‘Brand building’ – All business owners know that building a strong brand is key to their business goals but many do not know why. Your brand is – quite simply – your business.

Here are five key steps towards brand building for SMEs:

1. Brand Definition is Key

The first step in building a successful brand is to define what exactly your product or service is offering to potential customers.

Clearly define your offering and the demand for it in the marketplace.  Identify what exactly sets your business apart from others and look at what differentiates you in the market.

Ensuring that you have clearly documented all this in your business plan will give you a strong platform to move ahead.  It is only then that you can take steps towards working on the name, logo, slogan and physical manifestations of your actual brand.

2. Believe in Your Brand

Do not just pay lip service to ‘branding’.  Believe what you are saying about your product or your service. Can you back it up? Use language and descriptions that are honest and can be proven.

What are your unique selling points?  If you and your team really believe what you are saying on your promotional material, both online and in all other manifestations, then your customers and potential client base are much more likely to buy in to it too.

Devise a number of key messages and then consistently communicate them in all your activities and this will help to build a coherent identity.

3. Be Consistent

Be consistent in all your communications.  Consistency cannot be overemphasized.  From the first customer touchpoint, whether that’s through a telephone call; interaction with your website or an advert, ensure that in all business dealings, your brand is communicating with a similar tone of voice and look and feel.

How are you positioning your business?  What language are you using? What values are you communicating? What sets you apart?

Review this constantly to ensure that you are speaking clearly across all platforms.  This will help to build trust, loyalty and increase your bottom line.

4. Build Relationships

Owners of small to medium businesses often ask ‘why do I need a brand?’

The answer to this is that branding equals reputation and branding is all about the impression that you and your team are making on an everyday basis.

There is often confusion around the word ‘brand’ and an inaccurate view that this just means having a logo.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

A brand starts with good communication and effectively building relationships with partners, customers, suppliers and potential customers.

Building and investing in these key relationships will help to grow recommendations, repeat business, revenue – and a sustainable brand.

5. Constantly Innovate

All successful brands are constantly evolving and innovating.  It can take years to build up a successful brand but the key to being an effective custodian of that brand is to regularly review all elements of business practice and look at ways of improving and innovating in all the ways that you do business.

This can range from implementing new marketing techniques; to a refreshing of the identity; to new research methods to ensure that you are providing exactly what your customers need; to ensuring that you are keeping up with competitors and are future proofing to minimise risk.

Ensure that your brand is making the most of  all available technology to communicate with and facilitate customers and you’ll keep forging ahead through innovation.

– Good branding can be incredibly powerful.  Follow these five steps and start building valuable loyalty from your client base today.

Eleanor Collier is an experienced, award-winning Marketing Director who has advised and worked with brands across Ireland, the UK and the USA. She is founder and director of Eleanor Collier and Associates.