A Small Business Branding Guide

online brand positioning for small businesses

Branding is essential to building a small business because it establishes an image in your potential customers’ minds and helps build trust and loyalty.

Many small business owners don’t understand branding and how it relates to marketing. They think creating an effective branding campaign takes too much time when they have a million other things to do. However, branding is a long-term investment that pays off as you create lasting success.

What Is Branding?

Branding includes the whole package of identity that communicates a company’s character, personality, and standards when customers see a card, an advertisement, or a product. It includes visual images, slogans, shapes of products, as well as the company’s story and advertising.

For instance, McDonald’s spent decades showcasing Ronald McDonald and the list of characters to push the image that the restaurant is fun for kids. Likewise, Coca-Cola is instantly recognizable with its white and red logo, the glass bottle shape, and all of its advertising like the Santa Christmas coke ads.

Branding vs. Marketing

Branding is slightly different from marketing in that branding reflects the motives and personality of your company, while marketing is the outreach to potential customers. You want to market your brand to build your company’s visible personality to the public.

This is in addition to marketing efforts such as promotions, advertising, loyalty cards, and other efforts. However, marketing efforts should include branding.

Why Is Branding Important for a Small Business?

A company’s brand identity does several things: It sets the tone for all your business does, how your employees act, and your business priorities. It promotes your company’s character and personality. Finally, it shapes the ideas your customers and potential customers have about your business.

Think of your company as a person instead of a thing. What would you want that person to be like? What are that person’s goals, hopes, and dreams? How would that look and sound?

One of the strongest brands is Apple. Its logo represents education, and its branding reflects user-friendly experiences. Its stores maintain simplicity while incorporating high-end elegance that comes with education.

Your company’s actions, and that of your employees, will soon identify your brand in customer’s minds. So, branding must match actions to create the image of competence, quality, and excellent customer service.

Creating a Small Business Brand Identity

Creating a brand identity can seem overwhelming to small business owners. Many think only about the product or service they want to sell. They think making a good product will automatically result in people buying it without branding.

However, branding is often what lures people into your business because branding involves emotion. People do make purchasing decisions based on emotion. Some customers like the feeling they get from the logo and branding, while others like the idea of the company’s purpose.

You want your branding to inspire and make your business synonymous with positive attributes like excellent customer service and an overall great customer experience. This is why small business owners must pour effort into branding. The first thing to do is to figure out your company’s purpose.

Identify Your Purpose

Sure, you want to sell products or services, but there has to be more to it than that. You want to create a positive customer experience, but how will you do that? How will you serve customers? Remember, customers, seek value for their purchases. How do you intend to do that?

A strong mission statement can help narrow down your purpose. A mission statement isn’t a slogan or motto. A mission statement is a reason why you are here.

Research Competitors

It never hurts to look at what your competitors are doing. Identify what they are doing well and where they aren’t excelling. Those are areas you can target to build your brand identity.

You should want that anyway, but excelling in their negatives will give you a leg up in brand identity. Look at their branding and decide if it’s working. Don’t copy theirs but figure out how some things may or may not work for your company.

Pick Your Audience

A sign thanks the customers of a small business

This is important in creating brand loyalty. Too many business owners try to get everyone to buy from them and, therefore, have such overreaching branding that it’s non-distinctive. In the long run, it’s better to target your audience and create branding that motivates them.

You will create more brand loyalty with a smaller, targeted group than you ever will with a broad sweep. Research is required to pick your target audience. That requires looking at:

  • Demographics including occupation, gender, and age of current or potential consumers. The audiences that competing brands go after.
  • Marketing and sales statistics.
  • Listening to what existing customers are telling you.

Determine Your Business’ Personality

Branding gets fun when you start thinking about it for your business’s personality. However, everything should point to one personality for the business.

Many business owners have a bit of a split personality in their marketing. Several conflicting personalities show up in logos, brochures, and shop decor. This confuses customers.

Those who want to depict fun should go with brighter colors and more swirly fonts on business cards and include light topics in social media posts.

However, an engineering group may opt for sleek sophistication by using metal tones in all their logos, information, and office space. Their social media also takes a different tone.

Create Your Messaging

Your business entrepreneurship is a journey. Tell it. Everyone wants to know why someone decided to start a business. Customers want to connect to a company emotionally. Telling your story will do that.

Your story will set the tone for all your brand’s messaging across your entire marketing campaign, from advertising to social media. Branding like this sets the tone for the whole customer experience.

Someone who accomplished this was Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas. He let people know there was a real Wendy, and he cared what he fed her. He also told the story of his adoption and how he wanted to help other older kids waiting to be adopted.

People associate Wendy’s with these values even though Thomas died years ago. The story, motivations, and personality will help create the visual identity.

Develop a Visual Identity

Most business owners get this wrong because they typically create a logo first. It really should be one of the last things you develop because your visual identity is a reflection of the business’s purpose, target audience, personality, and story.

All the colors, fonts, slogans, and images should center around those concepts.

Build It All Into Your Business

Marketing begins here. One of the first and easiest things to do is implement your brand in your social media with your image and content that reflects your brand.

Be consistent with the branding on your business cards, brochures, direct mail, signage, and other forms of advertising. 

Your brand should also be promoted when you participate in community events or if you speak publicly.

The secret is being consistent. Consistency is what converts branding into trust, and that creates brand loyalty.

Conclusion

Creating a brand isn’t something that happens overnight. It involves thought, research, and even soul-searching. Yet, it is one of the most important ways you can spend time because creating a brand identity is what takes your business from the level of just making money to it being personal for your customers. BRANDefenders provides the services you need to maximize your small business’s branding. The best decision you can make for your brand is just a click away.

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