You might think of branding as something exclusive to major corporations with tennis shoes or sodas to sell, but it’s also a vital tool for small businesses and self-employed entrepreneurs. Your brand distinguishes you from your competitors and makes you an integral part of your customers’ lives. Suppliers are interchangeable; brands are not; by reinventing your brand and making it stand apart from the crowd, you become irreplaceable.
What Are Your Differentiators?
From clients to competitors, one challenging question lies beneath all your initial interactions with them: What makes you so special? You’re going to need an answer to that question, and that’s where strong branding is essential. All your business content, including your landing pages, blog posts, tweets and newsletters, should answer it.
You probably know a lot about Coca-Cola and Pepsi, two of the most familiar brands in the world. In taste tests, Pepsi typically wins by a large margin, yet Coke has the larger market share at 42 percent to Pepsi’s 31 percent. If people like the taste of Pepsi better in a head-to-head challenge, why have more people decided that “Coke is it?”
Pepsi is slightly sweeter and has a citrusy top note to its flavor compared to its rival. Over the course of a whole can, your tongue can no longer taste the extra sweetness or citrus notes, but that initial burst of flavor is delicious. In other words, Pepsi’s built to make a spectacular first impression. That’s its strength, and it’s why Pepsi’s closest approach to Coke’s dominance of the soft drink market was in the 1980s during the “Pepsi Challenge” campaign, writes Malcolm Gladwell in Blink.
Let’s come back to what this means for you and your personal brand. Revitalizing your brand starts with identifying your differentiators and showcasing them at every opportunity in your communication with prospects. Generic content won’t do it because it’s the same pitch everyone else is making. Custom content that demonstrates value – the value of your unique sales proposition, your differentiators – is the cornerstone of reinventing your brand.
Who Are Your Validators?
If one person tells you about a positive experience with a brand, you might be mildly curious. If a dozen people sing its praises, you’ll definitely take notice. If an authority in the industry endorses it, you’re all but sold. Validators, the people or companies that support your brand, have a tremendous impact on the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.
Social media is made for developing a strong network of validators. Your suppliers, vendors, loyal customers and even competitors can make a major difference just by following you on Twitter or being part of your LinkedIn network. One of the best ways to nurture a powerful social network is by participation; regular tweets, blog posts and Facebook updates make you worth following.
Reviews can make or break your brand. While you can’t buy good publicity in the form of paid reviews, you can encourage your customers and others who have dealt with you to provide testimonials. Useful blog posts and custom-written SEO articles can also provide validation from within, enhancing your authority and raising your profile on search engine results pages.
How Does Your Branding Message Hold Together?
It isn’t enough to know what distinguishes your brand and have ample validation of your strengths; you also need to tie it all together with a cohesive marketing message. Integrated marketing works to create a synergy that’s greater than the sum of its parts, and it’s a key part of reinventing a brand.
Take another look at Coke and Pepsi. While Pepsi has positioned itself as the challenger, Coca-Cola has established itself as the leader. Its taste and presence is so familiar that the soda giant no longer refers to the drink’s flavor, and it doesn’t make comparisons to other brands. Instead, its messages appeal to consumers’ thirst for optimism and happiness as well as refreshment. The specifics of the marketing messages may change, but the voice remains consistent.
When envisioning a fresh look for your personal or professional brand, keep it unified across all channels. The underlying message of what differentiates you should remain the same whether your content creation team is managing your social media, creating your blog or updating your website.
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