have to use a variety of channels so that they receive the same brand message, but from different sources at different times of day to make the connection that will drive them to conversion. When you select the channels, you then have to decide what story you will tell and how you will tell it. The tasks are (1) to get their attention, (2) capture their interest, and (3) convert them. Realism is the ultimate prism. Building a brand is tough work. No single brand is central to buyers’ day-to-day lives. That is the position we want our brands to hold, but it isn’t the case. You might drink Trader Joe’s French Roast daily, but if a new brand message catches your eye, you might try it. Then, you will decide to return to your preferred brand or move on to the new one. Understanding what motivates buyers to connect with your brand and realizing it isn’t forever is key to effective brand building. Making a positive connection with your brand message that demonstrates the values your brand represents is the foundation of building a positive brand that drives sales. Contributed by Marc L. Goldberg, Certified Mentor for SCORE Cape Cod & Islands. Sources: “10 Guiding Principles for Effective Brand Building” by Jerome Conlon. For free and confidential mentoring on building your brand contact SCORE at www.score.org/capecod, firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 508-775-4884.