In the business world, your brand is your personality, your identity, and the relationship that you have with others. It’s the heart and soul of your venture and, essentially, it’s your reputation. Nurturing a new brand is so important. I have a tendency to humanize businesses, so in my extended analogy, building a brand is like raising a child. When your baby arrives, you help shape his or her identity and relationships with the community at large. Accordingly, here are several important factors in “birthing” and raising a strong brand:
Naming The Brand. As with naming your child, selecting a name for your business will shape its identity and personality. It should be one that assists the public in easily identifying what it is. The name is critical and will define the brand. It should be user-friendly. It should be distinct and unique, while clearly defining what the business will be.
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Getting The Brand’s ‘Birth Certificate.’Â When your baby is born, you get a birth certificate registered and a social security number. Similarly, you also have to get a trademark registered for your brand’s name. At a minimum, you need to visit the USPTO’s website to ensure that the name is not already in use. Otherwise, you could spend your resources building the brand’s name only to receive a “cease and desist” letter from the true owner.
‘Dressing’ The Brand. Now here’s the fun part: choosing the details that make up the physical appearance of the business. This includes everything from your logo and website to your business cards and marketing materials. Your brand’s first impression is incredibly important. New entrepreneurs: invest in a great graphic designer and web developer from the beginning. As they say: ‘first impressions are lasting ones.’ A strong logo and branding package should last about 10 years. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
The Product or Service is The ‘Heart & Soul’ Of Your Brand. Your services or products are the essence of your business. Even if you have a great name and a snazzy website, you will be DOA if you don’t have a strong product or service to back it up. It’s critical to offer something of quality that people actually need and will want to purchase from you. But, you also have to remember that people talk. Referrals can make or break your business, so you must build strong relationships with your clients so that they will help you grow.
Be Consistent. My mom said that the hardest part of raising a child was repeating herself all the time. She was consistent and she drilled rules into my head and disciplined me accordingly when I didn’t follow them. The same holds true for your brand. For example, when I started my first business, Soul Day Spa and Salon, I wanted the brand to be elegant yet hip, while offering a quick and efficient service. Our tagline said it all: “Nothing is more important than the time, appearance, and feelings of our guests.” So, I trained my staff to ensure that we could offer efficient, high quality, professional services. Additionally, I created a common design and logo for all of my team members’ business cards and promotional materials, instead of allowing each person to create their own look. This ensured that our brand was seen as one entity, rather than many independent stylists. I built my brand on a set of values, and I made sure that each brand element fit my narrative. Slowly but surely, we started to gain the reputation of being elegant and timely.
Raising a business brand takes time. Be patient and be consistent and soon your customers will appreciate and support your well mannered off-spring.
Nicole Cober, Esq. is the Managing Partner at Cober Johnson & Romney, a law firm focusing on trademarks, brand licensing and small business consulting. She is a former small biz owner of the award winning chain, Soul…Day Spa and Salon. She is also a Legal Consultant for Washington DC’s NewsChannel 8 and author of soon-to-be released book: “CEO of My Soul: The Dos and Don’ts of Small Biz”. Follow her on Twitter @niccober and like her on Facebook @facebook.com/CoberJohnson. Visit her website at www.cjrlegal.com.