Your company’s brand encompasses much more than just a name, a logo and what you sell. It’s the way that your customers and colleagues see you—the personality and authority that you exude when you engage with them. This is why building a brand often involves much more than just making yourself look good.
It means interacting with other people—building relationships, making connections and providing value.
For a brand to grow, you have to look both within and without. You must self-improve, but also go out into the community and influence your public image. It might seem like an overwhelming challenge, but it’s simpler than you think. Start with these simple techniques.
1. Become an Expert in Your Field
The phrase “thought leader” gets thrown around a lot, and it makes a lot of people roll their eyes. But whether or not that particular term makes you cringe, knowing all of the ins and out of your industry is absolutely vital to establishing your brand.
You can’t just call yourself an authority and expect people to flock to you. You have to put in the work to become a subject matter expert. This doesn’t mean you need to know absolutely everything about every topic that’s even remotely related to your field. Instead of trying to please everyone, focus on one particular area that’s most relevant to your business.
Do extensive research and stay up to date on all the latest trends in your industry. Not only will this make you better at your job, it’ll also put you in a much better position when employing the other strategies in this article.
2. Network with Other Brands and Influencers
Successful networking requires more than just collecting a bunch of business cards that you never actually use for anything. It’s about building relationships with people in your industry (or adjacent industries).
Business conferences and other special events are a great place to meet people, but in the digital age, your next valuable contact might just be a click away. Be active on social media, particularly business-oriented networks like LinkedIn. Seek out groups and communities relevant to your industry, and engage with influencers with whom you have common ground.
If you want networking to work for you, you can’t be selfish about it. Focus on more than just what the other party can do for your brand. Keep their needs in mind and find out what you can do for them. A little reciprocity can go a long way towards strengthening the relationship.
3. Be a Guest Speaker
You’ve become a total whiz in your industry and you’ve made valuable networking connections. Now it’s time to combine those two strategies. Arranging speaking engagements at special events and conferences is one of the most valuable brand-building strategies at your disposal.
Becoming a guest speaker isn’t something you can just go out and do whenever you feel like it. You’ll have to build up a decent amount of authority first. Once you do, reach out to event organizers and offer your services as a subject matter expert.
When putting on a presentation, remember that it’s the little things that count. Consider creating custom binders with your company’s logo printed on them and using them to present your audience with supplementary materials. Not only will it enhance your presentation, it’ll give recipients a lasting reminder of your brand that they can take home with them.
4. Establish a Media Presence
Even if your company hasn’t done anything particularly newsworthy recently, there’s much you can do to make a name for yourself in the media. Try starting up a blog on your company’s website and creating valuable, informative articles. This will provide value to your customer base as well as further cementing your authority as an expert.
If you don’t feel up to writing an entire blog post, you might consider being a source for Help a Reporter Out or similar services. Providing a personal anecdote or opinion to journalists helps you get your name out there and establish relationships with contacts in the media.
Of course, you should also create a strong presence on social media. Don’t feel like you need to have an account on every single platform; Instagram and Snapchat aren’t going to be that useful for less “visual” businesses. Focus on the sites that are most relevant to your business and customers. Don’t discount media streaming sites such as YouTube; many people respond more positively to a brand when they can see and hear a real-life person speak.
5. Run a Contest
This case study from Smart Passive Income demonstrates that running a contest is one of the most powerful strategies you can use to build your brand; the author boosted their company’s email list by over 3000% simply by offering a free product license.
Contests are effective because they appeal directly to your audience’s self-interest and desire for instant gratification. Start by figuring out what action you want people to take. Do you want them to refer a friend, tweet a hashtag, or like a Facebook page? Remember that the lower barrier to entry you create, the more entrants you receive, which will affect the ultimate cost of the contest if you’re offering a prize to everyone who enters.
Be sure to select a memorable prize that entices people to get involved. It doesn’t have to be a fancy car or a million-dollar vacation. In fact, it’s much better to choose something directly related to your business or industry. Your goal here is to attract business prospects, not host a game show.
6. Take a Strong Stance
Saying something controversial is an excellent way to attract attention. But for some people, being “controversial” really means saying something unconscionable. Systemic bigotry is everywhere, so saying something blatantly bigoted for attention is just about the least brave, least controversial thing you can do.
Instead, take a stance that you can be proud of. For this strategy to truly work, however, you have to put your money where your mouth is.
It’s hard not to be a little cynical when you see companies slap a rainbow or a pink ribbon on their products in an effort to appear socially aware. This is commonly known as cause marketing, but many refer to it as “pinkwashing,” profiting off of the appearance of altruism while not actually doing much to solve the problem at hand—or even making the problem worse. Some companies that claim to support breast cancer awareness, for example, have sold products that actually contain carcinogens.
Cause marketing can be a great boon for your brand, but it has to be more than just lip service. For people to truly trust you, your campaign must be authentic. Choose a cause that genuinely represents the values of you and your company, and make a committed effort to advance it.
7. Personalize as Much as Possible
For audiences to connect with a brand, they need to respond emotionally. That doesn’t mean your products have to be so great that they experience pure happiness and joy (though that would certainly help). You just have to engage them on a personal level.
If you’re an online business, this could be as simple as incorporating personalization into your site so that customers see the products most relevant to their purchase history right away. It also couldn’t hurt to pick up the phone and give them a friendly follow-up call after they buy from you. Little touches like this help customers to develop a relationship with your brand instead of simply seeing it as a soulless machine.
You could also incorporate personalization into the products themselves. When Coca-Cola began offering bottles with names and other words on them, sales went up by 2% after just a few months.
8. Be Consistent
A brand is only as strong as your commitment to it. Even the most powerful messaging can completely fall apart if you stray from your plan.
Develop a set of brand guidelines and make sure that everyone at your company understands them. This includes your company’s voice, values, target audience and other things that give your brand a personality. Keep these guidelines in mind with every aspect of your marketing, whether it’s the design of your website or the way that customer service representatives interact with clients.
Brand consistency requires constant vigilance. Encourage your team to make a note of any messaging or designs that go against the guidelines you’ve put into place. Remember that being consistent doesn’t mean that you should say the same thing in the exact same way over and over. Instead, keep your brand’s core values and personality in mind with everything you do.
The Smart Hack
There’s a reason we call it “brand building.” It’s not just about making your brand look better, it’s about making it bigger—expanding and forming new connections. Moreover, it’s not something you just do once and then you’re good; it’s an ongoing process that requires constant adaptation.
Be sure not to put all of your eggs in one basket. Diversify your branding plan by using a variety of different techniques. Keep these strategies in mind, and your brand will continue to thrive and flourish.
Lori enjoys living and writing in Southern California. After completing her degree, she built a reputation as a leader and compliance professional. Through writing she explores her love of all things business.