When you’re building a business you can’t just think about the nuts and bolts of what you’re doing: the logistics of delivering the goods or services that are you specialism are important of course, they’re absolutely vital. But people need to discover your business, and they need some way to make a choice about whether it’s the best one for them. People make their choices based on their emotional reactions just as much as the bare facts: your customers perception of the value of your product is just as important as the factual price point.
What you need to do is learn how to create a brand that the customers you’re targeting will be drawn to: one that’s attractive to their sensibilities, that will call out to them from even a cursory contact like seeing a single poster or catching the end of a broadcast ad.
But what is a brand? Counter-intuitively, there’s more to it than simply branding. Branding is design, it’s how you put a stamp on things that say ‘this is mine’ and it’s a big part of your overall brand. Your brand though is a bigger construct: it’s made up out of every way your customers can interact with your business. That includes explicit advertising, of course, but also the design of your products, the furnishings in your branches or offices (if you operate a bricks and mortar business) and the design of your website.
You need a lot of skills and data to build a brand that will see your business safely thriving in the long term. It makes sense to work with market research agencies and marketing companies to gather your data and turn that into the actions that build a brand: from placing carefully created adverts with precisely the hosts that your customers will browse and be attracted to, to schooling your customer service staff in the image they need to project. Are you a generous company when things go wrong? Are you austerely professional? Are you the sort of company people read about in Mail on Sunday colour supplements or do you appear in their Facebook feed?
All these choices build your brand, with even the smallest decision factoring into what customers feel about you. Ideally you want the maximum number of people to think yours is the business for them, but what helps you build a brand people can understand is specificity. Choose an identity for your company and work out simple things you can do to project that image as widely as possible.