The Importance Of Branding, For Knowledge Commerce Solopreneurs, Shows Up In Three Areas – Their Personal Brands, Information Brands, And Product Brands.
What is a “brand”? Simply put, a “brand” reflects the superiority of your product and business. It defines your quality and the values you stand for. It promises the solution to certain problems or routes to achieve certain dreams.
When you are creating knowledge products and services, the primary brand is “you” – the creator of those ebooks, courses, or memberships that reflect your unique expertise. Your information or content comes next as your secondary brand. And finally, your products are tertiary brands.
The way you strategize your branding has to enable coherence of all of these three brands. First plan to build upon your values and personality cues. Then focus on showcasing and projecting your thought-leadership. The see how your products and services can all reflect your values and authority harmoniously, in a variety of ways, on a variety of devices, and across diverse formats.
At Solohacks Academy, we also believe that branding helps simplify buying for a customer. Branding is a kind of shorthand for your expertise, thought process and product quality and differentiation. Your target audiences must resonate with your branding. The net result should be greater bonding between target audiences and your brand. That will generate greater sales. It will also increase customer-loyalty retention.
1. Build your branding strategy from a macro-level perspective
Branding is sexy. It’s an exciting area of your Knowledge Commerce business. The minute you have a brand name and a logo, it’s as if your business comes to life, right?
That is the whole reason why solopreneur knowledge marketers get carried away, and don’t think hard enough about why they are branding, and what branding really means to a business. More importantly, they don’t ponder over why branding is so crucial to their customers.
We’d like to encourage you to feel good about your branding, but we’d also like to caution you that branding should be done to a clear strategy. Branding doesn’t just have to look and sound good, it has very hard work to do for your business.
When we talk of brands and branding most of us at the micro-level of branding. We look at the visual elements of a brand logo, or at the colors that are associated with the brand – or the language tone and style with which all communication from the brand comes to us. But behind all this, invisible to customers, is the macro strategy on which the brand has been built. Like the DNA of a body holds the whole body together and projects all aspects of its personality, the macro branding strategy is like the DNA of a brand. It’s what holds a brand together in the visible dimension.
2. Use our 9-T brand-building process to streamline your approach
Brand building, especially if you follow the standard advice, can be unwieldy and cumbersome for solopreneurs or small businesses. That’s why we have developed a system we follow, that shows you some simple steps you need to get your brand building right.
Having a strategy helps you do things in a structured way for best cost-efficiency, easy manageability, and reliable results. Without a good brand-building strategy, most solopreneurs would flounder, not knowing what to do before what, and what should be the priority at each stage of activity. With a good structure, though, your workload will get streamlined and productive.
Why did we name it the 9-T Method of Brand Building? Many of our clients have asked us that. The answer: it’s easy and fun to remember the key brand building blocks by the nomenclatures of each stage – all beginning with T. Any program becomes do-able for a solopreneur if it’s easy and fun to learn – and once learned, can become semi-automatic too. That’s what this 9-T’s model is all about.
The first three Ts relate to defining what your brand will be all about – Truth, Topic, Targeting. The second three Ts relate to how your brand will plan to project itself – Tilt, Tone, Trajectory. The third three Ts relate to what your brand will plan to get from customers – Traffic, Tribe, Trust.
3. Create your brand identity as the visual brand expression the world will see
A brand’s identity includes its name, logo, communications, and visual appearance. A brand identity creates an emotional connection and reflects the brand positioning and desired image conveyed to stakeholders and the world at large.
We like the definition that Paul Rand has for brand identity: “Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.”
If you want your brand to succeed and thrive in the future, you need to build a brand identity that accurately conveys your essence. Your brand identity should be steady but also flexible enough to evolve with you.
All this doesn’t happen overnight. Or at no cost. It requires imaginative thought and preparation, and a collaboration with a specialist brand identity designer with strong communication and design skills, and a deep understanding of your brand. But it can be done well, with excellent results – as long as your brief is good and the designer understands your spoken instructions and unspoken feelings.
4. Do brand storytelling to embrace kindred audiences within your brand’s fold
It’s a tested axion in the online world, that the more people like you, the more they are likely to do business with you. In Knowledge Commerce you are the brand – because it’s your knowledge you’re selling as ebooks or courses or memberships or consulting services. The more likable you make your brand, the more business you reap.
People love stories. Stories hook them emotionally and they get engrossed in its details. Using storytelling techniques, you tell people the back story of your brand. What got you changed from where you were into forming your business and brand, what challenges you encountered and overcame along the way, and how you are now succeeding. You encourage customers to tell their stories too – instead of cloaking these as boring case studies.
Learn how to finesse your stories, how to build stories with all the emotional ingredients, and even how to make the customers the heroes. If you can craft a compelling brand story, your audience will remember who you are, develop empathy for you, and, ultimately, care about you.
5. Choreograph brand experiences that match up to or exceed audience expectations
Unknown to you, every potential and existing customer of yours, when he hits a contact point with your brand, comes with an expectation set in his mind. This dictates how he perceives and devours your brand. He measures the experience he gets from your brand with the expectations he had in mind. Your brand may come off favorably or unfavorably in this evaluation.
So what then is brand experience? The dictionary defines “experience” as “an event or occurrence which leaves an impression on someone.” So brand experience is that elusive “impression” your brand leaves on someone who comes across it, as against the expectations he had of the encounter.
We’ve found that there are four things that matter a lot to the brand experiences you hope to create:
- Where and when did the potential customer come across your brand touchpoint (point of contact)?
- What shaped his expectations of the encounter in his mind at that moment?
- What experiences did he get from the contact with your brand at that touchpoint?
- What resulted from that contact? Was the potential customer impacted enough by his experience to explore your brand further?
You have to learn what the expectations of customers are, so that you can design brand experiences at at least match, if not exceed, customer expectations. And in building experiences, remember that fluidity of experience creates deep contentment. That’s why we say “choreograph those brand experiences”.
6. Build brand trust as a protective insurance for you and your business
To your customers, when the economy goes slow or uncertain, the familiar becomes even more important. The sense of instability pushes many consumers towards what they’ve known. They gravitate towards the things that feel “proven” to them.
Best-buddy brands are part of the things consumers cling to, at a period of life when other things are shaking around them.
A survey by JWT, for instance, suggests that people going through rough life patches want to feel good about the things they care about. Brands they are closely connected to – and more importantly, learn to trust – become part of these things they want to feel good about.
But consumers holding their favorite brands close to themselves is just one side of the picture. Did you realize that strong brands that have built consumer trust are also a huge protection for businesses in challenging times? They are a bulwark for the businesspeople who own these brands. Strongly-trusted brands can literally save businesses and marketers in downturns.
Learn how to boost brand trust so that it can be your ever-dependable protective security. In good times, it helps to shore up enough brand goodwill, so that your brand acts as your fall-back resource in difficult times.
7. Use emotional branding to make your customers feel great about themselves
Most people don’t get the full idea of “emotional branding. They think a brand has to pull the emotional strings of customers to make them act a certain way that get the brand to sell more and make more money.
That could work in a superficial way. But there is a more strategic perspective. A brand should trigger actions that build a positive emotions about themselves in customers. The customers then feel like bonding with the brand because it acts as their no-fail self-validator. The bonding created then acts to engender loyalty and sales.
It is true that emotions drive actions. But to drive emotions in the first place, you need some small empowering actions by the consumer. It’s a chicken-and egg-story. Small starter actions change emotions. A brand has to make people take those small actions that change their emotional states. This then jumpstarts more energetic actions by the consumer-driven by the emotions that have been lit.
Emotional branding cannot be treated superficially as mere psychology of images, or color usage, or the tone of your text. It pays huge dividends if its use is far more strategic than the way it’s commonly deployed.
8. Monitor brand reputation – it affects customers even before they deal with you
According to the dictionary “reputation” means “… the general belief or opinion that other people have about you. Reputation comes from the Latin word “reputation”, which means “consideration.” It’s how people consider, or label, you — good or bad.”
Needless to say, a positive brand reputation means consumers believe and trust your brand, and feel good about doing business with you. A negative brand reputation works against you on these counts.
There’s one other factor about brand reputation, though. It usually precedes your brand. For example, it’s not the kind of trust that develops after knowing you. It’s often a label associated with you before people even approach you. Your reputation could attract or repel people who never give you a chance to prove your credentials.
That’s why we believe your brand reputation should not be something you care about only with respect to your customers. We think you should care about how you are perceived by the general public, because that will matter to your customers.
9. Pro-actively protect your brand from theft – prevention is better than cure
There is no substitute for appointing a specialist Trademarks, or Intellectual Property protection lawyer if you want to be extremely comprehensive about the way you protect your brand.
In fact, professional legal help is not just a “nice-to-have” for any online business, it’s a “must-have”.
If you are pro-active in protecting your brand it won’t cost you very much at all. But if you are not careful about brand protection, and wait to react after thieves have looted your brand assets, it will cost you a fair bit of money. Better be safe than sorry.
I’m not sure if you’ve heard about the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act Services Ltd.), but if you haven’t you absolutely should read up every inch of their website. They are a firm that offers every kind of protection any website may need, from A-Z … covering all manner of brand assets on the website. Since most of us, Knowlege Commerce marketers, work off our websites which are the main repositories of all our brand assets, working with DMCA is a terrific option.
10. Don’t take rebranding lightly – it’s rebuilding of credibility from scratch
A lot of marketers who are forced to rebrand their businesses, after building up their brands to a good recognition level, usually blame the rapid changes of our online environment for the rebranding need.
They blame technology changes, consumer behavior changes, fiercer competition, growth in their own portfolio … they blame everything, but seldom examine why the brand identity built the first time wasn’t flexible enough to go the distance. If they have erred the first time around, it’s time to never repeat those mistakes.
Another thing … a lot rides on the back of rebranding. It’s not just about a change in your identity, it’s about making the whole world around your brand re-familiarize themselves with your new identity, your credibility, and the trust you hope to renew and retain. If someone around you suddenly changed their name, how would you react? Would it feel like the same person, the same personality, the same buddy you knew? Or would you feel the person has become somebody you have to befriend from scratch?
All marketers itching to rebrand their businesses must exert due caution and a lot of thought. You are asking the whole world to change with you, and not just making a small internal change. Go ahead if you must, but do so with calm, controlled, deliberate steps.
So What Are Your Thoughts? Do Share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of Knowledge Commerce solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
This post is part of a series that elaborates on “Branding Importance For Knowledge Commerce Solopreneurs“.
Other related posts you may like to read are these:
- How To Build A Branding Strategy For Knowledge Commerce
- How To Use The 9-T Branding Process In Knowledge Commerce
- How To Create A Brand Identity For Knowledge Commerce
- How To Improve Brand Storytelling For Knowledge Commerce
- How To Create Brand Experience For Knowledge Commerce
- How To Build Brand Trust For Knowledge Commerce
- How To Build Emotional Branding For Knowledge Commerce
- How To Build Brand Reputation For Knowledge Commerce
- How To Protect Your Brand For Knowledge Commerce
- How To Rebrand Your Business For Knowledge Commerce