At the core, a brand is a promise to the customer. This sounds simple enough on paper, but the execution is something that many businesses, from startups to the largest corporations, grapple with. From your company policies to your advertisement to the way your employees interact with customers, your brand is constantly being tested.

In order to be successful, you need to have a proper brand plan in place and be ready to adjust as needed. Read on to learn about potential mistakes that may be hurting you and what you can do to fix them or stop them before they hurt your business.

People care about brand

If you don’t believe that brand is important these days, the numbers back it up. 91% of consumers have said that they would rather try to buy from a brand they perceive as honest. The same applies if you are looking to grow your business with the help of outside funding. 82% of investors believe that brand strength and name recognition.

If you don’t believe how far good branding can propel you, take a moment to think of what your friends and family say when they are figuring out things they need to buy. Do they say they are going to get tissues or Kleenex? A tablet or an iPad? 77% of consumers make purchases based on brand names. Brand success can make your product eclipse your entire industry of choice.

There are many different guides out there on how to put your brand together. Depending on your industry and resources, your tactics are going to be different. With this said, there are also some core principles of branding that any process will use. These are the three main steps.

1. Work on setting yourself apart. Branding is what you want to your customers to think about when they think about your company. What should that be? Try to consider your products or services and what you associate with them. Keep it to one word if you can, “safety,” “friendliness,” “accessibility.” When you’ve made your decision, start thinking of little things you can do to differentiate yourself in that area. For example, if you want to focus on convenience, try leaving your business open later than the norm. Just an extra hour can build that association in your clients’ minds.

2. Find your target customer. Chances are that if you are starting your business on the right track, you already have an idea what the demographics of your business are. This is the next step. For example, a company selling organic baby shampoo is clearly looking for mothers. What you should do now is understand why that is the case. Mothers are clearly valuing safety for their children, but also comfort. A secondary objective is supporting the environment. All this information should impact your brand messaging.

3. Craft a personality. This is the true meat of brand planning, where you take the information you come up with and craft your business’s operations around it. For example, if you are a retail business trying to emphasize fast customer service, you will want to spend extra time not only training employees but pay attention during the hiring process. Putting forth friendly, quick-thinking, and unflappable faces are a perfect match for the brand personality you want.

Brand mistakes are a reality

Even with these facts in mind, there are many ways to stumble in getting your brand message to customers. One of the most important ways that people learn about a company is their website. As a result, you want to make sure that your online first impression is a good one. For one, you want to make sure that your website’s copy fits your brand personality and is free of errors, but you also want to take a look back and see the design.

In a rush to try and appeal to many customers, you may overcomplicate your site, a rookie mistake. For one, too many working parts may slow your site down.  Second, a site that is difficult to navigate generally won’t hold interest for very long. As a start, make sure your site is simple, just hitting the major points.

Another mistake that can be made is not fully using all the resources you have on hand to help your branding. Yes, not everyone has a big ads budget, which is understandable. However, did you consider the value of word-of-mouth advertising?

Encourage your customers to share their positive stories with others if they complement you. More people than ever wait for a trusted loved one’s word before making a purchase. If you are a primarily local business, putting together a great reputation by word of mouth will get you long-time customers for little cost.

Even the biggest companies in their fields can make missteps, especially on social media, where the constant interactions offer more ways to mess up. For one example, during a World Cup match between Ghana and the U.S., Delta Airlines posted images of the Statue of Liberty and giraffes to celebrate the countries.

The issue is, Ghana doesn’t have giraffes. Not only is this a mistake, but it’s going wildly off-brand. How can an airline that serves massive chunks of the world not have the foresight to quickly fact check this? This also feeds into the perception that many Western cultures and company lump Africa into one big blob. In one flash, people instantly associate that company with insensitivity as well as laziness.

Stopping trouble before it starts

Oftentimes, companies will look to outside experts to help with their brand strategy, and while this may seem rather strange at first, there are several good reasons why this takes place. For one, brand management services provide an outside perspective on some of your ideas and decisions. You may have a trusted friend, family member or business partner to do this already—but it’s not the same.

A brand management service provides a more objective look along with the expertise to implement the changes you need. For example, if you want to cater to families, but your logo screams young professionals, not only can a brand service point this out, but use their design wing to create a more appropriate logo for your goals.

Outside help isn’t someone telling you to change what your brand is. It’s designed to help you alter your plan and messaging so that everyone understands what your brand is meant to be. This is something everyone can benefit from.