Many business owners focus their attention on two primary functions: product development (for riders, it would be all the training and competing) and sales, sales, sales. They forget the marketing part in the middle, and more specifically, branding.

Branding is not just a logo, it’s the sum of all the characteristics of a brand that differentiates it in the market. It’s the entire brand’s story: the name, photography, copy and customer experience. If you deliver a service in person, it’s the physical location (how nice is the barn?), down to how the staff is dressed.

Branding is a pain in the butt because 1.) it takes time and 2.) it’s not as measurable as other marketing initiatives. And these days, everyone wants measurable, immediate results. If you place an ad with a coupon code, you either see sales or you don’t. It’s easy for people to invest in those short-term initiatives hoping for quick results. But building a brand takes years, several months at the very least. It’s a slow process, which sucks, but it’s important to invest in it. Here’s why.

1. It protects you against the competition. Every product can be copied but they can’t copy you, who you are. There is only one of me. Other businesses can try to copy what I do, but they can’t have me, my expertise, my background and my awesome personality. ūüôā ¬†If you infuse your product with your special sauce, and build a compelling brand story around it, it’s much harder for the competition to come in your space. Branding acts as insurance.

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2. It¬†helps you get seen.¬†A bland product has to work much harder to reach its target audience every time than one with a strong brand. For example, a random tea vs Twinings tea, a renowned British tea company that even has a shop and museum in London. Twinings doesn’t need to sell the virtues of each individual tea flavour from scratch, its reputation and the trust clients put in the brand carries over their entire line. It’s much easier to sell a new product when the brand already has a fanbase.

3. It accelerates the client’s purchasing decision. By having a very clear differentiation, and amplifying it through marketing efforts, the consumer doesn’t have to think. Are you a Coke or Pepsi drinker? Do you prefer an Apple or Android phone? You probably have a very clear idea of the brand you are going to select for your next purchase in those categories. As consumers, we identify with a certain brand’s characteristics and develop a preference which simplifies the purchasing process.

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4. It crushes doubt.¬†‘Have I made the right choice?’ ‘Is there something better out there?’ Clients don’t want to have regrets.¬†A branding campaign reinforces that they’ve made the right choice (of course, the product and service need to deliver).

5. It creates loyalty. While we like to try new things, humans are creatures of habit. We tend to gravitate towards the same brands, the same stores.

That’s five excellent reasons to invest in brand-building.¬†The product itself and the sales process are an essential part of the brand’s success but without the clear direction set by the marketing and branding strategy, you are throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.¬†Branding acts as the anchor.

A brand doesn’t get built by itself. It is a conscious and continuous marketing effort that begins with finding, what I call, the ‘Brand DNA’. At the core, you have to figure out what the brand is. That’s the first step. Then you craft a brand story. Once you are clear on that, you can start thinking about the marketing elements that are going to tell that story (logo, brand voice, photography, copy, hashtags, etc.).

Please don’t go straight to a graphic designer to get a logo or packaging designed – or a video produced (?!!) – ¬†without a solid brand strategy. Otherwise, you will find yourself having to hustle like crazy for every sale rather than having your brand do some of the legwork for you.