Are you trying to take your small business to the next level? If so, you may be looking around for a brand strategist to help you determine your next steps.
WHAT DOES A BRAND STRATEGIST DO?
You know your business better than anyone, but you may not be a branding or marketing expert. That’s where a brand strategist comes into the picture.
Your brand is your promise. Think of a brand strategist as the person who helps you keep that promise. When you bring a strategist onto your team, they’ll define your brand identity, research your target audience, and create consistent brand messaging.
Depending on the size of your team, a strategist might coordinate with copywriters, graphic designers, social media managers, and web developers to keep pace with the latest trends and develop cohesive content. They can also establish processes for moving forward by creating roadmaps and verbal and visual style guides.
You may think that brand strategy is only useful for global companies, but that’s no longer the case. This is especially true now that a robust online presence and expanded reach are more essential than ever before.
While larger companies tend to hire in-house brand strategists and designers, small businesses can really benefit from partnering with a marketing or creative agency on an ad-hoc basis.
Once you hire a strategist, they’ll have a lot of questions for you as they seek to refine your business’s voice: What’s your company’s story? Who’s your target audience? What values and emotions do you want to communicate to them through your marketing content?
BEFORE YOU BRING A CONSULTANT ONTO YOUR TEAM, THOUGH, YOU NEED TO ASK THEM SOME QUESTIONS AS WELL.
1. “WHAT BRAND WOULD YOU LOVE TO WORK WITH AND WHY?”
JUST LIKE A STRATEGIST NEEDS TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR COMPANY, YOU NEED TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THEM. ASKING ABOUT THEIR FAVORITE BRAND IS A GREAT START. YOU CAN LEARN A LOT ABOUT THEIR PERSONALITY, THEIR WORK PHILOSOPHY, AND THEIR INSIGHT INTO THE MARKETING SPACE. DON’T WORRY IF THEIR ANSWER SEEMS UNRELATED TO YOUR INDUSTRY – THERE’S TIME TO DIVE INTO INDUSTRY SPECIFICS LATER IN YOUR CONVERSATION.
Make sure to discuss not only newly launched brands but also rebranding campaigns that have impressed them. This brings us to our next question.
2. “WHAT EXPERIENCE DO YOU HAVE WITH STARTUPS AND ESTABLISHED COMPANIES?”
While startups and established companies share some branding needs, such as maintaining cohesive messaging and keeping up-to-date on digital trends, they definitely require different approaches.
A rebranding process, for instance, needs to take into account years, maybe even decades, of preexisting reputation. You certainly can’t change a long-standing brand personality overnight. Startups, on the other hand, have a different challenge. They need to get their name out there for the first time, and they have to introduce their origin stories and guiding missions efficiently.
Learn what experience a strategist has with both types of clients to get a sense of how their experience aligns with your specific goals.
3. “WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST RELEVANT MARKET TREND FOR MY BUSINESS?”
Pay careful attention to both parts of their answer: the market trend and its relevance to your business. An attentive strategist has to navigate between what’s generally trending and what aligns with your brand’s specific values and ongoing story.
Humanizing your brand’s storytelling, for instance, makes sense for most businesses. B2Bs and B2Cs, though, likely have differing levels of interest in trends like chatbots, online communities, and influencer marketing.
4. “HOW DO YOU REACT WHEN CLIENTS DISAGREE WITH YOUR SUGGESTIONS?”
It may seem too negative a question to raise: after all, why look ahead to potential conflict instead of success?
Disagreement is natural, though, and it’s not inherently disastrous. You obviously feel strongly about your business, otherwise you wouldn’t have started it. Brand strategists feel strongly about their expertise as well. A good working relationship doesn’t require you to abandon your opinions, but it does mean you both need to set preconceived notions aside and listen to each other’s recommendations before making a final decision.
Find out how they’ve handled these disagreements in the past to get a sense of how you might effectively work together moving forward.
5. “WHAT SIMILAR BRANDS/PROJECTS HAVE YOU WORKED ON IN THE PAST?”
This is a classic interview question for a reason, and it’s a stand-by when you’re looking to add someone to your team, be they a short-term partner or a long-term employee.
If you’re starting a small e-commerce business, for example, it’s helpful to know what experience a strategist has helping other modestly-sized B2C companies. If you need a visual brand refresh – new logo, new colors, new style guide – look carefully at their graphic design samples.
There you have it! With these 5 questions you can now search for your perfect branding partner.