Small Business Branding
While running a small business or startup, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities and lose site of the big picture – building a brand. You probably have a logo, some business cards, and a website, but that’s just the first step towards cultivating a brand image and ultimately, increasing revenue. Creating a brand is a long term play and you likely won’t see results for awhile. However, once your brand begins to build steam you will see a big return.
What is Branding?
Branding is the impression of a product held by real or potential consumers. Simply put, your brand is what people think of your business. A brand is built by how you present your business to these customers through things like the look and feel of your logo, the font and colors you use, the photos on your responsive website, the way you position furniture in your office, and the words you use. It’s also built through intangibles. It’s the feelings and experiences your customers have, and the memories made. It’s the story you tell.
Built to Last
A very important yet very simple start to creating your brand is the creation of your name and logo. Having a name and a symbol that resonates with your customers is your first impression. It is usually the first thing they see or hear about your business, which they will base their opinion of you off of. This happens even if they have no idea what you do. They will still create an idea of what they think you do just by looking at your logo and reading your name. It is imperative to make sure you do this right the first time.
Make sure and put a lot of thought into this step and craft a strategy behind why. GOOGLE THE NAME. I cannot stress this enough. Please, please, please, make sure to Google the names you’re thinking of using to make sure you are not infringing on another companies registered trademark or intellectual property. Even better, take some time to research your potential names via the USPTO website to make sure no one else owns that name.
In addition to your logo design, the color scheme selected is absolutely crucial. Selecting the right colors present the mood or feel of your brand to your customers. For instance, black, white, and grey give a modern and serious feel. Pink, white, and lighter reds give off a bubbly, light feel. Darker blues, purples, and greens typically make a customer feel at ease and more willing to trust your brand. Color schemes and logos are typically the first point of contact for a consumer, so make sure you spend some time on this. The goal here is to create a name & logo with longevity, something that will last longer than your competitors. Picture your business 20 years from now. Is the name you’ve chosen relevant? Does it still hold the same meaning that it does now? Focus on creating something that will stand the test of time.
The Meat & Potatoes
Brand collateral, or the things created to show off your business and its products or services is the meat of your brand. It is your business cards, flyers, brochures, banners, signage, and website. This is the stage where you give your brand legs and send it out into the world. This is also when you get an opportunity to test your brand and fine tune it.
One thing most small business owners seem to forget is that the branding process is different for everyone. Each business and industry requires a completely unique approach and strategy. Sometimes you will put something out there, and it simply doesn’t work. That’s okay! Treat each failure as an opportunity to learn about your customers. What they like and what they dislike. What compels them to buy. What drives them to make decisions.
Knowledge is Power!
With internet marketing, you have the distinct opportunity to capture a mountain of data on your customers. This data can provide valuable insights to where to improve. Where are they visiting your site from? Where are they going when they land on your site? Are they clicking on a specific area? How long are they lingering on a particular page or looking at a particular image. Capture and use this data to determine patterns of behavior. Using this information can help you make more informed decisions with your brand to create better experiences and resonate more with them.
In addition to gathering information online, make sure to spend some time each week to interact with your customers and gather their feedback. Spending this time to step back and look at what you’re doing, hear what they have to say, and work on making adjustments will help your overall small business branding effort in the long run.
As your brand starts to develop a personality, consistency across all communication platforms is absolutely key. If you lack continuity, your customers will get confused and likely shy away from working with you.
Let’s say you own a small coffee shop. Your business is built on providing locally sourced products priced competitively, with an organic and natural feel. A great addition to your product line would be handcrafted shakes, also sourced locally. Now you have the opportunity to sell another unique product to the same customer, but in the afternoon – a time when coffee sales traditionally are slow. This addition makes sense because it ties in well with the brand image you have already established.
Conversely, let’s say in this same scenario you decide to start selling generic, cheap coffee sourced overseas. This begins to erode the brand image you’ve been building by sending mixed signals. Are you a local craft coffee shop or are you a cheap stop for a cup of average coffee?
Next time you go to the mall, study all of the brands represented. Some are nationally known and widely recognized. Others are small mom and pop shops local to your area. What differentiates them? What makes one brand different than another and which ones resonate with you? Spend some time trying to pinpoint exactly why you connect with one brand and not another. Most often, the brands that stick out most in our minds are the ones that are 100% consistent no matter how they communicate. Everything from their storefront and employees to their packaging and signage, it’s all uniform across the board. National brands understand that in order for a customer to trust you, a brand has to communicate that they are not a fly-by-night operation through consistency in their message.
The Business of Storytelling
Building a brand isn’t about having a cool product, fun name, & a flashy site. It’s about telling a story that connects with your audience. To effectively market your businesses products or services, focus on the emotional connection. Create a narrative for your brand to foster a deeper connection with your customers.
If you look around at the most successful businesses in the world, they all have one thing in common. These brands have figured out a way to touch customers in such a way that they begin to associate with their businesses emotionally. They have crossed the threshold of simply being a “good” product or service provider to being something that a customer identifies with.
If you want lifelong customers, you have to have an emotional connection with them.
Authenticity and strong storytelling is the lifeblood of strong customer relationships.
Some Questions to Ask Yourself
- Why am I in this business?
- What makes my business different?
- How can what I do improve the lives of my customers? Why is it better? What value does it bring?
- 20 years from now, what do I want people to remember about my brand?
Brand-building is a very important step for every business and isn’t something done overnight. It is a continual process of refining and connecting with your customers, adapting to change, and improving your approach, which can pay off huge when done right. Take time to really stop and consider what you want your legacy to be. Why are you doing this? What do you want your customers to be left with after interacting with your business? How can you leave them with a positive message?