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The biggest challenge for entrepreneurs who want to create a successful business is often not what you might assume. It’s usually not about creating a useful product or service or about managing operations or infrastructure.
Instead, the biggest challenge in an ever-crowded marketplace full of choices and noise is how to build a brand that stands out enough to create the right impression with a specific target market. First, you’ll need to consider how your product or service is positioned in relation to the rest of the market. Then, you’ll need to know who you’re talking to, what your tone is, and most important, how you can stand out and get attention.
Without an audience’s attention, nothing else really matters. Read on for a few simple but key steps you need to take to build a brand and a successful business.
The first step you need to take is to drill into what makes your product or service unique, who your ideal audience is, and the tone you need to use to reach those people.
So, if you want to know how to build a brand, ask yourself these three questions:
1. What problem do you solve?
In other words, what specific pain point do you alleviate?
If you can’t come up with a compelling answer to this question, you are not ready to move forward. As Shippable’s Growth Marketing Manager Pavan Belagatti writes in Entrepreneur, “If your product has a weak value proposition, then it is a waste of time and money to market such product.”
2. Who do you solve it for?
Get ultra-specific when you answer this question. There isn’t enough time and available attention to try to connect with everyone. So you need to know exactly who you are targeting.
3. What language and tone will best connect with those people?
You won’t reach people if you don’t articulate your value proposition in a way that connects with them. That means understanding the words your target audience uses to describe the problem they need a solution for and then delivering those words in a tone they’ll respond to.
Once you’ve done the work necessary to answer the three questions above, it’s time to take your answers and run with them. Your brand’s message needs to convey — as clearly and concisely as possible — what problem you solve and who you solve it for.
For example, look at the headline on WordPress.com: “Build a website, build a movement.”
It’s clear WordPress.com is targeting a specific set of people (online entrepreneurs and business owners interested in making an impact) who need a specific solution to a problem (how to build a website).
The messaging is simple and clear. It might not speak to everyone, but it focuses on a core audience and uses their language to attract them.
The headline on a website is a distillation of a larger document outlining your message and vision. This is what your About or Our Mission page should include.
You’re simply communicating to the world, as clearly as you can, the answers from step one. And it starts with fleshing out the right words.
The right words are essential, but they are not enough. The internet is a visual medium, so you need to have visuals that convey your tone and personality, even your value proposition, in just a glance — because sometimes, a glance is all you get.
For example, consider the YouTube show The Assembly Call, which solves a specific problem (delivering an instant online reaction to Indiana basketball games) for a specific group of people (alums and fans of Indiana University).
Check out the logo at the top of their YouTube page. Both the name and logo are visual representations of the show’s ethos. The name is a play on the team’s arena, which is called Assembly Hall, and the way it’s written in the logo was inspired by the famous “INDIANA” script on the team’s shooting shirts. Further, the colors are the same as the team’s colors, to offer visual continuity. The logo also includes elements such as the five vertical stripes to represent the program’s championship banners — these may not mean much to regular folks, but they’re instantly recognizable to the target audience.
Remember, the visuals didn’t come first. They were the natural progression of understanding the answers to the first three questions posed above.
Too many entrepreneurs fail, or fail even to start, because they think the key to success is having the right answers. It’s not, at least not in the beginning.
The key to success is having the right questions, which lead you to the right answers.
If you’re focused on how to build a brand, the three questions above will help you build a brand that will be a long-term asset for your idea, product, or service. Invest the time to get those answers right, and you’ll be on the right track.
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