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Build Your Brand, Build Your Business--In Three Steps

A brand is a promise. Without a strong brand, businesses lack a sense of identity and will eventually fail, according to Susan Gunelius, author and president of KeySplash Creative Inc.  

"A brand is not a logo, product, slogan, ad or company," she says to a packed house at Entrepreneur's Winning Strategies for Business Conference at the Long Beach Convention Center. "A brand sets consumer expectations and meets those expectations in every consumer interaction and experience."  So how does a small business properly build an effective brand? Gunelius offers up a three-step process:

  1. Consistency: Messages, images and so on must be consistent, or consumers become confused and turn away from the brand. 
  2. Persistence: Brands are not built overnight.
  3. Restraint: Don't be tempted to go too far.
Brands are built by consumers, not companies. Companies put out the messages and nudge consumers in the desired direction, but consumers create brands through experiences and emotions, she says.

Just as important as knowing your own business, when building a brand it's essential to know your competition. Once you know what you're up against, you'll be able to successfully exploit the competitions' weaknesses, position yourself against them, establish your unique niche, seek out opportunities and -- most important -- differentiate yourself. 

Building brand loyalty, Gunelius says, is essential in building your business's overall brand. When consumers' expectations and feelings about a brand are continually met or exceeded, they become loyal to it, knowing it will continue to meet those feelings and expectations in the future. They develop confidence, trust and security in the brand and choose it over other brands.

How do you build your brand? What challenges have you run into while creating an identity for your business? 

Kara Ohngren is a freelance writer and part-time editor at YoungEntrepreneur. Her work has appeared in publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, The New York Times, MSNBC, The Huffington Post and Business Insider.

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