If you’re an entrepreneur, a business owner, or someone who has ever done a bit of marketing, I’m sure you’ve heard plenty about brand.
When I was studying to get my bachelor’s degree in integrated marketing, my days practically revolved around studying the strategy of branding. My entire senior seminar focused on case studies of businesses, and their brand.
And why not? Branding is quintessential to a successful marketing plan.
So if you’re starting out in the world of online commerce, or really building a business of any kind, you need to start out with this: What is the importance of branding a business?
Starting a business isn’t easy. Anyone who tells you differently has either no experience, or something to sell.
So why are you doing it? Well for me, building a brand started with one driving motivation: freedom. And I know I’m not alone in that. Time is such a valuable, and scarce resource. It flies past us quickly, and if we’re not careful to claim it, it will slip through our fingers like loose sand.
That’s why I believe in brand building. More than just being my own boss. More than having high income. More than not having to wake up to an alarm clock, dread Mondays, or struggle with contentious coworkers and supervisors. More even than realizing my own creative potential. More than any of those things, building a brand is valuable to me because I gain control of my own time.
I had a desire to live freely, doing the things that I loved, and investing in my people, while also keeping financial security. While positive thinking can make almost any bad situation more livable, action can make those bad situations better.
So here I am, building a brand.
So Why Does It Matter? Meet the Life’s Blood of Your Business
I’m going to let you in on a secret, which you may or may not realize yet…
Branding is the ONLY THING that gives everything we purchase value.
You might be thinking “wait a minute… what about supply and demand?”. Yes demand is essential for the IDEA of something to have value, but in most business ventures in most modern cultures, brand is the reason you can make profit from it.
Let me explain it this way. Take, for example, a Nerf gun. For those who don’t know, this is a brand of toy gun, made of plastic, that can fire soft darts. A Nerf N-Strike Elite Hyperfyer Blaster (yes, that’s the actual name of the product) goes for around $45.59. One that shoots foam balls costs over $75. And some cost over $130.
How much do you think it costs Nerf to get these guns at a wholesale price?
A quick glance at prices from wholesale dealers based in China, like Deal Extreme, reveals that the actual cost to obtain these items is between $5 and $15. Often less. Plastic toy guns are not expensive to produce.
So how is Nerf making money? Well, people are still buying nearly $2 billion a year in Nerf guns, high price tag or not. Nerf may get the guns for $4 or $5 a piece, but sell it for $45.
The power is in the branding!
Nerf guns are far from the only industry where this is true.
That recognizable swooping check mark that everyone now knows as Nike, even without the name – they are selling many Air shoes for $140, that they got for a couple bucks. Because they branded.
Search a popular wholesale site for real fox fur coats. I’ve seen them on Alibaba for $250. Now type the words “real fox fur coats” into Google, and see the top 5 results for shopping. The lowest costs over $1,000. The average is around $4,800. Many cost $24,000. Or $32,000. And they sell.
Let’s think about that for a second. A $25,000 investment would get you 100 coats in your inventory. If you have a brand to attach to it, you could reasonably sell each of these for about $5,000. Your return on investment would then be $500,000. Or $475,000 profit. Even after some other expenses are factored in, this is a VERY reasonable return.
The power is in the branding.
But That Kind of Brand Power Is For Big Business With a Big Budget… Right? Well, Not Exactly
This is a list of the natural steps to building a brand, I’ll explain them in more detail later!:
- Start brainstorming, researching, and getting educated.
- Pick a product. This can be literally anything that has demand.
- Create a brand name
- Develop a culture around your brand: aesthetics, the message, the voice, the story, the imagery, logo
- Develop a website/webstore (this is not optional) and a social media presence
- Get to know your target market
- Once a small following is generated, attempt to pre-sell or kickstart your inventory
- Stay consistent and true to the message of your brand
- Be customer-oriented
- Be memorable
- Be recognizable
Those steps are necessary for your start. You do NOT need either a ton of experience in marketing, OR a big budget to compete with larger companies, or accomplish those goals!
The world of online commerce is a trillion dollar industry, and hundreds and hundreds of multi-million dollar businesses are owned and operated online by one motivated person.
The primary groundwork for building a brand online, and the reason it’s now so possible for regular folks (like myself) are because of services like Shopify (for people interested in dropshipping physical products), I’ll explain this soon!
So you may have an idea for a product… now what? How do you get the products at wholesale cost? How do you build the brand?
The first thing that you need is to understand your demographic market.
If you’re opening up a coffee shop in a college town, are you going to open early to get commuter traffic and close by 4 in the afternoon? Of course not! College students tend to love coffee, but are generally not commuting, and they stay up notoriously late. Your coffee shop should be open to 11 pm at the earliest!
This applies to everything. What sensory triggers does your target market love? What imagery? What vibes?
Study your market by joining Facebook groups, following similar things on Twitter, or Google +. Look into Instagram. Use the research options that the internet gives you, and use it well.
You need to develop the culture of the brand!
Once you have an idea of the imagery and story that you want your brand to tell, you need to develop a webstore, and a presence online. This is no longer optional, as brands both large and small (*cough Toys ‘R Us *cough) are sometimes finding out the hard way.
But how do you build your brand online?
Building a Brand Through Your Webstore (from scratch)…
The idea of having a dropshipping webstore may be new to you. We now live in an era where we have access to things like SHOPIFY and WIX. And they will literally build your brand, and make it look amazing!
There are companies and services out there that will actually build you a webstore, and run most of it for you. You will never even have to see or store your inventory, the fulfillment – shipping, packaging, product tracking, and customer follow-up is all done for you.
Not only is the imagery and website of your brand taken care of, but it will allow you to process payments (of almost any kind, in any currency), gives you powerful website hosting, built in search engine optimization (to help your store rank well in Google), email marketing campaigns (or what Wix calls ShoutOuts), easy integration with Amazon and Ebay if you also sell there, and even options to have sales tax and bookkeeping managed for you practically for free!
If you want to see a more detailed review of Shopify you can check it out HERE!
A Basic Shopify plan costs $29 per month, with its more advanced options costing $79/month, and $299/month. To put that in perspective, the cost of running even the more advanced Shopify stores for a year are easily less than the monthly costs of running a brick-and-mortar business with just a couple employees, making half the profits.
Think of it this way. You’re basically paying an expert “employee” to build your website, run all of the technology for you, complete all of the “cash register” transactions for you, do a chunk of your marketing, keep your store running 24/7 without ever closing or going down… for $30 or $79 a month in pay.
Most brick and mortar businesses hire 4 or 5 people for those tasks, and pay them at least that amount per day!
If you’re running a primarily brick-and-mortar business offline I would definitely recommend Wix. It’s not as equipped for powerful e-commerce as Shopify is, but it’s designs for building a brand website are impeccable. Such as the business site you can see below –
These must be the groundwork from which you build your brand. Especially if you are entering the world of e-commerce. Imagery, messaging, your name, your tagline – focus on simplicity, not clutter. Service, more than sales.
Even once you build a Facebook page, and start getting attention on social media, you will always want to redirect people back to your site, which will truly capture your brand for your customers to immerse in.
You can even try out a free trial of Shopify if you click this image below, for 14 days. Build your store there and see how good it makes your brand look!
How to Gather Inventory
The cost of inventory to match your brand can be a scary thought. Business expenses can be fairly intimidating. So you will want to look into where you can purchase inventory at wholesale prices.
These are some of the best resources where you can find items for wholesale cost:
Build out your brand first. Comment on the social media of influencers in your niche, promote yourself, build a pretty looking webstore, and start to gauge your ability to pre-sell your first inventory.
Believe it or not, there are many ways that you can remove the risk of buying inventory and getting stuck with it.
Kickstarter.com may be one option. You can present a good idea to a vast online community that may be happy to crowdfund your business upstart. But, once again, you will need a good brand idea for this to catch on.
You’ve read already how brand is what’s going to give value to these products, so make sure your brand has its culture intact. That way when you gather your inventory, and attach your brand to it, there will be an “already applauding audience” so-to-speak, that is willing to pay a margin much higher than what you paid for the item.
You know that creating a brand is necessary, before you can have a truly profitable business.
This will take time. It will take creativity. It will take a lot of brainstorming.
I have given you only a basic and preliminary crash course on the importance of branding. There are details ahead, marketing campaigns, moments where your creative juices are really flowing, and other times where your business will just feel like a migraine.
Just remember to tell the story that you want your brand to tell. Believe in the world that you create around it. Stay true to that. And stay motivated!
I wish you the greatest success. And if you have any questions, I’m here for you!