Branding is more than just a memorable logo. Behind it is your message, reputation, and emotional connection with your clients. It’s the thing that will sometimes make or break a business, no matter the products.
It’s easy to get so caught up in the creation of the perfect product or service, and forget that the biggest selling difference, especially for smaller businesses or start-ups, is made by branding. It differentiates you from other sellers with the same product or services and most of the time acts like shorthand for your presentation.
In this post, I’ll answer a question that many small business owners have asked me: do small businesses need a brand?
Branding 101: What is branding?
Branding is a complex marketing practice in which a company creates a set of values (branding strategy), a set of visual elements (brand identity elements) and a set of communication rules (brand expression) . Together, they create the unique identity of that organisation.
This distinguishes your company from others and helps it stand out in your specific market. They also apply to the public’s first impression of your business, including things like website experiences, customer service, brand reputation, social media profiles, etc.
If you are Romanian, might I suggest a series of courses of great learning value: The Branding Essential package from Brand Essence. It’s an online video course, so you can watch it and rewatch it as many times as needed. Hosted by Mihaela Muresan, one of the best brand architects I know, the course will give you the tools to start working on your own brand.
If you run a small business the branding process might look a bit different from one set by a corporation. But if you want to stand out from the crowd, you have to implement at least a basic branding strategy.
Elements of a Branding strategy
When considering setting up your branding strategy always keep in mind the following elements:
- Purpose – why you do what you do. Keep it functional (ex: to make a profit) and intentional (ex: to provide a specific service)!
- Mission, Vision, Values – expanding on your purpose, find the key values for your company and set up a clear direction for the future. It really helps if future employees will share the same values and vision.
- Positioning compared to competitors – find similarities and especially differences with other players in the same market.
- Target audience – define your ideal clients.
Let me know in the comments if you would like articles going in depth on any of the above subjects.
Communicating as a brand
All companies comunicate! It’s inevitable if you want to sell a product or promote your services. Choosing how to do it and setting guidelines from the get go will insure a smooth representation on all your communication channels. So keep these brand expression elements in mind when you are setting up your brand:
- Brand Persona
- Brand identity elements
What are the most important brand identity elements for a small company?
When creating your branding, here are the most important elements:
- Brand Name
- Logo (learn more about creating the best logo in my other article)
- Graphics and images
Branding 101: Do small businesses need a brand?
At this point, you might still be thinking that if your business is small it will not require such a well developed brand. And that your time will be better spent elsewhere. Here are some of the more specific reasons why branding is so important for small businesses:
To build a reputation
Every business, regardless of its industry, has a reputation. There are two ways to build a reputation: either take action to influence your brand’s reputation or let customers decide how they perceive your brand.
Good branding can bolster an already positive reputation, whereas bad branding can send the opposite message. Determine a clear, concise message (your mission statement) so that readers can quickly and easily understand who you are, your values, and why you do what you do.
Your mission statement is a personal promise to every prospect who comes into contact with your company. Make it easy for your target audience to choose your small business.
To set yourself apart from competitors
When creating your brand identity, make sure to differentiate yourself from the competition. What do you do better than other small businesses? Why should customers choose your brand over every other option?
Shoppers now have more options than ever before. Telling them what makes your company unique saves time in the sales cycle, so don’t make them search for it. What you bring to the table should be obvious and clear on your website. Don’t be afraid to show off your expertise and achievements!
To build emotional ties
Branding aids in the development of emotional bonds between your business and your target audience. Customers become emotionally invested in brands and become ardent supporters of them throughout their lives. Consider how to replicate that level of brand loyalty in a small business. You have the opportunity to build relationships and convert a prospect into a long-term customer. Everything begins with your small business story!
To increases the value and visibility of your company
Products and services have life cycles, but your brand will last forever. By laying a solid foundation, you will set your company up for long-term success. You want to incorporate your brand (which includes your company name, logo colours, and values, among other things) into your workplace culture, social media profiles, website design, customer interactions, and community outreach.
The success of your small business determines your livelihood as an entrepreneur or small business owner, so you should actively integrate it into both your professional and personal life.
To Attract the Right Customers
Running a small business requires not only attracting any customers, but also attracting the right customers. Your ideal customer will become a devoted brand advocate. These are the people you must impress, gain their trust, and exceed their expectations.
Customers don’t care about a brand or its elements unless the company makes an effort to approach them. You must demonstrate to customers how your products and services will enhance and complement their lives.
You can accomplish this through good branding, which will demonstrate to customers that you put time and effort into your branding and quality, allowing them to rely on your company.
To increase sales
People buy from brands they recognize and trust. This is why, from the start of your small business, you must focus on developing a brand. Building trust should be a top priority for any small business because it is difficult to gain but extremely easy to lose.
You demonstrate your concern for your customers’ needs and desires by developing strong relationships with them. You can demonstrate this in branding by using positive brand images, colours that represent reliability and trustworthiness and reassuring messages.
Branding should be integrated into everything you do as a company, not just part of your business plan. The reality is that brand identity and loyalty are such an important part of today’s consumerism.
Don’t know where to start when it comes to prioritising your branding? Let’s have a call.
Photo by Patrik Michalicka.