New business owners are often under the impression that branding is something you do later, perhaps only when your business is much larger.
In fact, it’s crucial to include branding in your business strategy as soon as you present your company to the world. But why exactly is branding important for small businesses?
Why Small Business Branding Is Essential in 2021
There are several reasons why you should actively engage in branding right from the start.
It Encompasses More Than Just Visual Image
There is some confusion about what branding means. For instance, some small business owners think that branding refers just to visuals. Whereas this is part of it, there’s much more to branding than just appearances.
Branding is about how you present yourself to the business world, including who you are, what you do, your mission, and your values.
Tell Customers What to Think of Your Business
Without branding, customers will come to their own conclusions about your business. In fact, they will do this to some extent anyway, but at least with branding, you have some control over what people think of you.
It’s important that your target customers feel like your brand is aimed at them. Ideally, though, your audience will come up with the same words to describe your brand as you would use.
Explain Your Unique Value Proposition
Branding allows you to explain to prospects why they should choose you. This goes beyond saying, “We’re the best choice” — branding is a way to show them why this is the case.
Your business is nothing without customers. As a small business, it’s likely that you’re competing with some well-established companies.
Whereas you may not be able to change the minds of their loyal customers, you can attract leads who are unsatisfied with current options on the market.
To do that, you need to present yourself as a credible, trustworthy alternative. Branding will allow you to create that image.
You’ll only attract customers and hold on to them if they remember you. Branding can help you become memorable by showing customers what makes you special.
Guide Your Business Decisions
Finally, branding helps you as a small business owner. Whenever you’re unsure about a decision, such as what direction to take your business, consider what best matches your brand identity. This will also ensure you present a consistent image to your audience, which is important because it lets customers know what to expect from you.
The Three Elements of Branding
An easy way to think about branding is to break it down into three main elements.
The first element is how your brand visually appears to the world. This includes your color palette, font, and typography as well as how you use them together for things like your web design, logo, and business cards.
You need to target your brand toward an audience that’s specific enough for individuals to feel like you’re talking directly to them. At the same time, your audience needs to be broad enough for you to have sufficient customers to support your business.
In fact, you may be able to divide your target customers into a few different categories. In this case, you need to create buyer personas for each to ensure your branding is reaching all of them. Make these personas as specific as possible.
As well as knowing who your audience is, you need to know where to find these users. Effective branding for a small business means focusing your efforts on just these places to avoid spreading yourself too thin — which is time consuming and costly and leads to minimal returns.
The last element is the voice you use to address your audience. This includes direct communications with customers as well as content on your website, on social media, and in other marketing materials. To define your brand voice, you may find it useful to come up with a list of words that describe your personality and the kind of language you want to use.
How to Build Your Own Small Business Brand from Scratch
Developing a brand image may seem like an overwhelming task. In fact, you’re already part of the way there as soon as you’ve thought of the idea for your business.
For the rest, these small business branding tips will help.
1. Know Your Audience
The branding for a business targeting wealthy consumers is completely different from one offering a budget service. Various demographics (such as location, age, and gender) also have an impact.
2. Research What Your Audience Wants
Like everything in business, you cannot rely on intuition alone. You always need to be sure that your decision will bring you results, and that requires research.
Once you know who you’re targeting, find out what they’re looking for from a business like yours. As well as asking customers themselves, you can receive insights from your employees and you should consider what your competitors are doing to meet customer needs.
3. Define Your Identity
Thinking about what customers want will only get you so far: there are deeper qualities that you and the other people at your business give to your brand. Consider why your brand needs to exist — what need are you filling? Create a mission statement and define your core values.
4. Stand Out from the Crowd
You need to show your audience why you’re different from any other option on the market — this will give them a reason to choose you. There could be many things that make you unique, including why you decided to start your company, a specific problem that your offerings help customers overcome, or an approach to business that only you take.
Whatever makes you stand out should mean customers feel no other option will do.
5. Identify Industry Trends
It’s important to strike a balance between being different and using tactics that clearly work in your industry.
For instance, if you notice that your direct competitors are having more success on a particular social media platform or they all seem to address your audience using a similar kind of language, it may be worthwhile to emulate this approach.
As long as you infuse whatever you do with your own identity, it should contribute to effective branding.
6. Create Your Brand Assets
With the above figured out, you can start creating some assets to express your brand image. We mentioned some of these above, but let’s look at each now in greater detail.
First, you need a color palette. When choosing this, consider what each color means in marketing terms. Although some colors do have multiple meanings, you should avoid being too experimental. For instance, you may be tempted to pick a color palette that’s unusual in your industry to differentiate yourself, but this could end up just confusing customers.
Once you’ve chosen your color palette, you can move on to your logo. You’ll need to express who you are and what you do through a simple design.
Since your logo represents your company and is unlikely to change for many years (if ever), it’s important to get it right. Ask for feedback from others at your business as well as from potential customers before you finalize the design.
If you’re a completely new business, you may still be figuring out your name. Owners of one-person businesses often use their own name, sometimes together with a couple words to describe what the business does.
Whatever you choose should be easy to spell, pronounce, and recognize. It should also be unlike the name of any of your competitors and it must be available as a domain name.
It’s best of all if your name makes people think about the kinds of products and services you offer.
Your name and logo will appear on your business cards, there are a few more elements to the design. For example, you also need to choose the right font, wording, and paper for your cards.
Lastly, you need a website. It’s much easier to start designing a website when you have all the above assets.
For the moment, just focus on aesthetics and the copy (in your brand voice) for the key pages, like the home page, about page, products or services pages, and contact page.
7. Build a Community Around Your Brand
Your branding will be much more effective if customers feel as if they belong to something.
This could be about belonging to a group along with other customers who chose your business or even about something deeper —connected with your underlying values. In any case, you need to make it clear that your business cares about more than just making sales.
Thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever to create a sense of community. This involves giving users the content they actually enjoy (rather than purely promotional posts), joining in the conversation when users give you feedback and publishing user-created content.
8. Offer a Great Experience
From the moment a prospect starts engaging with your business — before the user has even decided to make a purchase — you should be offering a great experience.
Simple things like a user-friendly website with logical navigation and all the information a lead needs can go a long way.
Then, when it comes time to place an order, request a quote, or sign up for a free trial, make the process as painless as possible, such as by asking users for just the contact details you need from them.
Another thing you should do is only make promises you know you can keep. For instance, it’s true that customers want fast delivery times, and offering to deliver their orders within a couple of days could help you better compete with big names in eCommerce.
However, you’ll only stay competitive if you’re able to deliver on your promises. To decide what you’ll promise to customers, consider your core values and what you want to be known for.
Finally, you could follow up with customers after they’ve made a purchase.
Ask how the experience was and if there is anything you could do to improve (this is a great opportunity to request a review). Alternatively, you could provide tips for gaining more out of the purchase (which is also a chance to cross-sell).
9. Use Content Marketing
The key to branding is establishing the people in your company as experts.
Providing potential customers with advice and keeping them up to date with news in your industry allows you to do this — and it also provides users with something of value.
You can achieve this by blogging, posting infographics on social media, or making videos, to name just a few ideas. Plus, when you post the content to your website, it contributes to your SEO, which improves your visibility.
Small Business Branding Services: Worth It?
If this is your first time running a business, you may struggle to come up with small business marketing ideas. A solution could be to pay for branding services.
This is particularly useful if your in-house team has limited experience in branding. After all, you’ll need a graphic designer, a web developer, a social media specialist, a digital marketer, and various content creators.
How Much Does Branding Cost for Small Businesses?
How much you’ll spend on branding depends on a variety of factors. Although it may be more expensive to pay for branding services than to manage your branding on your own, the quality could be significantly higher.
You should aim to spend between about 12 and 15 percent of your initial business investment on branding. Once your business is established, you should spend around 8 to 10 percent of your revenue on continued efforts for branding and marketing.
This may sound like a large amount of money, but you need to remember that branding is an investment, not an expense. Provided you direct your efforts in the right place — such as by following the advice above — you will see returns.
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