If you’re wondering how your small business can stand out in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, I’ve got one word for you: branding.
You may think that branding is for the big companies with the big ideas and even bigger budgets. But branding is just as important for small businesses—maybe even more so. These days, competitors can clone your products, steal your concepts or duplicate your services. The one thing they can’t copy? Your brand. It’s unequivocally yours.
Simply put, your brand is how customers feel when they think of you. You can think of it as your reputation. Things like an amazing logo, friendly staff, reliable products and a flawless website can help people form a positive impression about your small business. But to be effective, you need to start with an honest vision of what your company represents.
Whether you like it or not, if you have a small business, you have a brand. How you build that brand can make or break your success.
Building Your Brand
A brand is founded on the core truth of your company. Through branding, you leverage these core concepts into an emotion your customers can connect with.
When it comes to getting their brands off the ground, small businesses we see on 99designs typically start with the following building blocks.
- Define your mission and target audience. You should be able to tell people in one sentence what you do and who you do it for. Once you have that nailed down, work on a 60-second elevator pitch.
- Consider how you differ from your competitors. Maybe you’re the tech-savvy maverick in your industry. Or perhaps you’re the long-established, dependable one. Clarify how you stand out from the competition.
- Create a strong visual identity. Your logo is the keystone of your brand, so take some time to get it right. After you’ve decided on a name, tell your designers about your brand and allow them to translate those core concepts into a memorable logo.
- Develop a brand voice. Giving your brand human characteristics—like outgoing, fun and quirky—will help you communicate consistently and connect with your audience. As a small business owner, don’t be afraid to let your personality shine.
- Test your ideas. Before you apply your corporate identity to all your other materials, run your logo and key messages by members of your target audience. Do they understand the benefits you are communicating?
- Invest in marketing materials. Ask designers to leverage the look and feel of your logo to extend your brand. The next key customer touchpoints will likely include your stationery, social media cover photos, website, t-shirts and brochures.
- Be consistent. Branding is about applying your values to everything you do, clearly and consistently. From the way you answer the phone to the design of your Twitter avatar, everything you do should map back to your brand’s core concepts.
Reaping the Benefits
While building a brand may be easier and more affordable than you imagined, it still does require some time and money (which is something most small business owners lack). So why is it worth the effort? Here are a few ways building your brand will help your small business succeed.
- Stand out from the competition. When customers have several choices, branding helps them make a decision. Your brand should highlight your unique virtues and let customers know what they can expect from your small business.
- Build credibility. Quality counts when it comes to design. If your logo looks like it was thrown together without much care, customers will expect the same from your products and services. To establish trust, you need to look the part.
- Increase the value of your offering. There’s a reason people are willing to pay 75% more for that Coke than a generic version of cola. Branding elevates your offering from a commodity to a unique product, distinguishing you from a discounted brand.
- Make your small business look bigger. Sure, you may run your business out of your kitchen—but your customers don’t need to know that. If they do, they won’t be as likely to compensate you fairly.
- Grow word-of-mouth business. When customers emotionally connect to your brand, it leads to brand loyalty and trust. And you can bet they’ll tell their friends about it.
In a business climate where the internet, social media and technology create a lot of static, it’s crucial to develop a clear brand voice to cut through the noise. Building a brand is an exciting process. Enjoy it and the rewards it brings.