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6 Brand Building Mistakes That Way Too Many Businesses Make

Building a brand is a complex and multifaceted endeavor. With so many plates to spin, it can seem overwhelming, especially when you’re also juggling the operational aspects of running your business. But steer clear of these commonly made mistakes, and you’ll have the makings of an effective branding strategy.

It took a lot to get you where you are today. Your business didn’t just spring up out of the ground, after all. It took extensive market research. It demanded hours upon hours spent building and refining your business plan. It meant creating cash flow projections with mathematical detail you never even thought yourself capable of rendering. And let’s not even get into how long it took you to try and track down the right funding. Still, it was all worth it. You have arrived. Your business is up and running…

But while one part of your journey is over, another has just begun. 

Image by MaxPixel

You have a business now. But do you have a brand? You may think that you do, but you wouldn’t be the first nascent entrepreneur to make branding mistakes and misapprehensions that could ultimately spell the downfall of the business you’ve worked so hard to build.

Here, we’re going to take a close look at some of the most common branding mistakes which way too many businesses still find themselves making. Steer clear of them, and your new brand will be a powerhouse...

Having too narrow a concept of what their brand is

Let’s start with the first, and perhaps most egregious, error that entrepreneurs make when building their brands. They have a very narrow concept of what a brand is. They assume that paying a top-notch graphic designer to create a cool logo for them and coming up with a catchy slogan is branding. 

These are key elements of branding, sure, but they only elements. 

A brand can be a tricky customer to define and many business owners will give you a slightly different definition. Personally, I’m a big fan of this definition from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos;

“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Your brand is anything and everything that influences how you’re perceived by customers, leads and everyone inside and outside of your sales funnel. And that’s a pretty broad church. Your brand isn’t just the aesthetic flourishes that define your marketing materials or decorate your physical premises. It’s in everything including;

  • Your mission statement
  • Your employee training
  • Your customer service ethic
  • The way in which you handle complaints
  • Your marketing copy
  • How you interact with customers on Facebook
  • The quality and reliability of your products

Pretty much everything you do should reinforce your brand. Your brand should be fundamentally tied to your mission statement and core ideals. It’s what will differentiate you from your competitors. It should make a promise to your customers and always deliver on that promise. 

You can see why adopting a narrow view of what branding fundamentally is can impede your business.

Leaning on creative flair rather than market research for their campaigns

Don’t get me wrong, creativity and invention are important qualities in creating marketing campaigns that will resonate with your target audience. But you also need to read the room before releasing a digital marketing campaign. Your campaigns must be backed by serious market research. Your campaign needs to be attuned to the needs, desires and attitudes of your target market. It should present them with something they want or can aspire to and be aligned with their personal goals, ethical focus and outlook.

Failing to take the attitudes of your target market and going with gut might be creatively satisfying, but it has historically led to spectacularly tone-deaf marketing campaigns which have done brands way more harm than good. From inadvertently body-shaming cosmetics campaigns to fast food commercials that use grief to sell fish sandwiches, even the biggest brands can stumble when their campaigns don’t demonstrate savvy and sensitivity. 

Assuming that it’s all about digital

The advent of digital technology has proven invaluable when it comes to connecting businesses with the people that use them. As well as facilitating secure ecommerce transactions, the internet has allowed brands to remain in constant contact with their consumer bases via social media. Through Search Engine Optimization (SEO), brands can even position themselves in front of competitors when people in the area have need of their services. 

There are a multitude of reasons why digital technology has been a boon for brand building, but that doesn’t mean that your activities should be exclusively confined to the digital realm. After all, there are some things that no amount of digital finesse can do. You can’t use the internet to give out free samples of your latest hot sandwich. You can’t accurately convey your sense of personality and magnetism through social media. 

Real world, face-to-face interactions can make for extremely powerful brand building, especially when you cater to a mostly or exclusively local market. Sometimes Event Display Signs, free samples and a smile can be more effective brand building than even the slickest digital marketing campaign. Even if you want a robust digital presence, you can miss valuable opportunities when you focus all of your efforts on the digital realm.

Using your content marketing materials for ‘peacocking’ rather than building value

Content marketing can be an invaluable brand building tool. Creating blogs, videos, tutorials, white papers, infographics and interviews with key industry figures can be a great way of planting your flag in a fiercely competitive business landscape.

Creating your own content allows you to establish yourself professionally and give your customers and prospects a taste of your insight, knowledge, skills and experience... And these are all things that your competitors can never replicate. But in your zeal to start creating unique content, beware the dangers of peacocking. 

Your content is there to bring value to your customers and build trust in your brand. It’s not an opportunity for you to show off your knowledge or personal accomplishments. Thus, you should always ensure that your copy is useful for your target audience. It should help them to solve a problem that they encounter regularly. It should give them knowledge that empowers them or makes their lives easier. If your content isn’t valuable to them, why should they bother to consume it?

Again, this is where the importance of market research comes in. The more you know about your target audience, the better equipped you are to create copy that’s designed to appeal to their needs. 

Image by MaxPixel

Underestimating the power of social proof

You can throw effort, resources and capital at your marketing campaigns. You can hire the best branding consultants in the world. You can create terabytes of quality copy… But when all’s said and done you can never escape one simple fact…

Consumers trust other consumers way more than they trust brands.

No matter how able brands are to back up their claims, consumers will always take what they say about themselves with a huge grain of salt. And who could blame them? How many times have you invested in a product only to find that the reality pales in comparison to the bold claims of its marketing campaign.

This is why the importance of social proof simply cannot be underestimated when building your own brand. Every time a consumer says something favorable about your brand, this is a gift that you should treat with the gratitude and respect it deserves. Here are some great ways in which you can build social proof;

  • Incentivize customers to leave 5 star ratings reviews on Google My Business, Trustpilot, Trip Advisor and other trusted repositories.
  • If you’re an ecommerce store, make sure that consumers can see customer reviews and testimonials on the product page.
  • Incorporate your 5 star ratings, review snippets and customer testimonials into your web design. Whether you put them front and center on your homepage, in a dedicated “testimonials” section or a little bit of both is entirely up to you.
  • Embrace influencer marketing. Influencers are consumers too, after all. They are just consumers with enormous reach and are trusted by thousands, if not millions.
  • Get certified with appropriate bodies and submit yourself for industry awards.

Social proof not only generates positive buzz around your business, it also validates buying decisions, meaning that your conversion rates soar.

Not doing enough to bring back first-time customers

Stop me if you’ve heard this one… It costs five times more to attract a new customer than it does to win back an existing customer. It’s not uncommon for nascent business owners to focus all of their efforts on appealing to new customers within their target market… yet making no effort to retain them when they finally convert. 

While the appeal of new customers is understandable, this approach can see you always take two steps back for every step forward you take. 

Make sure that you have retention strategies in place like loyalty schemes, referral schemes (kill two birds with one stone), discounts and other incentives to increase the value of your brand in the eyes of existing customers.

Building a brand is a complex and multifaceted endeavor. With so many plates to spin, it can seem overwhelming, especially when you’re also juggling the operational aspects of running your business. But steer clear of these commonly made mistakes, and you’ll have the makings of an effective branding strategy.