Your brand is so much more than just your website or logo. It’s more than design. It’s more than the colors and typefaces you choose to represent your company. Your brand is your voice in the marketplace; it’s how you tell your story to the world. Creating a valuable brand depends on your ability to know what you stand for, and your effectiveness in communicating those values to others.

Most entrepreneurs enter the business world with an idea – not a brand. This idea may be so deeply personal that it’s difficult to share, and hard for other people to really understand. That’s why you need brand messaging. Your brand is your story and if you don’t tell it, it will never be told. To succeed, it must be planted in the hearts and minds (especially hearts) of your prospects and customers.

Perhaps no other company can boast of the emotional connection with customers created by Apple. Their marketing rarely focuses on what a product actually does. Instead, the company carefully instills an impression of how owning an Apple product will make you feel. All of their branding efforts reinforce this message. Whether you’re using one of their devices, visiting an Apple store, or purchasing online, there is a consistency to the experience. Every product, venue, and employee supports the brand image Apple strives to maintain.

The most successful brands own a word in the mind of the customer. For Nordstrom, that word has to be “service”. Employees personally notify their regular shoppers of special events and sales, and send handwritten thank-you notes to new customers. They’re taught that nothing matters more than pleasing the customer, and their efforts to do so are legendary.

Both of these companies illustrate the importance of market differentiation through brand development. Their financial success is a direct result of the emotional connection they’ve created with their target market, and their ability to generate brand loyalty. Unfortunately, branding is sometimes thought of as something that can be postponed until later, when organizations have more time and money to invest in their growth. However, branding yourself is one of the most important things you can do for your business, and failure to develop a cohesive brand may severely limit your growth potential.

When you’re developing your own brand, any branding decisions you make should be guided by these three questions:

  • Will this increase consumer knowledge about my business?
  • Will customers choose me over my competition?
  • Will they recommend my business to others?

If your answer to each of these questions is ‘yes’, your branding efforts will increase the value of your brand and allow you to reach new customers.

Determine what your company does well and how you want to make your customers feel, and design every brand touchpoint accordingly. When your branding creates an emotional connection with your customers, they won’t merely do business with you – they will become loyal and enthusiastic supporters and ambassadors of your brand.