Building a Brand is way different than building a business. You can plan to grow a business using all the normal methods; writing a business plan, growth strategy, pursuing angel investments, bringing innovative products and services to market. But growing a brand is a completely different strategy. And growing the loyalty behind that brand is just a piece of the puzzle.
If you simply Google "define brand" you will find:
If you click even a couple of articles deep you will find 100 different definitions by a 100 different people. Some definitions that bring up valid points (source):
"Branding is the art of aligning what you want people to think about your company with what people actually do think about your company. And vice-versa." - Jay Baer
"A brand is a reason to choose." - Cheryl Burgess
"Branding is more than a name and symbol. A brand is created and influenced by people, visuals, culture, style, perception, words, messages, PR, opinions, news media and especially social media. Like when a child is born and given a name, a brand needs nurturing, support, development and continuous care in order to thrive and grow. Some brands have a life cycle and grow old like people. Some brands are timeless and never die, are “born again” or reinvented, while some brands live a short but powerful life and have an iconic legacy." - Lisa Buyer
"Branding can be divided into old and new. Old Branding - Advertisers shouting carefully pedicured messages at consumers who don’t want to hear about it. New Branding - Advertisers  humbly listening to what consumers tell others the brand is and back up with real action (like repeat purchases) and  incorporating appropriate innovations so their products continue to earn consumers’ loyalty and word of mouth." - Dr. Augustine Fou
I tend to agree your brand is so much more than just a mark. It grows and breathes with your company and it can take on the life that your audience/clients/customers bring to it.
But how do you really grow that loyalty? How do you get them to buy into you and your company?
The first step is really making sure you have aligned the image you are projecting with the one it is giving back. If you are attracting the wrong kind of customers, getting little traction online or not seeing the results you were expecting, chances are there is something that needs to shift.
- It could be your brand “look” – the skin that makes up your company. This includes not only your logo, but the kind of imagery you use on your products, on your website and in your social media. Even how you personally dress, and how your employees portray themselves online and in public effect the “look” of your business.
- It could be your brand “voice” – the written or spoken word. What do you say about yourself online? What do your reviews say? What does your marketing collateral say? What does the tone convey? Are you upbeat and casual or formal and precise?
- It could be your brand “story” – the life your company takes on, on and offline. Do you make yourself out to be the mom and pop shop down the street or are you a large company who portrays yourself as such? Perhaps your story reflects one thing, but you are actually another which is causing confusion for your client or potential customer.
Once these pieces have been aligned you might start looking at ways to grow loyalty. Many times the more transparent your brand becomes towards your business this loyalty will begin to happen naturally. You can, however, take some of the following opportunities to fast track your customers coming back for more.
Define Purpose – Show them your ultimate purpose and be brutally honest about it. If you are in it to make a difference, don’t hide it. If you have a family legacy to hold up, let it shine. Tell people your mission (not just your mission statement) and have your company live by it.
Be Superior and 100% Humble – I am not suggesting you get in a battle over who has the better waffle fries. But saying yours are better is not going to bring people back. Offer superior products and services and don’t feel like you have to shout it. People will notice and they will be back. Quality and durability speak for itself.
Make Customer Service Your #1 Priority – Sometimes a script and a form email seem like the simple way to solve problems. But 9 times out of 10 if you just listened, and gave valid solutions/resolutions, customers that may have walked away will be HAPPY all over again. Zappos really knows how it is done. You can read all about it in my Delivering Happiness review.
Deliver as Promised – Things can be out of your control at times, but when at all possible deliver exactly what was promised, on time, no questions asked. Being a reliable resource keeps people around and it also makes them way more likely to share your company as a referral to someone else.
Show Your True Colors – Don’t pretend to be anyone else and definitely stop trying to mimic their tactics, their game and their style. You started your own business for a reason and now it is time to put a little more you back in it. Here is 5 Common Sense Ways to Live Your Brand!
Time Will Tell – Occasionally the only thing left to do is wait. All businesses and brands have a lifecycle and you have to listen to it. The following “Dumb Mistake” struck me a couple weeks ago, and it may mean, for some of you, that loyalty we are talking about will never catch on. (Sure he is talking about growing a blog audience, but it is a concept that is true for all businesses.)