The branding universe is a big one. There’s certainly no shortage of resources, thought leaders, or online courses to navigate. I’ve been fortunate to work in this space for 20+ years. And I’ve blogged about best practices almost half of that time. As we begin to wind down 2021, I’m developing a three-part series showcasing the best of the best across the themes I blog on. Up first? Branding and how to build your own brand toolkit. Each of these posts will link to my favorite resources to help you excel in each area. And pardon me for an indulgent self-plug, I’m also including a link to my favorite blog post over the years!
The basic building blocks of a brand toolkit
A picture speaks a thousand words. If you’re looking for unique images while supporting visual artists, Unsplash is your tool. Simply conduct a search based on a keyword and a beautiful array of options appear according to how the photos are tagged by the artist. You’ll be inspired by the creative options – I promise!
With pictures come words. For crafting communication strategies, I rely on Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why. Sinek advises businesses to always lead with Why, fill in with How, and close with What. Why = beliefs and passions. How = actions taken to realize the Why. What = the results of the actions. To learn more about this strategy, go here.
Make a plan to share those words. Content calendars allow you to segment audiences and customize messaging based on the customer journey, sales funnel efforts, and revenue goals. I use a template created by Hubspot to coordinate themes, goals, audiences, and channels.
Win the spelling bee. Grammarly will alert you with a beautiful red underline if something is amiss – spelling, usage, or grammar. Click it and fix it! Grammarly can be used with all communications, including emails, social media posts, blogs, and documents.
Marketing materials in minutes. Canva is a great tool for creating marketing collateral without the how-to overload. You can utilize their templates or create custom options. Simply upload brand elements such as logos and photos, as well as brand colors. Canva is extremely user-friendly!
Craft headlines that grab attention. Enter a headline and voila, you receive a score via Sharethrough Analyzer! Sharethrough highlights the strengths of your headline and also provides suggestions to elevate SEO, click-throughs, and engagement. Recommendations are based on their behavioral research which you can learn more about on their site.
Connect with the pros and cultivate community
Now, let’s move to the love of community.
The mother god of content marketing. If you write content with the goal of sharing thought leadership and engaging with prospects, you already know about the Content Marketing Institute. Their expertise is rich across many marketing verticals including SEO, social media, content creation, and audience building. As the Chief Strategy Advisor, Robert Rose is king.
They do say content is king. Joe Pulizzi, content entrepreneur, also sits in the same space of content marketing. His book Content Inc. was my roadmap when I launched Seachange Branding. I continue to lean on his thought leadership for claiming and owning this space for those leaping, launching, and starting up.
Leading the way for inbound marketing. Whether you’re looking for user groups, events, online certifications, or apps, HubSpot is your go-to for learning how to pull prospects in to educate, entertain, and engage. They’re also a leading provider of both CRM and CMS software for small and large organizations across all verticals.
Get connected through LinkedIn. With more than a million members, I recommend the Marketing Communication group. (If you do a search, it’s a red lettered logo). They share best practices, advice, and expertise in the field. Because of their sheer size alone, this group is an excellent door opener or a warm lead for meeting fellow brand practitioners on LinkedIn.
Don’t forget about storytelling
To complement my top 10 list for building your own brand toolkit, I’m sharing my all-time favorite branding blog post. As consumers, we understand the power of a personal story behind the company brand. I encourage all entrepreneurs and SMBs to weave in elements of their personal stories into speeches, presentations, and pitches. I also do this when we work together on business positioning. So here’s an oldie but goodie. One of my go-to evergreen pieces of content – The art of storytelling in the business world.
I hope you find these branding tools and resources for creating a high-performance brand toolkit helpful and insightful. Whether you’re a startup, SMB, or perhaps just beginning to think about launching your own business, may these resources sustain you as you build your dream and team.
Debbie Schallock is a content and brand strategist, DEI ally, communication thought leader, and content marketing partner to agencies. She’s the founder of Seachange Branding, arming startups and SMBs with the right tools to clarify business positioning and carve a competitive advantage. She blogs on the topics of branding and inclusion. Her research has been published in the International Journal of Diversity in Organisations, Communities & Nations – A Space for Gray: The Value of Difference.