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Branding’s Three-Pronged Approach

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Note from Lionel: Marissa Levin leads Information Experts' efforts to create technology-based integrated communications solutions, human capital strategies, and learning strategies for government agencies and for organizations across a wide range of vertical markets. To find out more about this successful woman business owner and working mother, check out Marissa's profile.

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When people think of branding, they usually think "logo." But branding extends far beyond a tag line or a graphic. Branding encompasses everything that you envision for your firm. It is a strategy that enables you to move your target audience emotionally – to help them connect on a personal level with you, your organization, and the value that you bring to the market.

Business owners have tremendous power to build the brand they envision, but they often don't realize it. I meet so many solopreneurs and small business owners who have tunnel vision when it comes to branding. They hire a marketing specialist or a graphic designer to create a visual image of their company name. Then they slap it on a business card or letterhead, and they consider themselves "branded." They don't realize that one of their most powerful branding assets – one of their greatest sources of brand capital – is themselves.

As someone who has bootstrapped a business from $56,000 to $10 million, I've learned over the past 14 years to take a three-pronged approach to branding:

  • Branding of the product or service
  • Branding of the organization
  • Branding of the leadership

All three are powerful enough to function as separate entities.

  • If a product or service has developed a reputation for reliability, than performance speaks for itself (think service organizations like Jiffy Lube, Amazon).
  • Organizations that are highly focused on culture have very strong organizational branding (Nordstrom, Google).
  • Finally, organizations that have very visible leadership also enhance their brand equity in the marketplace every time leadership speaks (Apple, Zappos)

But the most effective strategy for building brand equity in the marketplace is to consciously apply all three strategies. Your product or service may stand on its own. Your organization's name may have widespread recognition and universal appeal. But as a business owner, consider the influence you have over your own brand strength. In addition to sharing your knowledge and experiences with others that can benefit, you will continue to reinforce your brand and solidify your position in the market as a thought leader, innovator, and credible expert. Be the brand.

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