Well-established companies have always built themselves a brand, but in the social media age, the term was starting to get used for athletes, rock stars, movie stars, startups, investors, moguls, and any expert in any field. Outside of their specialty, talent, or expertise, a lot of them focused on building their brand and branding themselves a certain way. Whether you are a small barbecue joint, hair salon, or brewery, you are going to want to do the same thing and focus on building a brand for your small business from the very beginning. This post will briefly discuss the basics of how to brand a small business.
The origins of branding
With the term “branding” being thrown around so much, many people have probably forgotten its original meaning. Its origins date back 4,000 years ago to the Indus Valley in Asia. During this time farmers branded (actually burned) their livestock to indicate which ones they owned. Over the years, branding slowly evolved into artists signing their names on their work to consumer goods’ manufacturers branding (adding a logo) their products. During the twentieth century and with the invention of the radio, TV, and mass media, branding became more strategic and focused on putting a face to the brand.
To learn an in-depth history of branding check out Taylor Holland’s post on www.skyword.com.
How to define your small business’s brand
Unlike its gradually developing history, since the beginning of this century (due mostly to the internet) branding has quickly taken on definitions that encompass all facets of marketing. But to make things simple – your brand is the feeling/ perception/ general impression that is invoked inside someone when they hear your name, see your logo, or come in contact with your company. If it’s a good or great feeling, this someone is probably a loyal customer.
Branding your small business is going to take some work, but here is where you can start.
1. Create your solution to your customers’ problems. Once you have your product or service, then you will need to do the necessary research on your customers and competitors. This research and data will be the basis for constructing your brand.
2. Define what your brand stands for. Define the values for your brand, then create your mission statement. Doing the necessary research in step one will give you the ability to be creative in this step and express what you want your brand to stand for. If you can see far ahead enough in your business and you have an ultimate goal, you can also include a vision statement for what you want to accomplish as a brand.
3. Unique Selling Proposition. What is it that you want your brand to be known for that is different than your competitors? What are your customers looking for that your competitors are not giving them? Examples can be extraordinary customer service, tiered pricing model, subscription-based service, delivery options, etc.
Click here to learn How to Create a Unique Selling Proposition.
Outside of the feeling that a person gets and remembers from interacting with your brand. Your logo is the next branding component that comes to their minds. The Golden Arches of McDonald’s, Starbucks siren, Apple’s bitten apple, and Target’s red and white target are great, iconic examples of this. When you think about these logos, they are all pretty simple logos that are easy to remember. So when you are creating your logo, keep it simple with minimal colors and take time to create it.
Branding style guidelines
With the help of a designer or design agency, you can construct your logo while also laying out the branding style guidelines for your brand. A lot of small businesses will create the logo then move on without taking the extra step to establish the fonts, colors, imagery and photography, and typography that stem from their logo. With a branding style guide, your internal team and any external teams you work with will now know how to present your brand.
Click below to see a few examples of brand logos and their branding style guides.
Spread the word
You’ve done the work and created a brand. Now it’s time to go out and tell the world! So how are you going to do it? Sometimes word of mouth, your website, and social media alone aren’t going to cut it. Try the following ways below to start spreading the word.
Advertising – There are more ways to advertise your business and get in front of people than ever before. What does this mean? It means that just because there are a lot of advertising platforms, doesn’t mean they are all going to work for your brand. You know who your customer is, but do you know what social media channel they hang out on? Before you do any advertising, find out where your avatar is hanging out and consuming information. Once you know where they are, thoroughly research the platform (Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google, Email, Amazon). A lot of small businesses make the mistake of advertising without doing the appropriate research on the advertising platform itself and end up wasting a lot of money doing ads the wrong way. If you don’t want to do the research, pay a skilled expert to do the ads for your business. This way, at least you will know they are getting your brand out there the proper way and to the right people.
In person – If you’re the owner of a business, you are the brand also. Get out and meet people locally. Go to meet-ups or even start your own meet-up to meet people. Provide people with information and educate them about the industry you’re in. Help others and position yourself as an expert in your industry. Attend workshops and events at S.C.O.R.E. or your local Chamber of Commerce. Present your brand as a solution to these people’s problems.
Content – Creating content is essential for building a brand. Much like going out in person to meet people to solve their problems, creating content is doing the same thing online. You need to post information that educates and solves your customers’ problems. If you do the right type of research for advertising, you will find out what type of content your customers’ enjoy consuming (video, blog posts, podcasts, etc.). But creating content is easier said than done, especially in the beginning stages of starting a business. So how do you stay on top of your content output and strategy?
1. You can pay someone to do it. Upwork.com, Fiverr.com, and other freelance sites are places where you can find a content writer to write for you in your brand voice.
2. Depending on your industry, you can share trusted content from other experts that fall in line with your brand’s values. By sharing this content, you can engage them and start a conversation that will provide more insight into them and their problems.
If blasting messages through social media isn’t getting you the results you thought it would you may want to try the previous suggestions to provide value and spread the word about your small business brand.
Shiny object syndrome is a real thing for entrepreneurs and business owners. Social media bombards us with new trends in marketing and selling products. Facebook and Instagram feeds are full of them, and after every other video on YouTube, there is another ad telling you how much money you are missing out on if don’t sign up for this new webinar.
So it’s tough to stay consistent!
But once you have established your brand, you need to be consistent by following your mission and values and sticking with your unique selling proposition. Your brand’s mission and values should direct you when you make business and marketing decisions. Of course things will change (and you may need to pivot) but in the beginning, stay consistent for your customers as well as your employees. Confusing people about what your brand stands for is the worst thing you can do in the beginning stages of your business.
Trends will come and go but real consistent brands are here to stay.
How to brand a small business
Branding may seem like a lot of work, (and initially it is) but it sets up a guide for you as a small business owner to follow. Everything your brand does will follow your mission, unique selling proposition, and branding style guidelines. And stay consistent, especially when dealing with customers or clients.
What strategies do you use to brand your small business?