When you’re setting up your small business, one of the first things you will need to consider is your brand. Your identity as a business will play a big part in what type of customers you attract – even how many you attract. Your brand should influence your logo, your tone of voice and the design of your website so it’s important to get clear on what you want it to be as soon as possible.
What is branding?
So what is branding? The most obvious answer, and the one that most people tend to think of first, is your logo, perhaps brand colours and for those with an eye for detail, brand fonts and maybe even words. When asked to think of companies with a strong brand, each of their logos is recognised globally.
But why is that? Are the logos particularly inspiring and memorable? In fact, they’re all pretty simplistic, so what is it that makes these brands stand out? In fact, it isn’t the colours, design or logo (although these play a supporting part). It’s how that company makes their customers feel.
So what is branding? Your brand is your business identity and should be built around what you want your potential customers to think of and feel when they hear your business name. Your logo and colours are visual representations of that but your brand itself needs to go deeper than just design.
Is branding important for a small business?
As a small business owner, it can be tempting to look at the corporate giants we discussed above and wander if the same strategies can work for you? Is a strong brand really as important to a local florist or hairdresser as it is to an international conglomerate?
In a word – yes! Your brand is what makes you stand out from the crowd – or more importantly, from your competitors. It’s what will attract your ideal customers to YOU instead of someone else and it’s what will make them remember you and recognise you as a business in the future.
Your brand is your promise to your customers on what they can expect from you. It may be friendliness, professionalism, innovation or attention to detail. Whatever you feel is important for your customers to know and remember about you and your business should come through strongly in your brand.
Small business branding tips
Hopefully we’ve convinced you that your small business needs a strong brand. If you’re not sure where to start then here are a few simple steps that you can take to help you decide upon and then build a brand for your business that you can feel proud of.
1. Think of your brand as a person
People connect best with other people – not with faceless businesses so when you’re creating your brand it can be helpful to think in terms of what type of person your business would be. Often, for small businesses, it will make sense to create your brand based on yourself – what are your key characteristics, beliefs, etc.?
2. Create brand characteristics
One simple way to help bring your brand to life is to decide on up to three characteristics that you feel represent you and your business and that would be important to your customers. It can be a useful exercise to ask friends and family to name some as often they will have a different perspective and might come up with some that would surprise you. You may end up with characteristics such as happy, passionate, inspiring, quirky, etc. Choose those which feel right for you and your business.
Once you have decided on which characteristics are the best fit, then you can base everything else around them so this is a great place to start!
3. Decide what your business stands for
Once you’ve decided on what characteristics your business will have, think about its values. What do you want to be known for? It might be low prices, high quality, reliability, always doing above and beyond or perhaps protecting the environment. Whatever beliefs you decide are important for your business, these should shine through for all to see.
4. Look and feel
Finally, the logo! Now that you understand what your business stands for and what key characteristics it has, the design process will be much easier. You can choose colours, fonts and images that represent your business. Do you want customers to feel motivated and happy when they think of your business? Then perhaps yellows and greens would work. Or perhaps you want to come across as honest and professional? Then blues might be the way to go… Try researching different colour palettes and see what best fits your business characteristics and values.
If you’re using a designer to create your logo and style guide then their job will be much easier if you can give them a clear idea of how you want them to represent your business.
5. Tone of voice
When you’re creating content for your business then remember to be consistent. It’s more important than ever here to think of your business as a person and to always write in that person’s tone of voice. Customers will respond to consistency and familiarity. If your content sounds completely different each time, then you will cause uneasiness and confusion in your audience.
Again, your brand characteristics should shine through in the language and tone of voice that you use.
6. Ask your customers if it works
The best way to know if you’ve created a strong brand is to ask your customers. If you’ve been through the exercises above and you have a clear idea of what characteristics and values you want to portray and how that should be represented visually, then the next step is to ask people if that’s how they feel when they think of and see your business.
When they look at your website, your social media pages, your shop front or even talk to you and your staff, are these the values and characteristics that shine through? If not, then find out why and use this valuable insight to improve.