Branding: A Critical Part of Your Success
March 30, 2009
How to Create a Marketing Plan That Works
April 8, 2009
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This is a follow-up article that was published in Insight to help artists develop their brand strategy, although most of this advice is generally applicable.

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By Linda Whitehead

In our first edition of ADBASE Insight, we introduced the idea of branding your business. We promised that we would come back with an article more specifically addressing how to develop your brand strategy, and here we are. Now is the perfect time to develop your brand strategy before you start your 2009 marketing campaign process.

Understand your competitive environment

Before you begin creating your brand strategy, we would like to remind you that you need to complete a competitive analysis, combined with an assessment of client needs and desires (September’s Article). Look at who your key competitors are in terms of their type of photography and style, determine their size, how long they have been in business and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

You can establish these from checking out their websites and blogs, participating in chat rooms and talking to buyers, suppliers and others in the industry. In talking to clients and prospects, you need to find out what your competitors are doing wrong, so you can establish your opportunity to differentiate yourself from others. Objectively compare yourself to your competition, and look at outside factors you do not control that present either opportunities or threats. For example, what impact will PLUS have on the industry?

Ask what prospects think of your brand

While talking to clients and prospects, ask them what impressions they currently have of your brand. Are they in line with how you view your own brand identity? What do they think your greatest strengths and weaknesses are as related to their needs? This will help identify the areas in which you need to improve.

The purpose of this exercise is really to establish your competitive positioning. Looking at the big picture of your competitive environment will help you to clearly see where the opportunities exist for you to differentiate.

Segment your clients and your prospects

To be successful with this endeavor, you need to segment your clients and prospects according to the type of photography that you would do for them.

This is most important if you have more than one area of specialty. Buyers in different categories may have different needs and desires, so look for these differences in your research. You will need to have a very clear understanding of what each segment values in order to determine your branding and differentiation strategies.

Determine your value proposition – what you bring to the table

In determining your positioning, you really need to look at your value proposition in the context of what the competition is doing and what buyers in each segment desire. Your value proposition will state how you will differentiate from your competition and what values you will deliver to your customers.

There are three main types of value you should look at – your creative leadership and talent, your overall systems and service (i.e. your quote format, your response time to emails and voice mails, your invoicing process etc.) and your pricing strategy. Rate yourself vs. your direct competitors in these areas, and look for the opportunities where you could excel. Brand your strengths and reveal your competitor’s weaknesses.

Highlight the benefits of dealing with you

When tackling this exercise, stick with “real” benefits – those that matter most to your clients and prospects. You want clients to choose your studio over the competitors, so you need to position yourself as superior in the areas that are critical to the buyers. Some examples of benefits and values might be – exceptional creative skills, respected image in the industry, award-winning work, quick response time, great customer service, and easy to understand, detailed quotes for outstanding operational leadership.

Never underestimate emotional response

The most important thing is to identify the emotional benefits and values, as these will have the greatest impact on potential buyers. Even in B2B markets, emotional responses rule in the buying process. Your clients are people who need to have successful marketing campaigns so they can be successful in their careers and life.

You need to make sure that your brand addresses the fears and desires present in the hearts of your clients. You will need to look at intangible benefits as well as the visible, tangible ones. Condense the emotional benefits down to one key idea that you want your clients to think of whenever they think of you. This becomes your Brand Promise.

Establishing your brand promise

The brand vision or promise is central to the brand strategy – it is your promise of what customers can consistently expect when dealing with you. It represents your commitment to the value you will offer over time.

The brand promise must be backed up by the reality of the client experience or it renders your brand completely meaningless. The most powerful brand promises are rooted in a primary customer need (i.e. Volvo=Safety).

Describe your brand personality

What is your brand personality? Clarify the essence of your brand. Write a positioning statement describing your brand attributes as though you were describing a close friend you know well.

Be sure your communications are consistent

This consists of your tagline if you have one, your company description, positioning statements, key copy points and other communication elements. These should be consistently reflected in all communications, internal and external.

Create your brand’s look and feel

This includes elements such as your logo, your corporate colours, your website, your brochures, your emails, portfolios – all of these need to consistently convey your brand identity and promise to clients and potential clients.

Bring all of your brand elements into alignment

In our initial article on branding, we encouraged you to identify and examine all customer touch points to ensure consistency of your brand messaging at each and every customer and prospect interaction. There needs to be a single, focused brand message, every step of the way.

Branding your business is a lofty topic and one on which many books have been written. In this brief article we have tried to encapsulate the process of developing a brand strategy into an overview of the steps you need to take. Now is the time to get started! Let us know if you would like to see further articles on this topic by emailing us at marketing@adbase.com.

Republished by permission of ADBASE Inc. www.adbase.com

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