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The Five Ws of Branding (and One H)

Every day, companies are asked a slew of common questions. “How much will that cost?” “What is the expected turnaround time on that?” “Who will be leading the project?” All valid questions. However, if a company isn’t answering a few important questions from a branding perspective, they most likely will not even get the opportunity to even hear those common questions. But their competitors will.

Here are a few key questions your company’s brand should be conveying to potential clients and customers before they even make initial contact with you.

WHAT is your company’s brand?

A brand is the unique personality a company, product, service or experience has that resonates with the target audience. It cuts through the noise of all the other marketing in the world and forms a connection with someone. It’s formed by the look, feel and content of all communications. It’s reinforced by consistent interactions and experiences that back up the communications. It’s expanded by creating advocates of the brand who have become loyal, committed enthusiasts because of these experiences. Creating, and maintaining, a strong brand is perhaps the most important sales tool one can have.

WHY should your target care about your brand?

This is where the magic happens. As stated before, the goal of a brand is to resonate with the target audience. Or, in short, tell them why they should care. Perhaps it’s a new solution to their problem (think Amazon). Maybe it’s about a level of customer service uncommon in the industry (Ritz-Carlton). It can even be a value play (Walmart). Whatever the reason, telling the audience Why can be an instant differentiator over the competition.

WHO is your brand trying to target?

The fastest route to failure is to try to be everything to everyone. It simply does not work. Instead, think about the perfect client or customer. What kind of person would come to you looking for ways to improve efficiencies in his production line? What are the passion and pain points of the busy working mother who would benefit from your products? The important thing to remember here is to identify that ideal, sole person. Yes, that’s right, one person. That’s your bullseye target audience member. By focusing on that perfect target, you’ll still reach others who need your product or service, but it will help you stay focused on delivering the right message to the right people at the right time.

HOW does your brand help your target?

Once a client or customer know What a company’s brand is and Why they should care about it, it’s time to tell them How the brand can help them. While this is rooted in the products, services and experiences a company delivers, it goes deeper. It’s about How that delivery is different from the rest. This is directly tied to the Why and What of the brand, it just focuses a bit more on the unique way the company operates – be it added value, enhanced expertise, one-stop-shopping, or a plethora of unique selling propositions. The key thing to remember here is this is where the target starts to consciously understand the point of difference.

WHEN is the best time to brand yourself or your business?

The short answer is to start branding yourself from the absolute beginning. But the reality is sometimes, when moving at the speed of business, some things get ahead of others. No worries. The great thing about branding is it is rarely too late to create the brand. For some companies, the branding efforts may start by enhancing the image of key people within the organization. Be it thought leadership, industry clout, or even highlighting some past accolades of the CEO, boosting the personal brands of specific individuals can be a great way to transfer brand credibility to the business. Other times it’s about creating a brand for the company and getting it out to the target audience as soon as possible. Be it a new brand for a new company, a reimagination of the existing brand, or even a complete overhaul and relaunch of the brand, the best time to focus on your branding is now. Right now.

WHERE should you start your branding efforts?

This is a question that has no direct or correct answer as it has about as many options as there are companies in the world. But there are a few things that do need to happen early in the process to support future efforts. Take for instance the brand identity – logo, colors, mission statements, and the rest. Those things need to be created first – long before anything is ever created for the outside world. Then you need to get internal buy in. From everyone in the organization. It’s vital every single person understand the brand and speak the same language about it. From there, it’s time to introduce yourself to the outside world. But to do that, you first need to develop a marketing strategy and plan. You can read more about that here.

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