If you're looking for a useful marketing mantra for your startup, established business, or even your nonprofit, may I suggest this one?

My brand is more than a logo.

When I speak to audiences about brand strategy, too often they think, "Oh, I have this covered. I have a great-looking logo and visual identity." But that's only part of the equation.

Your brand is your core promise, essence, story. Your logo should convey the brand, but it's not the same thing as your brand. Brand forms the foundation for your marketing efforts, but it also informs many other organizational aspects, including operations, hiring, and partnerships. Brand is the story you tell and the position you occupy in people's minds. Do they file you under "high-end bespoke couture"—or "fast fashion?"

There are markets and target audiences for everything but it's your job as a business owner or marketing leader to be crystal clear about the image for which you're aiming and how that influences everything from pricing to distribution to customer experience to—yes—visual identity.

Brand is a three-legged stool: It is conveyed visually, verbally, and experientially. "Visually" is the easy part: your logo, your colors, your design, your packaging. "Verbally" is how you talk, what you say, and which messages you convey. For example, do you lead with price, or do you lead with value? Does your company speak in conservative, authoritarian tones, or are you more playful and whimsical in your copy? Ideally, your visual and verbal promises should align and lead to where the rubber hits the road: experience. In other words, once you've promised me, the potential customer or client, something verbally and visually, does the experience match that promise? If everything about you screams high-end luxury, is that what I'm going to get? Will I get innovative and cutting-edge if you don't spend wisely on R&D?

The biggest gap for many organizations is getting the messaging (verbal) component right. They tend to either mimic their competition or speak in an inconsistent way. How can you convey messages that attract the right buyers, speak to their buying drivers and needs effectively--and, even more so, enable you to stand out in a crowded marketplace? The goal of the brand-building game is to get prospects to know, like, and trust you so that when the need for your product or service arises—when they are most ready to buy—they think of you first. Messaging can make or break that relationship.

Here are three tips to consider when crafting messaging so you can pique interest, create a relationship, and stand out from your competition.

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image of Maria Ross

Maria Ross is a brand strategist, author, speaker, and the founder of Red Slice. She advises entrepreneurs, startups, and SMBs on how to create an irresistible brand. The second edition of her Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget launched April 1, 2014.

Twitter: @redslice

LinkedIn: Maria Ross