When starting a small business, there are a number of common trends that owners say or do. One thing concerning branding has been saying the following:
“Once the business is up and running, I’ll spend more time building my brand.”
This is such a common way of thinking and results in many small businesses setting aside marketing or even selling something. The problem with that thinking is that a business is a brand and that selling is essential.
While you might think you’re saving time thinking about how to build your business or put out any kind of product, it actually only causes more headaches long-term.
Ignoring branding right now means that even if your messages are absolutely clear and concise, it’s not getting the right results or creates long-term problems for you.
These problems aren’t immediately obvious, but you’ll start to see issues before too long. Customers won’t know what you’re all about, your marketing team will ask you a lot of questions, and customers will simply choose another brand over yours.
Small businesses need to compete and so it’s crucial for them to cultivate emotional connections quickly through messages, marketing, and engagement. The big question now is how does a business get to that point?
It gets there by strengthening its brand. Here is how.
Start With Brand Identity
What is a brand identity exactly? Well it’s more just the logo you have. It’s even more than the style guides, marketing materials, or colours you use. The brand identity is a combination of the looks, feels, and messaging that the company sends to customers.
Brand identity is the thing that affects how people view the credibility and the company as a whole.
Because there is so much at stake here, this isn’t something that comes out of nowhere overnight. It requires you to take your time, do research and think deeply. Here is how you can start all this.
The only way to create a brand that resonates with customers is to understand the customers themselves. Your first steps should be about learning the primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences first.
You want to develop a character for each of those groups and have everything out in the open about who those people are. You want to know their likes and dislikes, their hobbies, and values.
After that comes competitive research. What are other companies in your industry positioning themselves as. You can get a tell for that from their visual elements, personalities, and theming.
The last thing you want to do is gain insight from the people closes to your brand: your staff. They have all unique views on how they see the company they work for. Some of them may have experience working with branding in the past and can talk about things that worked and didn’t work too.
Once the research is completed you get to the fun marketing aspects. You’ll be translating what you’ve learned and start to make visuals influenced from that. Brand assets are a combination of that information and converting it into:
- A logo
- Colour palettes
- Photography and graphics that you’ll use in marketing campaigns
- A style guide that outlines logo use and tone of voice
While building those brand assets, it also helps to keep the 3 Cs of branding in mind:
- Clarity – It is your job – never the customers – to figure out the message your company is sending. If they have to work to interpret what you’ve created, there is not enough clarity.
- Consistency – The message that you’re sending has to have the same voice as the website, which also needs the same tone you take on Twitter, on Instagram, on Facebook, and every other platform. Consistency shows confidence and discipline. It also makes you much easier to find and distinguish.
- Commitment – Commitment in that having viral marketing campaigns take time to pull off. So often people lose commitment after one attempt that didn’t turn out as expected.
What can also help with this too is the 3 Cs of marketing too – create, capture, and convert.
Have A Brand Story
Another thing to reinforce brand identity is having a brand story. This isn’t always your origin story, but you can have components of why the business started in the first place.
The goal of this story is to answer the following questions:
- What does your brand believe in?
- What pain points does your product or service relieves customers from?
- How does your business solve this?
- Why did you decide that your business should solve this problem?
- Where do you see your business going?
Keep in mind that this story extends beyond a typical elevator pitch. It’s also about how your brand relates to people and why it even exists in the first place.
Iterate And Refine
Even if you’re confident with how your brand is like at this point, its identity can still change over time. And that’s okay. Once you’ve got something created, you then want to analyze it and refine it based on how people are reacting.
Similar to marketing, you want to be trying out new strategies and tactics to see what’s the best strategy to use. Try A/B tests for different taglines on the homepage to see what resonates with audiences more for example.
Keep doing this on occasion until you’ve got an idea of where your brand fits.
Branding Tips To Keep In Mind
While those are the basics of branding, there is a lot of things that you can be doing to stand out in the crowd. Branding is all about making your brand act like the person that stands out in the crowd and has a lot of friends around them.
These types of individuals have memorable personalities, makes others feel good to be around and emotionally engaging. Their popularity only continues to grow because people want to be around them.
Getting your brand to that point seems tough, but these tips can help in bringing your brand to that level easier.
We are all creatures of habit and are comfortable with things we feel familiar with and recognize. Convincing us to change our ways can often be difficult, but we have that same expectation with branding.
For example, Gap’s rebranding attempt around 2010 forced the company to stick to their original branding. Their original brand had been around for 20 years and when the company was looking to change it, many customers got angry with it.
The point is that if things are fine and customers are happy overall, there isn’t much point in changing a brand. The only time it has been fitting for brands to make some shifts has been revolving around the pandemic. For example KFC blurring out Finger Licking and leaving just the “Good” in their tagline was fitting.
Point is, aiming for modern doesn’t always pay off.
Update And Monitor Social Presence
Naturally the brand identity will only get stronger when it’s in front of people. This means being on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others. If you understand the demographics on those platforms, you can focus on where your ideal customers dwell and post there.
And of course, make the brand consistent across every platform that you’re on.
Have Customers And Influencers Work With You
A strong brand is one that’s talked about. Having fans help with the brand can yield faster and larger results. There are tonnes of methods to encourage customers to make user generated content.
From contests to getting people to write reviews, having people sharing that content around can add credibility and piques the interest of multiple audiences.
Deliver Useful Content
From a business perspective – consumers and businesses are mainly online to look for information they need to make decisions about services or products that solve their problems.
This process takes place well before brands are even picked which is helpful. It allows for any brand to provide the information that the person needs. This can also provide brand recognition too. As such, you want to be strategic about the content that you publish and ensure that it can be applied to their life in some way shape or form.
Remember Everyday Interaction
The brand you’re building is a sum of every single interaction the company has made. What this means is you want to be paying attention to all the details and things that seem so small but can make a big difference.
Things like response time, ability to answer questions fast, provide convenient checkout, a good UX design, simple payment systems and more go a long way.
Define Your Values
A strong brand is something that stands behind something. With every passing day we see brands having more personality as they stand behind certain hot topics such as people’s rights, views of the environment, and business practices.
What these brands are for and against speaks volumes about their brand and the values too. Be sure to have these clearly outlined.
Competition is no longer just the store across the street. There are more and more businesses emerging every day and thanks to many being online the competition is larger than ever.
In order for small businesses to be standing out, a brand identity is crucial. It’s often a time-consuming and expensive endeavour, however it is absolutely worth it. People can argue against branding identities because they have to compete with large businesses but that’s all the more reason to have a brand identity.
Deliver amazing experiences and show them that you care through a brand that customers can connect with and they will love you back.
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