So, you have a great product. And if you can just get customers to give it a shot, you know they’ll love it forever.
How are you going to attract and engage them? Yes, you need effective marketing campaigns, intuitive product design, and the right features. But your brand plays a critical role in helping you stand out in a crowded market.
And the software market is crowded. From 2020 to 2021 alone, the SaaS market is expected to grow by nearly 21% – and then keep growing:
- 2020 – $225.6B
- 2021 – $272.5B
- 2025 – $436.9B
The SaaS (software as a service) market is rich with opportunity. But also competition. New solutions are popping up every day, and it’s never been more important to differentiate your company through branding.
The basics: what is a brand?
Your brand is much more than your company logo. In fact, it isn’t one tangible thing. It’s what you say, how you say it, and how people perceive you. It encompasses every touchpoint that a customer has with your business.
Strong brands are the foundation for business success
By strong, we mean strategically-crafted, resilient, long-lasting, and valuable. Nike, Apple, and Slack are classic examples of strong brands (just to name a few).
Strong brands build brand equity which positively influences the valuation of your brand. Let’s break this down further:
- Brand equity is customer-driven. You earn brand equity when a customer is willing to pay a higher price for your product over a less-expensive, more generic product. Customers are willing to pay more to do business with your brand because they know and trust your name.
- Brand value is finance-driven. It is essentially the sum total worth of your brand. You might think about this as how much it would cost to recreate it from scratch. Or how much an acquiring company would pay for the right to use your brand (name, logo, visual identity, etc.).
Simply put, the more customers are willing to pay for your brand (brand equity), the more your brand is worth (brand value). And if you’re going to drive up brand equity and value, you’re going to need a rock-solid brand that customers love.
6 tips for building a rock-solid brand
There are many facets of brand building. This isn’t intended to be a step-by-step guide, but rather to give you a few helpful brand building tips.
1. Learn the basics of branding
Whether you’re starting a business or rebranding a long-standing company, it’s helpful to understand the foundational principles of branding. Over the years we’ve found a few books that help capture the importance and process of successful branding. Here are three of our favourites:
- “Building a StoryBrand” by Donald Miller explains the tried and true methods of effective storytelling and teaches you how you can apply them to your business using clear and compelling storytelling.
- “Obsessed: Building a Brand People Love from Day One” by Emily Heyward explores how some of today’s hot brands (e.g. Casper, Hinge, and more) found success by prioritizing their brand and their customers right from the start.
- “The Brand Gap” by Marty Neumeier walks readers through the essential combination of strategic and creative thinking required for creating a brand that customers can’t live without.
2. Develop your brand story
With a bit of foundational branding knowledge under your belt, you can start to explore and develop your brand story.
Your brand story is the story of who you are to your audience. What problem do you solve? Why did you set out to solve the problem in the first place? What makes you the best solution out there?
Brand stories don’t need to be polished copy, but they should have personality and emotion and imbue your values. You don’t need to publish it on your website or blast it out to your customers. But your story should lay the groundwork for all customer touchpoints. Every interaction with your brand should align with your story. Even your sales team should work to weave elements of your brand story into their pitch to help prospects understand why they should choose you.
3. Craft your brand identity
Brand identity is what most companies think about first, and it is incredibly important. But it’s not the first thing, and it’s not the only thing. In fact, visual brand identity is rarely successful without first developing your brand story and other elements of your brand strategy. First, lay the foundation. Then, bring it to life with epic visuals.
Your brand identity includes (but is not limited to):
- Colour palette
- Imagery styles
These elements must come together to form a cohesive look and feel of your brand. Consistent brand application helps others recognize your brand in the market (even if your logo isn’t present).
4. Build brand awareness
After building your brand, you need to share it with the world. Consider exploring these brand awareness tactics:
- Social media
- Digital advertising
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Industry partnerships and collaborations
- Event sponsorships
- Email newsletter
5. Know when to invest in an agency
Many companies waste precious time and money trying to piece together a brand instead of engaging an expert. And considering the incredible influence brand has on your business – customer acquisition, recruitment, company valuation, etc. – it’s a risky place to take a cheap out or cut corners.
Yes, there is a time and a place for bootstrapping a brand, but it’s important to know when to partner with an experienced agency that can help you define and execute a targeted brand strategy.
At Tiller, we work with all kinds of businesses – each at different stages and each with their own unique story. Some come to us right out of the gates, freshly funded and looking to lay a solid foundation for the brand right away. Other clients have had a brand for 10+ years, but something has shifted within the business (e.g. new target audience, change in product focus, etc.) or the brand itself needs an update to stay current. These signs, among others, signal that it might be time to rebrand.
Although brands engage us for many reasons, the reasons can typically be boiled down to this: the brand isn’t supporting the company’s mission or goals. If that’s true for your brand, we would recommend you consider working with a branding agency.
6. Get customer feedback
We all like to think we have full control over our brands and what we say about them. But the truth is, your brand isn’t who you say you are, it’s who your customers say you are. Your reputation (and by association, your success) depends on what your customers say about you.
Brand building can’t be captured in a one-size-fits-all 10 step process. And it shouldn’t be bypassed by entering a few pieces of information into an AI-powered machine that spits out brands. No, brand building is much more human than that. It takes strategy, focus, and skillful execution to build a brand that can stand out from the pack and last for years to come.
As you venture down the road of brand building, remember:
- Focus on building a brand your customers will love, trust, and come to rely on
- Develop a compelling, emotion-driven brand story to connect with your customers
- Bring your brand personality to life through thoughtful messaging and visuals
- Focus on building brand awareness using strategies aligned with your stage of business
- Work with a branding agency to maximize your investment in your brand
- Ask for customer feedback to improve your customers’ experience with your brand
Branding is an investment. It takes time, money, resources, and effort – but considering what’s at stake, it’s worth it.