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updated 3/16/2013 11:16:35 AM ET 2013-03-16T15:16:35

Your business plan should include a branding strategy. This is your written plan for how you'll apply your brand strategically throughout the company over time.

At its core, a good branding strategy lists the one or two most important elements of your product or service, describes your company's ultimate purpose in the world and defines your target customer. The result is a blueprint for what's most important to your company and to your customer.

Don't worry. Creating a branding strategy isn't nearly as scary or complicated as it sounds. Here's how:

Step one: Set yourself apart.
Why should people buy from you instead of the same kind of business across town? Think about the intangible qualities of your product or service, using adjectives from "friendly" to "fast" and every word in between. Your goal is to own a position in the customer's mind so they think of you differently from the competition. Which word will your company own?

A new hair salon might focus on the adjective "convenient" and stay open a few hours later in the evening for customers who work late -- something no other local salons might do. How will you be different from the competition? The answers are valuable assets that constitute the basis of your brand.

Step two: Know your target customer.
Once you've defined your product or service, think about your target customer. You've probably already gathered demographic information about the market you're entering, but think about the actual customers who will walk through your door. Who is this person, and what is the one thing he or she ultimately wants from your product or service? After all, the customer is buying it for a reason. What will your customer demand from you?

Step three: Develop a personality.
How will you show customers every day what you're all about? A lot of small companies write mission statements that say the company will "value" customers and strive for "excellent customer service." Unfortunately, these words are all talk, and no action. Dig deeper and think about how you’ll fulfill your brand's promise and provide value and service to the people you serve.

If you promise quick service, for example, what will "quick" mean inside your company? And how will you make sure service stays speedy? Along the way, you're laying the foundation of your hiring strategy and how future employees will be expected to interact with customers.

Your branding strategy doesn't need to be more than one page long at most. It can even be as short as one paragraph. It all depends on your product or service and your industry. The important thing is that you answer these questions before you open your doors.

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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