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Successful brands build customer relationships on a foundation of emotional connection and trust.

So, let’s say you’ve mastered branding secrets 1, 2 and 3 and have differentiated, collaborated, and innovated. You’ve got what you believe is a great name, represented by a great graphic, backed by a killer sales proposition. Now what?

It’s now time to validate your choices with your target audience.

To grow a successful business and brand you have to build a relationship with your customers based on emotional connection and trust. The very simple no-fail formula for building trust is to consistently deliver reliability and delight.

That’s right. Trust = Reliability + Delight

You won’t be able to build trust properly without clearly defining and understanding your target customer. Despite what you might think, what you sell is NOT for everyone. When you are just starting out, you must narrow your market down to the smallest possible niche.

The more specific you can be about your market, the better you’ll understand their specific needs, desires and interests. And the better able you’ll be to address those needs and desires with a strong brand backed by a compelling marketing message that piques their interest and weeds out the tire kickers. It is extremely expensive and completely ineffective to market your product to everybody. You don’t have that kind of capital or energy to spend!

Your brand tells a story. A story written in emotional shorthand. And it’s not what YOU say it is; it’s what THEY say it is.

Marketing is not about what you sell; it’s about what people buy! So therein lies an important lesson about branding. Always listen to the voice of the customer. Your ideas may be great but if you’re not speaking the customer’s language and touching their hearts your sales are going to tank… if you manage to make any at all.

Validation means you’ve got to bring the customer into the creative process. Once upon a time the customer communication model was a monologue. But in the age of the internet, it’s now changed to a dialogue. That’s what you must set up between you and your customers to create a successful brand and from that a successful business.

Finally, you must be prepared to test your creative ideas before they go up for sale. Fortunately, the best tests are cheap, quick and simple! It’s always better to get a rough answer to the right question than a detailed answer to the wrong one. So when you’re testing your product and cover design ideas, test the following five things:

1) Distinctiveness (can they distinguish you from like products?)

2) Relevance (can they relate to it?)

3) Memorability (can they remember it?)

4) Extendability (can you build on it?)

5) Depth of meaning (do they get it?)

Once you’ve validated your decisions with your target audience you’ll be ready for that final step — secret #5. Stay tuned.