Branding Your Small Business
“Branding”, is the mega-popular business buzzword that’s unfortunately tripping people up before they even begin. Most people assume branding is for big corporate giants with cash to throw around but the reality is every company, no matter how small should know what their brand means and be able to articulate that meaning concisely. We would even argue that branding for a small business is even more important to cut through the noise and stand out in today’s competitive marketplace.
Branding doesn’t have to be difficult per se but it will require you to think critically about your business, a lot. You need to be 100% clear on who you are and how you want to be perceived by others. As a small business owner, oftentimes you are too busy running around doing everything but taking the time to focus on your brand, and that’s fine, if you’re the only one selling a particular product or service. Are you? We didn’t think so; looks like you need to carve out some time for your brand after all.
What is branding?
Business Branding is the marketing practice of creating a name and logo design that identifies and differentiates a product or company from another product or company.We know it sounds a little dry, but in reality branding is so much more than a name and a logo. It encompasses everything that your business is, what it stands for, what it means to you and your employees, and what you want it to mean to your customers. It influences everything from your logo colours, to the way you speak to your customers; your brand is the lens through which the world perceives your small business. A great example of successful business branding is with the company “Kleenex”. The actual term for the product Kleenex products is “facial tissue” or “tissues”. However, many people still refer to a tissue as a “Kleenex”, even if they’re referring to another brand.
Why branding is important
First and foremost, it promotes recognition. According to Forbes, we engage with brands on three levels: rational, emotional, and instinctual. A consistent, easy to recognize brand promotes familiarity. Your brand is your promise to your customers, it tells them what kind of business you are and what they can expect from you, and it helps them to connect with your business. Studies show that shopping is an emotional experience and that consumers will actually feel good buying from a brand that they have connected with in the past.
1. A killer brand sets you apart from your competitors. Be authentic; mimicking a popular competitor’s brand is a big no-no. Can any business; big or small really afford to not stand out in today’s ultra competitive marketplace? Hint: the answer is no.
2. A great brand is memorable and generates referrals. Word of mouth is alive and well, and thanks to social media it’s also on steroids. If people can’t remember your small business by its branding, then they can’t recommend it to their community of friends and family.
3. From an operations standpoint, your brand acts as a guide for your employees on how to approach their jobs and achieve success, whether it’s customer service, accounting, or marketing. A good brand helps to clarify, maintain focus, and prevents straying from any outlined goals and plans.
4. Lastly, a great brand adds value to your small business and builds loyalty. The best kind of branding is built on a clear idea that your customers and employees can easily digest and buy into.
Feeling inspired? Good, because it’s time to roll up those sleeves and get started.
This step can be a non-start for many business owners, they can rattle on about what their business means but they lack the ability to distil that sentiment down into the concentrated dose that can be easily communicated to others – this is key. It may sounds simple enough but it’s quite possibly the hardest part in the whole process because it requires you to cut out all the fluff. You have to really dig in and take the time to determine what your small business brand means to you and how you want it to be perceived by others.
Get a blank piece of paper and divide it into 2 columns. At the top of each column write something along the lines of “IS” and “IS NOT” and get started jotting things down. Note all the characteristics that describe your business as well as the one’s that don’t, sometimes it’s easier to articulate the things you don’t want to be identified with and work backwards from there.
Here’s a few questions to get you started:
● Who are your competitors? How are you different from them?
● What do you think your core strengths are?
● Who are your customers? Who are your potential customers?
● How do your products or services meet the market’s demands?
● What is your USP (unique selling point)?
● If you could only choose 3 words to describe your brand, what would they be?
It’s really important that you take the time and do this right because it lays the foundation for all of the branding for your small business. In essence, it’s the heart of your brand.
Don’t get trapped by your own ego: everyone thinks they have the best product, everyone thinks they’ve hired the best team, but what makes you DIFFERENT? Why is your thing better than your competitors thing? Figure out what that is and use it to your advantage.
You’ve clearly defined your brand, you’ve determined how your brand differs from all others, now please be so kind as to step out of your own way. You’ve hired an amazing team and provided them with the tools to continue the work you’ve started with your brand. Trust them, let them do the job you hired them to do, and focus instead on the bigger picture, your organization as a whole.
During the whole brand creation process, this is really the only step that’s going to require some budget, and we would like to remind you, that as with most things – you get what you pay for. We are not necessarily saying that you need to hire the biggest, most expensive design agency on the block but you should commit to investing some of your budget into the conception of your brand image. Look into agencies, big and small and remember there are some talented freelancers out there! Evaluate them on creative fit as well as price. Once you find someone that fits with your vision, discuss pricing and see what you can afford. Maybe you’ll find that you can shuffle some things in your budget so you can really get what you want out of the design phase.
No room in your budget? As branding is such an important part of your business, you may want to consider obtaining funding to cover your small business branding activities with a small Merchant Cash Advance, because let’s face it when it comes to your brand’s image, first impressions are everything and taking advantage of a short term loan can give you the boost you need to get your marketing off the ground.
Finally, get some distance. As a small business owner, you most likely spend most of your time working at, or working on your business. Building your brand from scratch requires that you spend a large chunk of that time brainstorming & planning, hashing out every minute detail from a multitude of angles, it’s enough to make anyone’s head hurt. Sometimes, it helps to just step back and take in the big picture. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details so take a beat and remind yourself why you’re doing this in the first place. While you’re at it, get some outside feedback from friends & family. It’s always good to get some outside opinions to validate your brand’s progress or gain an entirely new perspective.
You have a lot of work to do so we suggest you get cracking. Nobody said it was going be easy, great brands don’t just create themselves after all but we promise that it will be worth every ounce of what you put in.
Need some inspiration? Check out these top rated Canadian small business brands.