Utilizing your positioning, you can create your branding foundation, which includes messaging and a visual branding strategy. Developing brand assets, such as your logo, helps tie your business’s offerings together, but they offer limited meaning without developing messaging guidelines, so don’t skip any of these foundational steps.
Your audience, their needs, and your business’s unique positioning determine how you will develop your messaging guidelines.
Always start with your audience when developing messaging guidelines because who you serve determines how you will communicate with them. It’s likely that your audience is comprised of busy business owners and leaders, so part of your messaging guidelines may focus on being concise.
Does your audience understand your industry’s jargon? Or do they need to be informed on industry terms? Does your audience largely prefer a specific type of communication? If so, gear your guidelines to that format, such as phone, email, text, etc.
Once you know who you’re talking to, you need to understand their needs to effectively communicate with them. When you understand their needs as they relate to your services, business, and general business relationship, you will learn how to cater your messages specifically to them and their needs.
For example, a technology company that serves a tech-savvy audience knows they do not need to provide much guidance concerning their services. However, a technology company serving a less tech-savvy audience will need to include more guidance concerning their services.
When determining your audience’s needs, consider what they need in order to effectively get the most out of your services. Assume they don’t understand how your business works, what they may need to do, what to expect from you, or how your services work. (This is part of having good customer service.) Explain it to them.
Next, combine your audience and their needs with your unique positioning. Align your positioning with their needs to determine how you will speak to your audience. How can you reach out to them to meet their needs? What should you say and how should you say it?
The final step to developing your messaging guidelines is to understand your brand personality (see Brand Personality) and how you want to be perceived. To humanize your brand while still sounding professional, you need to determine the tone of your brand. Will you sound silly or serious? Formal or casual? Enthusiastic or apathetic? Authoritative or friendly? Choose 3 or 4 adjectives to describe your brand’s tone of voice.
If you serve multiple audience segments, it’s best to repeat this process for each segment. There may be some overlap in guidelines, but this will help guide your team in future marketing (and other business) projects. For businesses that serve very different audiences, this step is crucial to really connect with all of your audiences through messaging.
Depending on your services and your company culture, you will have a distinct brand personality, which will help you portray your business, services, and more to your audience through messaging. Your business’s brand personality is tied to the words you use, but it is also emotional. It’s important that your brand personality, messaging, and visual branding are cohesive – otherwise, your audience may be confused.
Developing your brand personality is usually easier for a small business because your brand personality is often much like the personality of you or the founders of the business. Are you formal or funny? Are you modern or classic? Are you young or mature? Are you premium or affordable? Are you masculine or feminine? Will you sound like an industry expert or a mentor – or both?
Overall, who are you as a brand? And how do you want to portray yourself to your audience? This is your brand personality. Use it to humanize and individualize your messaging. This will help you distinctly speak to your audience.
Visual Branding Strategy
After developing your messaging guidelines, it’s important to create visual branding that will resonate with your messaging. Together, your messaging and visual branding create your brand identity, helping your audience identify you in the competitive market over time––as long as it’s consistent. Together, they tell the story of your business, but good visual branding doesn’t need many, if any, words.
Visual branding evokes emotions. Often, when a prospect views your branding and connects with it, they want more; or, they immediately can tell that your brand is not for them based on your branding. This is why having a visual branding strategy is so important. Not only must it match your messaging and audience’s needs, but it also needs to represent your brand fluidly, across all projects and platforms, online and offline.
Developing a visual branding strategy is very similar to developing messaging guidelines. You need to consider your industry, unique services, and brand personality with the emotions you want to evoke. For most B2B Services businesses, you will want to focus on conveying a reputable, reliable, and trustworthy image through your branding.
This strategy focuses on determining the logo, color palette, fonts, and types of images used for online and print pieces across all departments, but don’t stop there. If you plan on plastering your logo on the side of a truck, posting it on a large light-up sign in front of your building, or decorating your office accordingly, it’s best to include where your logo and other visual branding assets will be published, so you or your graphic designer knows what color schemes and sizes to use.
For some B2B businesses, you will want your branding to promote experience and expertise, which may include elegant and simple lines and typography, while others will want to convey convenience, which may include more playful shapes, colors, and images.
As you develop your visual branding strategy, determine whether those pieces feel like your brand. Do they convey the message you want them to, even without words? Also, remember to specify what pieces are meant for online or print publication, as well as the rules of use for both.
Visual Branding Development
Once you know your visual branding strategy, it’s time to develop your assets. Common assets include logo, color palette, fonts, and types of images, but you may require additional assets based on your unique business needs. Remember to consider how each piece will look online and in print, or what pieces are specifically designed for online or print.
Collect your messaging guidelines and visual branding assets in one place that is accessible to your entire team. All team members across all departments should use these guidelines and assets so all messages to your customers and prospects are cohesive.
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