How to Make Sure Your Brand Doesn’t Blend In With Stephen Houraghan
In this episode, we delve deep into all things branding: The importance of a brand strategy, brand identity, your audience and much more with Stephen Houraghan. Stephen is a brand strategist, consultant, the CEO and Founder of Brand Master Academy and the host of The Brand Master Podcast.
After gaining qualifications in both design and marketing, which he combined with his business experience, he created the Iconic Fox Agency, providing brand strategy and creative services for global clients.
Stephen has helped tens of thousands of students and followers to transform their businesses and multiply their revenues by leveraging the brand strategy systems, processes, and tools he provides through his teaching and programs.
What is Brand Strategy?
[1:14] Brand strategy is a plan for how your business will stand out from competitors in the market and how you will mobilise your message into the market. It will help you formulate the roadmap to success for your brand. New business owners or solopreneurs often begin with hopes and dreams of riding the train to victory.
However, with all the information available online, it's very easy to take a wrong turn or get lousy information. If you implement these things wrongly in your business, you could lose money and clients without even realising it.
The most important aspect of a brand strategy should be defining why your audience should choose you over your competitors. When that is decided, you can get crystal clear on your differentiation strategy, position and message in the market and then build the rest of your brand around that.
Everything you do and say as a business, from your offerings to your customer service conversations, should radiate what differentiates you in the market. And over time, if you're consistent with that, you will build a reputation in the market as the brand for that particular product or service.
Often, businesses try to be all things to everybody and do not have a niche. In doing so, they blend into the mass market, and therefore there's no way to resonate with an audience because there's nothing unique about them compared to their competitors.
A business that does not have a clear brand and differentiation strategy or does not study the market and its competitors just blends in. They're the ones that make up the significant percentage of numbers that we see of failed startups who went into the market with hopes and dreams and then fell by the wayside.
How Your Audience Shapes Your Messaging
[4:00] If you are a large brand like Coca-Cola, Nike or McDonald's and your budget is endless, then you have the capabilities to market and advertise absolutely everywhere.
But if you're not in that position and need to make every dollar count, or you're starting and you don't have a reputation in the market, all you need to do is ask your target audience a few basic questions to gauge what the customer really wants and needs.
Then, you can target your marketing to a specific niche, with a specific language profile about their interests and challenges they can overcome. Having that knowledge can help you really hit home with your messaging.
Vanilla marketing - a wide-net approach to try and market your business - doesn't work. Ultimately, if you don't have messaging that's tuned in to exactly who your audience is, then your message is not hitting home.
On the other hand, If you're able to spend that extra time on who the audience is, it makes marketing so much cheaper in the long run.
Abraham Lincoln once said: "If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe." It's the same thing with branding; you've got to take the time to sharpen your axe. Sharpening your axe within branding means you must understand who your audience is and what makes them different from the rest of the market.
It also defines how you will communicate and resonate with them in a way that's different to all of your competitors. Resonance is key.
The familiarity that you can bring to a relationship holds weight, and all things being equal, if somebody is weighing up your business and somebody else's business and you're able to get some familiarity to the table, it breeds trust and gives you an edge in the market. So resonance is key in building trust and building that relationship.
What's In It For Me?
[20:57] No matter how beautiful or profound your brand philosophy is, consumers first want to know, "what's in it for me?". When our audience has a challenge for which our brand has the solution, they start to look into the market for a way to overcome it.
And if your main message is about your brand purpose and what you do vs what you can do FOR THEM, that will not get their attention. If they have a challenge, they need an immediate solution, so you must scratch that itch first.
That is why knowing who your audience is, the exact challenges they're going through, and how your brand differs from your competitors is the unique mix that will help you scratch that itch. The more you know about your audience, the more relevant you can be in solving their problems.
Many businesses are built in a way whereby they heavily focus on conversion rates and as much turnover as possible in terms of revenue and income.
This is normal for an established business. But if you want to build an authentic brand, it's about being customer-centric. It's about understanding who they are and answering their "what's in it for me?" question first, then building the foundation and the relationship with the client.
How Your Brand Philosophy Will Get You Customers
[25:00] To get to a position where you know what type of brand you want to build, you need to start with strategy. Stand back and look into the competitive landscape and your beliefs, and then decide on the type of brand you want to be. Most business owners don't do that. This is your brand philosophy.
Your brand philosophy comes from pinpointing your own methodology and why that methodology is important. If you don't have a grasp on the methodology of your business that is different to your competitors, then you're not going to be able to give potential customers a compelling reason to choose you.
But if you have a firm grasp on the methodology of your brand and you know why that methodology is important, then you can start to build that into the fabric of your business. This begins with the brand leadership team getting crystal clear on who you're trying to target, why you're different, what you believe, what your methodology is, and why that's important to you.
If you are not crystal clear on who you are as a brand, you're not going to be able to appeal to who your audience is because you're not relevant enough to them. And you're also not going to teach others within the business who you are as a brand.
3 Steps to Making A Bigger Impact:
[39:00] 1. Understand exactly who your audience is.
Try to figure out the top one hundred questions your audience might have about the solution you provide. Start with one hundred. Each one of those questions will splinter off into sub-questions more, and all of a sudden, you will be at one hundred. You will have a website or some social pages. Use your learnings from the questions and your online platform to talk about the main challenges your target audience is going through and how you can help them overcome them.
That's how you start to earn trust, and that's how you land on their radar. And that's how they will start looking at you as a viable option to help them overcome bigger challenges.
2. When going out into the marketplace, be conscious of your tone of voice.
Don't put on a metaphorical grey suit and pretend that you have to talk in a certain corporate way if that is not who you are. It's okay to bring your personality to the table. In fact, if you know your audience's attributes and what they're drawn to, the chances are there's part of you in that audience.
Don't be afraid to bring yourself to the table to define the types of traits that you know bring out the best of you as a person. And then include them in your messaging.
You have a business brand that offers clients products or services. But you may also have a personal brand online, e.g. LinkedIn, where you can share content and have conversations with different people answering questions.
Whether it is your corporate brand or personal brand, don't be afraid to bring a bit of personality to the table because, as people, we don't do business with brands and entities; we do business with other people. And the more relatable and likeable and the more you're able to bring your true authentic self to the table, the more likely you will attract the right type of person to your business as well.
3. Make sure you attract the right type of client into your business.
This is part of the brand-building process. Who do you want to serve and why? Is it because these people have the most money? Or is it because you can relate to this person? If you are clear on that type of person, and you are bringing people into your business who you actually want to work with, then that's going to shine through within your business, your prospects, and your customers, and they're going to see that you enjoy what you do.
Get clear on who you want to work with because you will deliver a better level of service if you are working with people who you actually want to work with. And then you're helping those people to reach their destination as well.
More From Stephen:
Stephen's tips and advice are incredibly practical and easy to apply. Get to work to make sure your brand doesn't blend in! And check out the full episode for the rest of his great tips. For more from Stephen Houraghan, you can check out his website: https://brandmasteracademy.com/stephen-houraghan/