Talk to any small business expert – branding is a huge part of any business. Establishing the proper brand can make or break your business.
What is a brand? Off the top of your head, it might be your logo, your signage, or the other physical items you’ll need to market and sell your product or service. Branding is so much more than that! Consider it a promise made to your customers that can let them know what they can expect from your small business and what makes you stand out from the rest. Your logo, marketing materials, website, and more should work to support this.
Consider some of the largest brands in the world. How do you think they got successful? While accidents can and do happen, deliberate and planned brand strategies are primarily responsible for making businesses successful. For small business, brand strategies pose larger challenges. There is no plug-in formula that makes sure a business is successful.
Branding is art, it’s trial and error, and it’s crafting something new and different. When a company has a lot of money and an established fan base, branding looks one way. For a small business with limited resources and a small staff, branding looks a lot different.
First, Let’s Break Down Branding
Let’s keep it quick! What is branding? This information is everywhere. A brand may be associated with your logo, the product or service that you’re offering, your website, your business name, or your packaging, but a brand is so, so much more than that. What you are is the essence of your brand. When a brand is done absolutely correctly, it transcends the design of your logo, website, or ads.
For small businesses, there are some additional challenges to branding that established brands don’t yet have to change. When you have an idea you’re excited to get off of the ground, the nuances of branding are not as essential as creating a product and crafting your customer base. The longer that anyone goes without defining their brand, the more difficult it becomes. If you’re unsure of what it is that makes your business different and how you stand out from the competition, then how can you define it for the future?
So What Do Small Businesses Have to Overcome?
Bigger brands got to where they are for a reason – they’ve tapped into a needed market, made a name for themselves, and crafted a brand that sticks. Small businesses with limited resources have to work a little harder to reach a point where brand establishment and recognition is second nature.
Correctly Defining Your Brand’s Purpose and What Makes It Different
The purpose of your brand is best described as what you do on a day to day basis that makes you different. A strong brand purpose is able to help a business owner make decisions to support that purpose and improve the satisfaction of interactions between the business and customers.
When you’re small and starting out, you’re likely to be more interested in getting things up and running, not deeply considering exactly what makes your brand different than others. However, for a moment, take the time to consider this and how it can propel your brand forward. Establishing this early and using this as your driving factor can make a world of difference when it comes to everything from your logo, other designs, and driving your business forward. Especially as a small business, what are you bringing to the table to keep people choosing you over and over?
Keeping All Brands Consistent
Brand consistency refers to a lot more than simply using your logo and brand colors on marketing materials; brand consistency is ensuring that your marketing message, logo, design, brand difference, and more is conveyed through every single aspect of your business.
When you ask someone, “What does my company stand for?”, they should have an answer since it resonates through everything. Consistency is key! It establishes credibility and recognition. Letting your branding slip begins a slope of confusion.
Crafting a Brand Voice and Personality
Your brand voice and personality will be on social posts, marketing materials, email newsletters, and more! A distinctive voice with an established personality is relatable and keeps a customer coming back for more. When a voice is all over the place or bland and disestablished, it’s not memorable.
It goes back to the above point about keeping branding consistent – your brand voice should work with your other goals to create a comprehensive strategy. It all goes hand-in-hand! Your brand voice is literally what communicates your values. If it’s not aligned with your brand, it’ll be mixed messaging that does not establish customer confidence.
Issues with Creativity
Creativity comes in different forms, with creative problem solving and creative design solutions being some of the ones a small business will encounter most. But feeling blocked, whether mentally or financially, in either of these is something that large brands can pay an expert to help take care of. When this isn’t in the budget, what can you do?
For starters, there are so many great online tools that can help you out for free or low cost, which keep your social posts, logo, and more looking fresh. For creative problem solving solutions, brainstorming with other small business owners can help. While this can be an issue, it’s not something to ruin your small business but can be a challenge to overcome.
Lack of Competitive Analysis
A competitive analysis is not only something you should perform very early in your branding journey but something to go ahead and revisit every once in awhile. These analyses will keep you on top of what your competitors are doing and help you establish your differences, focus your marketing plans, and hone your product or service.
You’ll see what you need to do better and what you excel at – but without it, how can you be sure that you’re properly establishing your brand? You’ll know who your competition is, the threat posed to your business, and even what they’re doing that you can learn from. This can serve as a guideline to assist with your branding.
Fear of Rebranding
Large companies across the world had to start somewhere. It’s not very likely that they did a great branding or product job, but eventually understood the value. Consider a company like Apple. Currently, they are a global phenomenon with people waiting in line to purchase their newest products and watch their large press conferences when the idea for a new product is launched. This isn’t by accident – it has to do with reconsidering their brand and rebranding as needed.
Rebranding has worked for countless other companies as well! This is not the only way that a small business will be able to fight back against bad branding, but it is one great option.
How Can a Small Business Fight Back Against Bad Branding?
The lesson to be learned here is that a brand is not a quickly-developed combination of logos, words, colors, fonts, and more. It takes time, work, and money to establish the type of brand that is meant to last. The factor that makes a small business different is the one that will stick – by exploring the differences and using them to your advantage.
By connecting with what it is that makes your business different and how this can make an impact to your customers, you’re establishing yourself. Even if the difference is the little things, these are what will turn your business into a stand-out brand.
A small business may have limited resources, but considering how your brand can play out in the long run earlier will pay off. Combating some of the biggest issues for small businesses is a key way to stand out and stay ahead.
About the Author
Lindsey Wiltse is Organic Lead for Tailor Brands, a company that makes branding affordable, by allowing a computer to “think” like a graphic designer.