A Really Easy Guide to Branding - the happy solopreneur

template_brandingYou want your customers to love you? Right? We all do. But before you can get your beloved customers and potential customers to love you, you have to really know who they are and what they desire. I often work with business owners to help them figure out who their ideal customers are. You’d be surprised how often we figure out that their ideal customer is not exactly who was first imagined. By doing a few exercises and some research, we are typically able to pinpoint the traits of the perfect customer and then build a fabulous brand based on that customer’s needs and wants. Here’s my process and an examples to get you started.


Determine the problem you solve
One of the first and often challenging steps of building a brand is figuring out exactly what problem(s) your business solves. Before you think “I just have a blog.” or “I just sell handbags,” remember that all businesses solve a problem. Some are critical issues like providing medical care – your local doctor or medical practice obviously solves this problem by providing preventative care when you are well and medical care when you are ill.  Others businesses solve problems that may not be as critical in nature, but are still important.  You purchase clothing from our favorite fashion boutique  because the clothing they sell fits you well and makes you feel confident. Your problem may be you don’t have clothes to wear to work for fall. Your  favorite store solves the problem. Let’s look at the rest of this exercise from the view point of a fictitious business called Lilly’s Boutique.

Communicate your solution with your main message
Your favorite fashion boutique may have created a mission statement that goes a little something like this:
Lilly’s Fashion Boutique  provides flattering, fashion forward attire that makes busy professional women stand out from the crowd.
This one sentence presents both a problem and solution statement as well as some additional key words like flattering, fashion forward, busy, professional, women. Now it’s clear to see that Lilly’s Boutique has a specific clientele.

Identify your target customers and build customer personas
Personas are fictitious profiles built to help you think critically about your customers needs.  If you’ve done a formal business plan, chances are you’ve already created these in some form. You may even have data that you’ve garnered through your current marketing efforts. But even if you don‘t, you can build these based off of your intuition, or compare to similar sites or businesses. Personas typically consist of demographically defining information and are built to paint a picture of a typical ideal customer. In creating these profiles, you will want to include age, gender, communication preferences and other relevant background information like occupation, buying habits and geographic location, for example. Personas can also include challenges and issues that this type of customer has. You may have only one persona, or many, but in many cases, three is the magic number.

In the case of our fashion boutique, the store may target female professionals who live near downtown Raleigh, NC. They may find most of their women are between 28-50. The store has to further define their target customers by figuring out what their challenges and buying habits are and that’s where the use of personas really helps.

Leslie
28, single professional
Leslie is a fashion forward professional. She is trying to advance  her career so looking pulled together is very important to her and it helps her feel confident. She may not make a lot of money (yet) but she invests in key pieces. She goes for quality not quantity. She follows fashion blogs and magazines for advice and tips. While she makes big purchases only seasonally, she often buys and uses accessories to change up her look.

Megan
38, working mom with kids
Megan has a lot on her plate, but she also feels like she can have it all. She has a senior level job. Time is of the essence so she frequently shops at lunch and she loves that she can call ahead to the store and they will pull items aside for her before she comes in.  She doesn’t care about price as much as value and quality.

Build content and imagery that speaks to your customer is and their needs
Lilly’s Fashions can now build a brand around their customers needs. Part of this is communicating the stores’s key features: value, proximity, fashion-forwardness. They do this with distinct and consistent use of colors, imagery -called visual branding –  and communications, written in a tone that speak to the target customers.

Further to that, they can now set up their  social media and direct marketing program based on their customers specific needs by:

  • Keeping  an active social media presence and frequent mentions in local media. This lets Leslie know that she is shopping at a fashion forward boutique.
  • Setting up a personal shopping program for regular customers with direct mail reminders. This lets Megan know she can always get the convenient, personal service she desires.
  • Sending email newsletters. These alert both customers on a frequent basis of promotions and sells for loyal customers.

Spending some dedicated time determining who your customers are will help you build a brand that they will love. Love to hear your branding success stories.