When it comes to advertising, small business owners tend to work hard on a short, focused list of marketing initiatives that are most familiar to them. What they miss is a more strategic viewpoint about how to shape their brand image.
Branding for small businesses is more than just a trendy concept—it’s an essential component of marketing that can help you get a handle on what your business is all about. It’s worthwhile to invest time and effort into nailing your branding strategy. I have collaborated with a friend and branding expert, Mike Graham. Mike is the founder & creative strategist of the branding agency Second Melody. Here’s what you need to know about small business branding.
How to Create a Brand Identity
Business branding starts by differentiating your business. What sets your business apart from others? A brand identity is composed of the visual elements that make up a brand and distinguish it in the minds of your customers, such as fonts, colors, and tone. The idea here is to objectively see how you fit in the marketplace and how people see your brand.
For example, when you think of Coca-Cola, the colors and logo immediately come to mind. Even though there are different flavors of Coca-Cola, each can is recognizable and uses the same font and color scheme. You want your brand to be equally recognizable for your target customer.
To start, business owners should study their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. To do this, conduct a SWOT analysis (I have a blog post about that here.) Once you know what you bring to the table, you can move on to determining your ideal customer. It’s important to have a clear view of who you’re targeting with your marketing initiatives.
After you know your brand identity, you can proceed with your business branding.
Business Branding Ideas
Business branding is made up of two critical components. The first is messaging (how you talk about who you are, and the second is visual identity. Each part is unique, equal, and should always be synchronized. They don’t work without each other. Both must be an accurate representation of your company. If they aren’t in synch, your brand messaging will be disjointed and confusing to your target audience.
Create three messaging pillars which are your brand’s principles and descriptive messages that communicate what makes your business unique. These pillars shape and benchmark all marketing and messaging and set the tone for core branding elements and future marketing campaigns. Write down the three words that represent your brand and the ideas that you won’t sacrifice or modify. Ask yourself if everyone at your company believes that it describes and represents them. Are those words must be who you are today, not what you hope to achieve.
The next step is to craft a company narrative. This is a combination of your vision, mission, and values written into a short story about your company. Your narrative should be easily understood and endorsed by your customers, audience, and employees. Important components include one sentence that emotionally describes everything about your brand. Add a sentence about your products and services and why they are unique. Add in your perspectives or philosophies that make you special. Don’t be afraid to add in examples. Be sure to craft your promise or why your company exists and who benefits from your business.
Finally, create your visual identity. Using your messaging, create how your messaging pillars should be portrayed in your logo, colors, fonts, images, icons, sales materials, social media styles, and internal communications.
Once you have created a brand identity, you can use it to improve your marketing materials and create a cohesive experience for your potential customers. Here are 3 small business branding ideas to consider:
Hire a creative professional branding agency or graphic designer to create a style guide that brings consistency to all of your brand assets. Your logo, website, graphics, fonts, icons, colors, sales collateral, social media styles, internal communications, and brand voice should all go together.
Create free content on social media that is interesting and valued by your prospects, such as blogs, vlogs, e-books, and more. This will help you establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry and build trust with your audience.
Stay consistent. Reference your brand guide for all of your materials and maintain a consistent presence on your social media channels. If you stop posting regularly or post something that’s off-brand, you’ll send mixed signals that dilute your brand image in the minds of your customers.
When done right, small business branding can increase your sales and improve your customer experience, but it takes time to get it down. A business coach can help you organize a plan for your brand identity and generate business branding ideas. Click here to fill out my contact form for a free online coaching session and we’ll talk about building your brand.