This is a question asked by many small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners looking to grow their businesses. It’s a question we expect and we’re happy to discuss. Branding is an essential part of a marketing strategy, which is where it all should begin.
What is my brand? is often the next question. Fair enough, many SME leaders are a little fuzzy on the specifics. Branding used to be defined as a name, symbol or design that identifies a product or a company and distinguishes it from others. However, branding has always been more than a logo or a catchy name. It transcends an impressive business card, updated website, and even a popular Facebook page. Branding is an expression of the value your organization delivers and the experience of dealing with you. It is the essence of your organization personified.
If that hasn’t completely clarified branding for you, the main take-away is that branding is the over-riding influence on everything your organization does. It should guide every touchpoint: it is the look ‘n’ feel of your ads and marketing collateral, the words and tone used in all communications, the way your staff deal with people in-person, over the phone and online, the atmosphere and feeling in your videos…
Branding incorporates science and art to convey the experiential — like a corporate deity it is omnipresent. So, it’s understandable that the concept is a little fuzzy for many, however it is important to take the time to clarify and structure your brand. Effective branding allows you to communicate that value in a unique way, integrated within everything you do.
What About My Mission Statement?
If branding is about expressing who you are and the value you provide, what about my mission statement… that we worked so hard on writing? Valid question, and good for you for having a mission statement.
Mission statements are important internal documents to guide decision-making and externally to inform the public as to your collective belief system and corporate raison d’être. Unfortunately, they often tend to be filled with unclear corporate-speak and declarations on how great a company is; neither of which is much good internally or externally. Focusing on simply communicating why your organization exists can help in writing a succinct and clear mission statement.
Both your mission statement and your brand are borne out of what you do and why you do it. Your mission statement is the down-to-earth description of what you do, and your brand is the face and implementation. It probably goes without saying that your branding strategy should reflect your mission statement, and your mission statement should reflect your branding. As such there are a subtle, yet pervasive, means of underlining your reason for being in business. (Check out How A Mission Statement Improves Your SEO)
How Does my Brand Affect my Website?
How does this relate to my website? One of the great things about having an effective brand is that it delivers a standard of messaging consistency. So, brand directs all collateral and communication, including your website. Brand covers visual and communicative tone that your entire organization can get behind. (In fact, effective brands are worn with pride by its employees, it has a rallying effect that keeps everyone singing the same song.)
Many companies approach a website as a technical project, when it is actually a communications and marketing project that involves technical ability. Equally important to the programming are the design and writing. A website, in all of its modern digital glory, provides several means to convey the essence of your organization: visual, aural and interaction strengthen your message. As such, it is an opportunity to fully introduce your organization, engage and nurture relationships.
There is an implied promise behind a brand that what you do as an organization will be consistent in quality, service delivery and in-keeping with your corporate ethics and beliefs. Today’s reality is that most people who interact with you will visit your website. It is therefore critical that your website effectively convey your brand and support a trusting relationship.