Your brand is more than just your logo. Forbes explains that a brand is “a specific perception in customers’ minds concerning the qualities and attributes of each non-generic product or service.” Your brand should spark a positive reaction in people when they see it. They should see your brand and remember your logo, your product, your customer service, your advertising, and positive experiences they had with your product.  

But how much should you actually invest in brand-building? What key features should you start to work on to develop your image?

1. Industrial Design

Industrial designers will analyze your product and create a functional and attractive design for it. Their goal is to optimize the form and the function of the product, so that your customers get the best experience when using it. Whether you have already launched your business and have started selling your products or not, always be thinking of how you can further develop the industrial design of your product. This includes the packaging, too. After all, potential customers who have no experience with your brand will evaluate your product based on how it looks compared to competing products; if yours looks better, it will definitely get the edge over its competition.

2. Website

Even if you have a physical storefront to your business, it is absolutely critical for your business to have a functional and professional-looking website so that customers can research your brand. This is where you can house your blog (which can go a long way to positioning yourself as an industry expert), images of your business and products, signage, and more. Your website is a one-stop shop that lets people get an idea of who you are and what you do before they even make the first contact with you, so spend time optimizing your website.

Make your site easy for customers to navigate so they can find what they are looking for, just as you would want them to be able to easily navigate through your physical store. Provide all the necessary information that your customers need about your products and services in an easily-digestible format. If you sell products through your website, make the purchasing process as easy as possible. Nothing will drive sales away faster than a convoluted or buggy payment process.

3. Signage

Anything that is a visual representation of your business falls under signage. The purpose of signage is to attract attention to your brand, products, and services. Signage also should leave your customers with a positive emotional response after they visit your store or your website. Signs, banners, logos, business cards, advertisements—all of it falls under the classification of signage, though most typically, signage is tangible. Signage communicates to your customers through carefully chosen colors, symbols, messages, and images. If they are well-designed and placed in the appropriate places, signage will foster positive emotions about your brand with your audience that will later drive sales.

Think of your logo as the foundation of your signage. Themes derived from your logo, such as shapes and colors and font, will be used to generate the design of other signage. Begin with a quality logo, and take your time to develop signage based off of it.

4. Market Research

Knowing who your customers are and what they want is pivotal to understanding how to reach them. After all, how are you supposed to reach out to a person if you don’t know who you’re talking to? To find out who your market is, you can conduct market research. Common methods of market research include: seeking existing data, surveys, focus groups, interviews, and experiments. Make sure you understand how the market works and that it may not be a get-rich quick market you think it is. Pay attention to customer reviews on other sites as well as on your own. Interaction is a crucial part of the market research process. At a minimum, use market research to find out the age, gender, interests, socio-economic status, and geographic location of your audience.

5. Build Out Your Production

Having all of these revamped processes and options for your business isn’t going to do you much good if you lack the hardware that you need to get your products on the shelf. While you can always outsource your production to another firm, that ends up with a large portion of your work process in the hands of another business. Isn’t it better to just have everything under one roof? This isn’t feasible for every growing business, but if you’re looking to expand your production, look into the kind of hardware that your team needs in order to accelerate. Machinery such as presses, cutters, conveyor belts, and more aren’t always cheap, but they can make a small business into a large one in a relatively short time–especially if your branding has caught on like wildfire. Don’t discount the impact of in-house production on your business’s growth. For many businesses, it’s just a matter of time before they take this step.

Armed with this information (and more, if you can get a hold of it), you can fine-tune your products to the needs of your customers and you can target your marketing strategies for your potential customers. Brands are lifestyle markers these days, so knowing the type of person you’re talking to is vital to developing an overall marketing and brand-building strategy. Just make sure to be open and honest when gathering information about your customers; data privacy is a touchy subject, these days.

Brand-building is a fundamental piece of the marketing puzzle that so many businesses either relegate to a second-class status or forget about completely. In reality, it should be at the forefront of your business consciousness, always on your mind as to who you are what you’re representing every time you tell people about your business.