By Lexie Lu
Branding is essential for small-business owners that want to grow their operations. A company is more than the products or services it offers. Long before a customer is sold on an item, they’ll encounter your brand — telling them what your company stands for and what they can expect if they do business with you. Your brand is also how people remember you after they wrap up a purchase.
Effective branding can be tricky, and it’s sometimes hard to tell if you’re doing it correctly. If you’re not, you’ll need to change course.
Below, we’ll cover nine techniques you can use to determine if your branding is working for your small business. Plus, we’ll also discuss how to adjust your strategy to build a strong company identity.
1. Start With a Brand Review
No matter what your company does, there are a few brand elements you need to have nailed down.
To begin, you need a clear vision of what your company identity is. You should be able to describe your brand in a sentence or two, or with a handful of keywords like “professional,” “motivational,” “upbeat” or “witty.” It’s also good to have some core design features — like brand colors or fonts — that you can rely on.
Ideally, you’ll be able to see these keywords represented across existing marketing materials.
2. Know Why Your Brand Exists
You should also have a strong idea of your brand’s unique selling point — the aspect of your company’s identity and work that makes it worth choosing over the competition. Why does your company exist? Think about what you want your business to add to the market that other companies can’t or won’t offer.
3. Ask Your Customers for Feedback
A simple email survey asking customers to describe your brand can help you tell if your branding is communicating company identity.
You can also use these surveys to evaluate how effective your ad campaigns are at building brand awareness. Provide snippets from previous ones and ask your customers if they recognize them. If not, it could be a sign that your marketing isn’t effective.
You can also use these surveys to gather other useful data. Measuring happiness is one of the most important steps in prioritizing customer experience, for example. A simple 1-10 scale can provide a good sense of how satisfied your customer base is.
4. Look at Your Sales Data
Sales data can tip you off to incorrect branding. If you find that your products underperform compared to others in the same niche, that may be a sign that some tweaking is needed.
This data is best used in conjunction with other information — like the social stats and search rankings of your competitors.
5. Look for Underutilized Marketing Channels
In other cases, the core brand may be strong and messaging may be consistent across channels, but brand recognition remains weak. Customers or clients can’t seem to identify previous ad campaigns and may struggle to define what your company stands for.
In many cases, this is because a business simply hasn’t been around for long or isn’t marketing enough. Either way, more efforts that take advantage of the various channels available to your company can help.
Try creating a new social media profile, revitalizing your email marketing or tabling at a local event. Companies with a physical storefront have another advantage. For example, window clings are often posted on street-facing panels to promote brand imagery and can be an effective means of building awareness.
6. Check for Brand Consistency
Even if your brand’s core ideas are strong, mistakes in your business’s overall ad strategy can weaken the company identity. One of the most common errors that leads to this issue is inconsistent messaging.
Consistency is one of the reasons why good branding is a powerful marketing tool. With repeated appearances, people will come to understand or even internalize what your company truly values. This can encourage them to become repeat customers if their values line up.
For example, brand voice may vary significantly between different social platforms, or from social media to your website, if you have various marketers creating content for these channels.
When you find that brand voice or look isn’t the same across all channels, quick tweaks and stricter brand guidelines can get you back on track.
7. Review Site Analytics
If you collect site analytics, you can access a treasure trove of data that can help you find out if your brand is working. Use it to ask yourself a few questions about the people visiting your site.
Do visitor demographics line up with your target audience? What sources are they coming from? Are there signs that people aren’t finding what they came to your site for — like a high bounce rate or poor conversions?
The answers to these questions can often be extremely valuable when evaluating your brand’s effectiveness. For example, you may find that your company is attracting people who are much different than your intended audience. You may also find that site traffic is coming from just a few sources — a sign that you may benefit from content marketing or a PPC campaign.
8. Review Data From Social Media
If you have a robust social media presence, you can use your analytics in the same way as the info you collect on site traffic. With a quick review of the info on your follower base, you can quickly get a decent idea about how effective your social media brand-building has been.
You will, however, need to ask slightly different questions. Instead of looking at bounce or conversion rates, for example, see which of your posts receive the most engagements. This will tell you what your current audience resonates with.
9. See What the Competition Is Doing
If your sales are lagging behind those of your major competitors, it may be a sign that their branding is more effective for your particular market. Investigate what’s working for your competitors.
You can use this research to strengthen your brand identity and understand where you fit in the market. For example, you may find that they’re all making similar visual or design decisions. This may provide an opportunity to adopt more unique branding and stand out from the rest.
How to Know if Your Branding Is Working
At times, it can be difficult to tell if your branding efforts are making a difference. These strategies can help. Regularly evaluating your brand, reviewing related data and keeping your marketing consistent can help you identify and fix potential weaknesses.
Lexie is an aspiring Olympic curler, a web designer and IoT enthusiast. She enjoys hiking with her goldendoodle and checking out local flea markets. Visit her design blog, Design Roast, and connect with her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.