How to Establish a Strong Corporate Brand

Your brand is the promises you keep

Corporate branding refers to a business’s image or identity and the way it’s presented to clients while promoting the corporate entity, as opposed to specific products or services. A company’s brand typically represents its values, brand voice, and messaging. Although corporate branding is a distinct activity from product or service branding, these different forms of branding can, and often do, take place side-by-side within a given corporation. Your corporate brand is one of your most important assets. It helps to define who you are and what you do. It is also how your clients recognize you and it sets you apart from your competitors. That is why ensuring your brand is strong and conveys the message you want to deliver is one of the smartest decisions you can make.

While your business isn’t likely to ever be a brand powerhouse like Apple, Harley Davidson, or Nike, you should nonetheless be intentional in creating, communicating, and maintaining your corporate brand. It tells potential clients what they can expect if they choose to do business with you, and it can help convey what you expect from a client. The message, while not one of arrogance, needs to be clear. You only engage with the types of clients whose needs you know you can meet and that will respect the value you add.

Given the importance of keeping your promises to clients, even small businesses need to give serious thought to how they are perceived by current and potential clients. You certainly want to hold onto the clients you have — as long as they pay their bills on time and provide a reasonable gross profit. And there are times where you would like to add some clients to grow your top line.

Attract the types of clients you want

In a previous article I addressed the value of achieving and maintaining high Client Experience or CX scores. A key part of this is building long-term, trust-based relationships with your clients and much of that rests on meeting your commitments. After all it’s hard to trust a person or a business that doesn’t fulfill its obligations. That being said, consider the adage, “Your brand is the promises you keep”.

Who is your ideal target client?

To target your clients most effectively, you need to know who they are. A buyer persona is like a character profile of your ideal client: who they are, what they want, what their lives are like, challenges they face, who they interface with or are influenced by, and more. These details help you understand their underlying motivations for engaging with your brand and pain points your product aims to solve. Personas help add real world context around the brand you’re trying to build. All of your web and social media content should be designed with buyer personas in mind to make sure you’re speaking their language. This helps your brand connect with clients on a more personal level and identify topics where there is mutual interest. It also helps avoid price discussions.

Brand Communication

The right message is as important as the right marketing vehicle and having effective communication strategies in place will ensure that you are always sending the best information at the best time. Communicating with clients is critical to brand success, but you have to do it in the right way, at the right time, and with the right material. A proper communication strategy will guarantee that the right channels are used and that the marketing messages used add value and give your targeted audience the insight and resources they need to make informed decisions.

Questions you need to answer to build and accurately communicate your brand include:

1. What are your company’s guiding principles and values?

2. Does your corporate brand currently accurately represent those values?

3. Does your corporate brand identity attract the type of clients you most want?

4. What can a client absolutely count on when they do business with you?

5. How would your best clients describe your business to others?

6. If your company were a person, how would you describe its personality?

7. What is a clear description of the ideal client you want to attract? What’s their persona or avatar (an idealized version of a client combining all of the most desirable traits you seek)?

8. How well does your brand personality mesh with your ideal client persona?

Brand Equity

Brand equity is the value of your brand and refers to the value you gain from its name recognition when compared to a generic equivalent. Whether you have a good or bad reputation can make all the difference in the success — or failure — of your business. Businesses of all sizes, not just large ones, need to understand the benefits that can be achieved when they take the time to improve their branding. Keep in mind that branding is about more than just logos and color schemes; it is about the overall “feeling” that your company brings to mind when potential clients hear your business name.

Brand equity also refers to a value premium that a company generates from a product with a recognizable name when compared to a generic equivalent. Any business can create brand equity for their products by making them memorable, easily recognizable, and superior in quality and reliability.

When a company has positive brand equity, clients willingly pay a higher price for its products, even though they could get the same thing from a competitor for less. Clients, in effect, pay a price premium to do business with a company they know and admire. Because the company with strong brand equity does not incur a higher expense than its competitors to produce its products, the difference in price goes to their gross margin. Their brand equity enables it to realize a larger profit on each sale.

A Strong Brand Creates Emotional Connections With Clients

Emotional branding can help to improve your brand equity, as well. This type of branding is all about creating a connection to your company that helps to separate it from the competition. Creating emotional connections can increase client loyalty, which means it often becomes easier to retain clients.

Businesses can create more of an emotional connection with clients in a range of ways. It could be done through the story of the company. What is it that makes your organization unique and where have you struggled and overcome difficulties? What causes are important to you?

Storytelling in your branding and marketing can go a long way in getting people engaged with the brand beyond just the products and services offered. Great storytelling can create a psychological and emotional impact. This is something that you should consider when trying to grow brand equity. Some of your ads and content should tell a story. Hit on the pain points of clients that you’ve helped. This creates empathy with your brands in the eyes of many clients, and this can often lead to bigger sales.

Key Takeaways — Brand Equity:

· Has three basic components: client perception, negative or positive effects, and the resulting value.

· Has a direct impact on sales volume and a company’s profitability.

· Often, companies in the same industry or sector compete on brand equity, not on price.

Brand equity has three basic components: client perception, negative or positive effects, and the resulting value. Foremost, consumer perception, which includes both knowledge and experience with a brand and its products, builds brand equity. The perception that a consumer segment holds about a brand directly results in either positive or negative effects. If the brand equity is positive, the organization, its products, and its financials can benefit. If the brand equity is negative, the opposite is true.

A Strong Brand Helps Differentiate You From the Competition

All companies have competition. You might be providing similar products and services similar to many other providers today, but this doesn’t mean that you are the same as those competitors. How do you differentiate yourself from low-priced competitors? With branding. Your branding can position you in a way that makes you different from the competition, even though you might be offering similar products and services.

It has been said that your corporate brand represents the promises you keep. As with a personal relationship, it may take years to develop your brand and it requires attention to keep it strong and healthy. A brand, like a relationship, can be severely eroded when you don’t follow through on your commitments. The longer and stronger the relationship the more slack or grace is likely to be granted, but there is a limit. You should create a brand image and identity that is 100% authentic; but be careful about the promises you make. As the adage goes, “It is far better to under promise and over deliver than vice versa”.

Make product consistency a hallmark of your value proposition. You don’t need to deliver a Rolex or Rolls Royce quality product, but whatever you provide, provide it on a consistent basis. The brand, whether it’s the quality of the product, the packaging, or your story, is what helps you stand out from your competitors. The last thing you want in today’s competitive world is to be a wallflower brand that blends in with all of the others. Strong brand equity means you will stand apart from others and get noticed. This is what will help your company stand on its own rather than getting compared with all of the similar companies in your market.

Conclusion: Marketing is a process, not an event. A sound marketing plan will have at its core a corporate brand strategy that positions your business for success in attracting and serving your desired target audience. No matter what size your company is, it is important to invest in branding. The ROI is quite good and it will allow you to thrive in a highly competitive, price-driven market.

Frank Manfre www.frankmanfre.com

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Frank Manfre

Frank Manfre

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Business consultant & coach w/ 35 years experience in leadership roles in for profit and nonprofit organizations focused on developing leaders & org health