By Brian Lischer, Founder & CEO of Ignyte, Author, Speaker, Brand Strategist, Healthcare Branding Specialist.

Running a successful business is all about making smart investments. From newfangled technologies to whip-smart new hires, every decision involving the investment of your business’s capital should be carefully considered against short and long-term returns.

So of all the myriad assets you can invest in, from marketing to automation to supplies, why invest in branding? It’s a reasonable question and one that most of the business owners I work with have to ask themselves at some point.

The short answer is: Your brand is your company’s most valuable asset.

Your brand is the way your stakeholders perceive your business. Shaping these perceptions allows you to foster customer loyalty and cultivate brand equity. And it is customer loyalty and brand equity that ultimately determine the financial performance of your company.

This endeavor includes thorough research to assess your competitive landscape and identify opportunities for meaningful differentiation, careful positioning to capitalize on those opportunities, expert design and expression of an authentic brand identity and the alignment and maintenance of your brand.

It's no small undertaking, but when done well, it can lead your company in the direction you want it to grow. Whether you partner with an agency or rely on the efforts of an in-house team, branding is the most effective way to shape customer perceptions and influence behavior, but it doesn't end with establishing an identity. Here are seven ways you can get the most out of great branding.

1. Attract Ideal Customers

Sales and marketing can be a lot more efficient when you're able to attract not only customers but ideal customers. By leveraging the power of brand research, branding enables you to identify precisely which types of audiences are aligned with your company’s distinct culture and values. Not only are these individuals more likely to convert, they are also more likely to become loyal brand advocates, providing you invaluable (and free) promotion through social media and word of mouth.

2. Deliver on Your Brand Promise

A solemn pledge to deliver on your defining value proposition, your brand promise is no small thing. Think of Volvo and its promise of safety that has spanned generations. Articulating a brand promise that is authentic, compelling and unique -- and, more importantly, delivering on that promise -- can mean the difference between fly-by-night success and a legacy that lasts decades.

3. Solidify Your Brand Authority

Something interesting happens when you position your brand as a niche industry leader: People listen. Branding gives you the power to do just that. By narrowing the focus of your brand’s expertise to the thing or things it does best, you amplify your brand’s authority. Leveraging that authority commands the attention of customers and competitors alike.

4. Render the Competition Irrelevant

Solidifying your brand authority leads to another valuable phenomenon: Your competition is no longer relevant. Branding lets you radically differentiate your company by positioning it as the only provider of its unique value proposition. When your brand is highly specialized at providing a premium product or service, you effectively have no competition.

5. Command a Premium Price

You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating: Customers don’t buy products; they buy brands. And customers will always be willing to pay a premium price for a premium brand. Branding gives you the power to position your company’s offerings as not just premium, but industry leading. This type of meaningful differentiation justifies the worth of your brand, enabling you to command higher prices for your products or services.

6. Boost Your Brand Equity

Only by investing in branding can you hope to increase your brand equity. And brand equity is a powerful thing. It is the tangible value of your brand derived from intangible yet influential factors like customer perception. Over the long term, increased brand equity translates into a higher valuation when the time comes to sell your company.

7. Attract Top Talent

It will come as no surprise that the best candidates want to work for the best brands. Branding involves clearly articulating your company’s values and culture. By doing so, you can be sure to attract industry talent that is aligned with these important principles. The best candidate is one who will fit seamlessly into the company culture you’ve worked so hard to build.

Investing in your company's branding and capitalizing on its potential can lead to various, tangible returns for years to come. It gives you the power to attract better customers, with more authority and to command higher prices for your offerings, to boot. And acquiring customer loyalty, industry authority and brand equity are invaluable to any brand's long-term success.

Brian Lischer is the Founder & CEO of Ignyte, Author, Speaker, Brand Strategist, Healthcare Branding Specialist.