Marketing in the age of digital connection is moving swiftly away from competition for sales, and moving toward competition for relationships. Branding and marketing have always been connected, but now they’re commingled as companies strive to build relationships through consistency and trust.

Before you can launch a cohesive brand strategy, use the following approach to develop a branding and marketing plan built on clear objectives.

Step 1: Define product strategy

It seems very basic to define what it is you’re selling, but this part of building a brand strategy is essential because it speaks to your company’s mission and voice. Know your product and the pain points it addresses. Know your audience and their motivation. Then, build consistent messaging that appeals to those specific points. Use that messaging everywhere to begin building a brand consumers can trust.

Step 2: Build credibility

Trust and credibility go hand-in-hand. If a consumer’s experience with your brand is consistent, trust is a natural by-product. While providing messaging consistency, offer bits of knowledge through blog posts and digital content that guides the reader to the conclusion that your company is helpful and knowledgeable. Establish your industry expertise by giving some of it away, and you’ll become a credible source of information.

Step 3: Develop contingencies

Any marketer will tell you that planning for the unexpected is essential when building brand strategy. Outline in great detail how your team will handle unexpected issues, negative customer interactions or reviews, and any other bump in the road that could affect the public’s perception of your brand. Have a plan in place to analyze and adjust current practices as your marketing plan is implemented and your brand recognition grows.

Once you’ve built a marketing plan based on these clearly defined priorities, it’s a good idea to also define how you’ll monitor your brand and what analytics you will use to define success. Make sure your entire team is aligned and understands how essential every element of the plan is for building a positive brand experience. That experience can then translate into customer trust and loyalty that feeds the long-term success of your business, and that’s what brand strategy is all about.