5 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Brand

Brand Basics

Spend some time thinking about these questions before you begin building your brand.

To get the whole story, a good reporter asks many questions. It’s the key way to capture the nuance and detail that is necessary to give people the full picture, and accurately convey what’s going on. Similarly, you need to be able to tell the story of your brand and its promise, and that requires fully understanding what your brand will convey and why.

If you don’t have a clear vision about what you’re trying to create, the audience you’re trying to reach, and how you will serve them, you could end up facing the time and expense of re-branding because it wasn’t done right the first time, says R. Travis Shortt, founder of Clintwood, Virginia-based branding and imaging firm ASPYR Communications, which helps small businesses brand themselves. That’s where businesses can get into trouble, he says.

“They start out as one thing, offering a product or service. Then, a little while down the road, all of a sudden they’ve changed the business name, they’ve changed the logo, they’ve changed the slogan. They maybe have changed their centerpiece product, and now they’re doing something else,” he says.

That kind of inconsistency can be dangerous for any business, he says. Think about the answers to these key queries to get your brand right the first time.

1. What does your brand do better than anyone else?

One of the foundational elements of your brand is your strengths, Shortt says. Why will customers buy from you? Take an objective look at the elements of the products and services you offer that attract customers. It’s different for each business—your strengths might include your ingredients or materials, knowledge, service, location, or other features or attributes.

2. Who do we not want to be?

Companies have brand impressions whether they consciously build them or not. If you’re not actively working on giving the right impression and not slipping into the wrong one, you could be inadvertently targeting the wrong audience or sending the wrong message. Be sure you’re not letting the others decide what your brand represents, Shortt says. Asking current customers, prospects or advisors to weigh in on how they see your brand could be a good reality check.

3. How will you compete?

Look at the competitive landscape and determine how you will position your brand against your competition, Shortt says. This will affect everything from the look you create for your brand to the messaging in your marketing. Think about what other companies are offering the same products and services you do and how you will win over customers and prospects.

4. Who are your best customers—and what matters to them?

Develop profiles of your best customers to ensure that you’re building a brand that will matter to them and you will be able to segment and reach them in your marketing. Again, reaching out to customers or prospects to find out their needs and preferences can deliver powerful insight you can use to shape your brand and its messaging.

“Business owners have to talk to their audience—whether it’s people in your community where your small business is going to be or in an online forum where you ask people questions. Get your audience talking about what it is they want and how that can be fulfilled in their eyes,” he says.

5. How will you express that brand through your products and services?

Once you have determined your brand’s strengths, audience, competition, and positioning, you also need to think about how you will reflect that brand in the customer experience. Integrating the brand concept and promise into every element of your customer interactions will build the customer’s trust, proving that you are providing exactly what they expect from you, Shortt says.

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