In a world in which the competition is only a click away, having a strong brand identity is crucial. Yet, too often companies think it’s enough to call in a graphic designer to spruce up the website and give them a stylish new logo.

Sure, it all looks fancy but does it really relate to your customers?

Whether you’re providing digital media services or selling pet food, there’s no room in the market for faceless brands. So how can you can identify the personality of your business and use this as a tool to better engage with your audience?

Who’s your market?

First things first, if you haven’t done so already you need to identify your customer base. While this will make it easier to start selling whatever it is you have to offer, it also enables you to gear your marketing and promotional material towards particular groups of people.

Let’s say that you make a niche or industry-specific product which appeals to a certain demographic. In this instance, you are better off developing your company’s image to appeal to that particular audience.

For example, if you sell financial services your brand should provide an image of professionalism that will appeal to the clientele of managers and fellow business owners looking to use your services. It also helps to create character profiles for these potential customers to gain a better understanding of which products will appeal more to certain groups or individuals.

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Your people: Your target audience should inform your brand identity (Image credit: Pixabay)

On the other hand, you may have developed a product that appeals to a wide range of people. Play your cards right and you could gain access to a potentially huge market. Yet, with such a broad audience you not only have to create an image that has universal appeal, but also separate marketing strategies targeting the key demographics that make up your customer base.

What’s your style?

Once you’ve established who your market is, you can begin to develop the tone and style. By this we refer to everything from the design of your branding (the website, logos, and printed materials) through to the way you communicate with customers (web copy, blog posts, e-mail newsletters). Now, in an ideal world, products would be bought on the basis of content over style. Yet, as previous marketing blunders have shown, design is a major factor in making the sale.

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Singing from the same hymn sheet: Finding your voice is all important (Image credit: By Pirlouiiiit from Marseille, France, CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Each year, corporations spend billions on market research to give them a better insight into how customers feel about their product; and then craft their image around this feedback. Of course, as a small or medium sized business (SME) the chances are that you don’t quite have those funds at your disposal, but this shouldn’t deter you from looking into what sorts of things your customers like and refining your brand’s design and tone of voice based on your research.

For the more technically savvy, this could involve using things like data and analytics to assess what types of content people visiting your website are most interested in. On a more fundamental level, however, you should start by analysing how companies with a similar audience to your own market their product.

Sure, you want to have an image that is individual to your business, but if the customers are predominantly mums then don’t present them with cutting edge, minimalist design that is completely at odds with how your competition markets to this group.

If you played a role in founding and/or developing the company, the chances are that you will also be a part of the market you’re selling to. If this is the case, take a step back and think about the sorts of things that you love and loathe about other businesses design and comms.

Where’s the personality?

As previously mentioned, most SMEs don’t have the cash to splash on big campaigns or pay for top branding agencies. Instead, they must rely on using what’s at hand: the people who built the damn thing.

Unlike the big multinationals, startups consist of a small team of people who work directly with the product or service they provide. Many have also been with the company from beginning or early on in its developments reinforcing this connection. This homespun image and close affinity to the ethos of the brand are great selling points that many growing businesses use to their advantage.

The reassurance of a friendly face goes a long way, which is why honing in on the “team” is a tactic used by many businesses to provide a more human feel. This is demonstrated by the About page of our very own site, where you will find images and bios for Future Content head honchos Tom and Stuart, as well as our writers. Corporations with operations in numerous territories have attempted to replicate this localised image, but cannot hope to match the clear link those working for SMEs have with the business.

In many cases, startups will also push forward an individual to act as the so called face of the brand. By this we don’t mean Cheryl Fernandez-Versini advertising shampoo, but more of a spokesperson who acts as the mouthpiece distilling everything the company has to share about its product. As they have pretty good overview of how everything operates, this will often be the founder or CEO of the business. Just think of the cult of Steve Jobs, and how the power of his identity became an asset to Apple when unveiling its next big ‘game changer’.

Hopefully by now you’ll have realised that injecting a little more personality into your business doesn’t require a room full consultants. All you need is a little research into who your market is and where your strengths lie then you can begin to build a brand that utilises these insights.

However you choose to represent the business, just make sure it says something about what you stand for instead of some vague marketing mumbo-jumbo. Your customers will not only find it easier to connect with your products but are also more likely to come back for more.

So, the next time you’re in the office take a good look around. Perhaps big Dave could be the answer to all your marketing woes?

Here at Future Content we develop tone of voice guidelines for many of the brands we work with which guides all the content we produce. To find out what we can do for you, contact us here. And come and say hi on Twitter.