Many small businesses have been up and running a good while before their thoughts turn to brand building. Even then branding ends up slipping to the bottom of the to-do list. Of course, with the 101 things small business owners are faced with on an every day basis this is understandable. Yet it is important not to underestimate the importance of good branding.
In order to be successful long-term, branding needs to be at the heart of your business. Working on creating a proper brand presence early on can pay dividends in the long run. Why? Because the impression you make as a business as critical to your long-term success and this is tied intrinsically into branding.
What is a brand?
“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. Jeff Bezos, Founder Amazon
Your brand is essentially the set of ideas your business stands for in people’s minds. Recognisable visually such as through a logo, your brand is also shaped by your actions as a business. A successful brand will help differentiate you from your competitors, build loyalty, increase traffic, create brand advocates and help connect people emotionally to your business.
For example I have being buying Converse All Star for well over 20 years. Not solely because of the trainers themselves but because over years I have connected emotionally to the brand through a sense of belonging becoming a loyal returning customer in the process.
Defining your brand
Branding itself is a massive area indeed, large companies have dedicated people such as brand managers and brand directors working on their brand full-time. As a small business owners we obviously don’t have that luxury, yet with a bit of time and effort we are quite capable of building a successful brand for our business ourselves. Before you embark on building your brand presence you need first to spend some time thinking about the fundamentals of your brand. Considering the following questions will help you get you off to a solid start.
- What is your purpose as a business?
- What are your businesses core values?
- Who is your target audience and what are their needs?
- What do your customers think when they think of your business?
- What differentiates your business from that of your competitors?
- And most importantly, what is it you want your customers to think when your business comes to mind.
7 essential tips small business can use to build their brand
The great news is you don’t need a huge budget in place to build your brand. You will however need to invest some time and thought into establishing a solid brand presence.
1. Offer a positive customer experience.
72% of consumers say customer service is central to brand loyalty.
I mentioned earlier that branding is closely associated with the impression you make as a business. Central to this is offering your customers an all round positive experience from start to finish. Ensuring that your customers experience a seamless journey – from navigating your website, browsing products, using your shopping cart, making a payment, shipping and delivery to exemplary customer service – is essential if your want to building a positive impression and healthy reputation.
2. Use content to build your brand
Authentic, relevant, quality content is integral to building your brand. Content that reflects your brand identity and is relevant to the needs of your customers will build brand engagement, brand loyalty and brand trust.
80% of consumers say that the authenticity of content is the most influential factor in their decision to become a follower of a brand.
Focus on providing a variety of engaging, value added, visual and non-visual content for your customers. For example;
- Blog posts
- New articles
- How to Guides
- Online Tutorials
- Competitions and Quizzes.
3. Create a brand personality
People prefer to do business with other people. For small business owners your brand personality is likely to be you – it is what you do on behalf of your business. Think about the tone you use when you write, how you interact on with people on the phone, what things you post on social media and what visual images you use. Remember what you are submitting is a reflection of your business and your brand values.
Try using your ‘About Us’ page to give customers a feel for the people behind the business. ‘Meet the team’ or ‘behind the scenes’ can give a face to your business and help people build an emotional connection to your brand. Take a look a Stella and Dot or Riverford’s About Us videos.
4. Use Social Media
71% of people say they are more likely to make a purchase from a brand they follow on social media.
Social media is a great platform to build awareness of your brand. Firstly consider not only the platforms your target market are likely to be using but also which platforms best support your brand image. For example Facebook is probably a safe starting point for most businesses as it is has huge and diverse audience, if you are heavily imaged based then look at Pinterest and Instagram and if you are B2B then you probably want to be on LinkedIn. The point is to give it some thought before you leap in.
The content you post should reflect your brand image and support your brand values. The more valuable it is to your customers the higher the likelihood is that it will be shared.
5. Brand trust
A successful business with a loyal customer base will have worked hard over time to establish brand trust – think John Lewis, FedEx, Apple and Amazon. As a small business and start-up the best way to start developing brand trust is, as we mentioned earlier in the article, through providing a consistently positive customer experience.
When you are starting out it is also a good idea to include various trust signposts that will signal to new customers that your business is trustworthy. For example:
- Security logos and Trustmarks
- Customer testimonials
- Awards or accolades
- Customer reviews
- Transparent information on delivery and returns
- Exemplary customer service
- Easy to find contact details and registered address
- Links to official organisations and associations
6. Visual identity
Building a recognisable visual identity is essential to establishing a brand. Firstly create a great logo and use it everywhere. Think also about your visually branding in terms of fonts, colours, style and feel. This should be applied to all your marketing materials both online and offline. If you keep these things consistent you will start to establish visual brand recognition. It is a good idea to create a set of visual brand guidelines and standards – such as how your logo can be used, what font should be used and the Pantone reference for your brand colours.
7. Be consistent.
Apparently it takes between 5-7 brand impressions before someone remembers your brand. Therefore staying consistent is absolutely essential if you want to establish your brand in the mind of customers. Consistency will reinforce your brand identity making your brand recognisable and differentiating you from your competitors. Mixed messages and inconsistent branding will only leave customers confused about your business with no reason to invest in what you have to offer.
We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences on building a brand for your small business, so please do leave a comment.