Customers don’t just buy products, they buy stories. Any business, regardless of industry or product type should have the main goal of getting customers in and the secondary goal of keeping those customers. The brand is key to both these goals and so it is fundamental to create your brand around your business. By brand building you invest in the longevity of your business. So whether you’re or big or small, if you’ve never seriously considered your business brand the time is now.

Id like to make it clear before we proceed that this article is about creating the brand and will not include the practical issues of branding though it may make mention of them from time to time. If you’d like have the branding conversation do let us know.  We will discuss the 3 keys to building a brand; identify, relate and connect. They are not linear so it’s not essentially steps to be followed in order but rather concurrently.

Decide on Brand identity

One of the greatest small business mistakes of all time is trying to be everything to everyone, it just doesn’t work. Who are your customers? If your answer to this question is everyone then you haven’t done your homework. Now clearly everyone who needs your product can be your customer but who is the customer you want? Who was your product designed for? This is the essence of brand identity. Are you a low cost bang for buck solution? Are you opulence for when nothing else will do? Or are you for those who don’t confirm to the idea that price and quality must be positively correlated?

The reason you want to make the decision as to who you are is because it also identifies who you want to appeal to. While this decision can be best made through the lens of the market and its participants it is still all about you. It is not about what the market wants.

Find your tribe

So you’ve decided who you are, now you need to know who is with you. Finding your people, your niche in the market is the next natural step. Any given market or community can be broken into niches based on one than one variable. There’s a rush to define the market as either high or low income but the reality the incomes are not as important as uses for your product. Identifying your niches based on how they use products gives us such segments as power users in technology markets.

Tribes have norms, cultures and symbols. And this is where finding and knowing your tribe becomes very important. You need to gear your branding efforts towards them. Everything from colors to symbols. This is where elements like your logo and stationery come in. Your choices must identify within the culture in your segment. And there’s a bit of neurological issues to think about here. Purple may be your favorite colour but it may not be the best colour to put forward for your fresh food business that is targeting people who want to eat healthy fresh food diets. This is not a rule of course.

Identifying with a niche should not be done at the expense of other niches. While you may have an idea of who exactly you want to serve at no point should you refuse to serve a willing customer. The important thing is to identify positively with your chosen niche and to avoid propelling negativity towards other niches in the market. This is key because other niches May find a use for your product though it is not targeted at them. In Zero to One, Peter Thiel highlights how they experienced this with payments system PayPal. Early one they targeted business users. Now technology wasn’t what it is now and this didn’t quite work out. They later switched on to users of online classified service eBay who could be perfectly serviced by what PayPal offered. And the rest is history.

Tell a story , your story

The final element is connection and how to do it. We talked about the importance of finding your tribe and using symbols that identify with them. This isn’t complete if you don’t communicate with them. While there various communication tools and methods we will keep our focus on what to communicate rather than the channels  to communicate through.

I’m the beginning, you had an idea born of a need or belief. That belief informed your process to creation of your product. Well it’s more than likely your tribe identify closely with the story. So while the mantra of “we are here to serve customers” is a good one being open about your process is the greatest message you can deliver. Sharing your business story is sharing your brand philosophy and this is what your tube are after.

Yes they may need the product to serve a purpose but why did they choose your brand? You may have been cheaper, true but they also needed something that will serve the purpose. You may have been more accessible than others, that very accessibility is part of your brand story. You may have been the only option they knew about; that awareness is part of your story. You catch my drift?

When I say your story it is not limited to the story of the formation of your business but creating the link between your philosophy and your actions. How what you believe leads to what you do. And this is a principle to employ with different products too. So if you have various product lines each one has its story that can be told to connect it to the tribe it serves.

I have a friend who does world class design and he once recounted a story of how a tissue manufacturer decided against his packaging design for their line. Their explanation was that the packaging made the product look premium and they were going for basic. He was furious but they were right. Your story is not only told in words, it is in your packaging, advertising, promotions and more. In every piece of communication your story is present, expressed or implied.

The principles above also apply to personal brands and that was another motivation for keeping the discussion to concepts as opposed to tools. The personal brand must do all 3 of the above as well; identify who you are, find your tribe and connect with them. Perhaps here the importance of the story is much easier to observe. And if it was already evident the brand is not static; it is an organism that grows and changes. So it is important to note that you may have to sit down and go through this process again in the near or distant future.