Don’t Leave Brand Out of Your Business Plan

Brand is A Crucial Ingredient to Your Business Future

A business plan is essential in defining a framework for business success. It is especially crucial for a new business start-up. However, it is always a question of what should be included. A recent article in Forbes noted that a typical business plan should include: an industry and customer analysis; a competitive assessment; operations; organization and management; and financials. Buried in the marketing plan was one mention of brand. The Small Business Administration recommends six topics in a good business plan: company description; market analysis; organization and management; services and products; marketing and sales; and financial projections. No mention of brand.

The Problem With Brand

Why is brand left out of so many business plans? Because it is frequently misunderstood. Brand is often assumed to be a part or peripheral to marketing. Or is simply seen to be the logo and name. It isn’t treated with the same degree of importance as company organization or financial projections. The lack of clarity on the role of brand in business success is an unfortunate miss. Brand may not be the difference in success or failure—but it can certainly contribute to it.

5 Reasons to Include Brand

Products and services are foundational to what a business does. But it is the brand that defines how a business will connect with and build long-term customer loyalty. A business needs to be profitable, but it’s the brand that creates value. It is essential that brand should be at the heart of any business plan. And there are five good reasons why.

1. Relevance

Customers are going to engage with brands they feel are relevant to their needs, wants, lifestyle, and values. Relevance is one of the most important reasons that customers connect with a business in the first place. And remain loyal over the long term. It is the emotional appeal that keeps customers more engaged than just the benefits of the products and services. Relevance is an indispensable ingredient of the brand. Brand endurance will depend on it. Every business plan needs to define what it is that will establish and maintain what keeps it relevant.

2. Distinction

Distinction is what establishes that which makes the company different from anyone else. But it’s more than just the unique selling proposition. It is a combination of differentiating characteristics. The value proposition defines what makes the brand a more valued choice over its competitors. The brand promise is the commitment the brand makes to over-deliver on expectations. And it is the perceptions the brand seeks to earn and own that makes the emotional connection. These perceptions define the personality, voice, and experience that customers will associate with it alone—and ensure the brand is kept top of mind. Business plans should include the qualities that will keep the brand unique, different, and competitive.

3. Recognition

Every business needs to be recognized for something. But they need to be recognized for more than simply the tangible benefits it provides. In today’s society customers look for characteristics in the brand that have meaning to them. Customers look to brands they can trust and have confidence in. Awareness-building will let customers know the business exists. Recognition will ensure that awareness is meaningful and that the company is known for something of value. Recognition will ultimately lead to a reputation of trust. And its reputation will become one of the most important assets. Business plans need to acknowledge the importance of recognition and a plan for how they will achieve and maintain it.

4. Values

A company’s values are important to both customers and employees. Customers look for brands that they have an affinity towards. They want to support brands that place importance on the same issues, concerns, and priorities. Employees want to work for companies that also have shared values. They want to be inspired and motivated by the same values that customers respond to. This ensures the inside brand aligns with the external brand experience. Business plans seldom include values. But the values that shape behavior can be the difference in creating a memorable or forgettable customer experience.

5. Aspiration

Every business needs to know where it is going. The future aspirations of the business will establish the guideposts for where it is headed and how it will get there. But it is more than chasing a market share, revenue, or profitability goal. Aspiration is also about what impact the company seeks to make in its industry and culture. It’s the underlying reason for its being and purpose. A vision statement is designed to capture the business aspiration that is inspirational and challenging. That’s what will motivate the company to aspire to a higher purpose. Business plans need to define what that looks like.

Putting It All Together

A good plan should highlight what the brand should be. The most effective way to do that is to define the brand by “packaging” it into a brand platform including all the key dimensions. The vision will define the long term view of where the company is headed. The mission will provide a roadmap for how it will get there. Values will shape behavior and culture. Value proposition and brand promise will define competitive advantage. And brand character will define the perceptions associated with personality, voice and experience to create brand distinction. These all work together to ensure the brand is as defined like all of the other components of a good business plan. A good practice is to consult with a branding professional just as you would with an accountant or lawyer. That’s how any great brand works.

The goal of How Brand Works is to share our experience, perspectives and philosophy on the different facets of branding intended to enable an effective brand management strategy.