How to create a successful brand for your small business or ecommerce start-up

branding for small businessesMany 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.

brand loyalty

 

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.

excellent customer service1. 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
  • Webinars
  • Infographics
  • 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.

Use Social media to build brand awareness4. 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.

brand consistencyApparently 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.

 

 

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Building an online brand: 5 tips for start-ups

online branding, brand imageWhat is a  brand?

The concept of branding has been around for thousands of years, originating around 2000 BC when the ancient Egyptians branded their livestock. We are all very familiar with some of the world’s most powerful and recognisable brands such as Coke, Hoover, Disney, Apple, Kellogg’s, Microsoft and MacDonald’s – to name just a few.  When we think of them we will have a pretty specific idea of what those brands represent and what feelings they evoke. A formal definition of a brand can be summarised as:

“The set of physical attributes of a product or service, together with the beliefs and expectations surrounding it – a unique combination which the name or logo of the product or service should evoke in the mind of the audience.” Chartered Institute of Marketing

Your brand is essentially how your customer perceives your business.  Your brand is not just your business logo rather, a number of attributes that mesh together and elicit an emotional response from your customers towards your business and its products and services.

Why establishing your brand is so important

Creating a brand identity is important for your business therefore, it shouldn’t fall to the bottom of your list of priorities to be   dealt with in a few years time when your business is more established. Small online businesses and start-ups need to begin to develop their brand from day one since, branding can help:

  • Increase your sales
  • Set you apart from your competitors
  • Establish trust in your products and services
  • Build on-going, loyal relationships with your customers

 

6  Simple tips to help build your online brand

When you are beginning to build up your business online, there are a number of ways to help you start building your brand presence. These tips don’t just help your brand, they also make good business sense as they reflect sound online business practices.

1. Improve your customer’s online experience

onlime customer experienceBranding is all about customer experience. When a customer visits your website what experience will  he or she get – positive or negative? First impressions are extremely important so try to think about your customer’s online journey – from start to finish.

For example when a customer lands on your website is it professional looking? Have you paid attention to detail making ensure there are no spelling mistakes, broken links or out-of-date news?  Can your customer navigate around your site easily to find what they are looking for? If you customer needs advice or help will they receive good customer service and a quick response? Is your online shopping cart and checkout secure, efficient and easy to use?

Customers who have a good experience more likely to leave with a positive image of your business and therefore far more likely to come back than a customer whose experience has been poor.

trustmarks, online trust marks2. Conveying and building customer trust

A fundamental part of branding is customer trust. Right from the very start you need to be looking at ways to establish your online business as trustworthy. A long-established, credible brand is able to convey trust to its customers simply through the power of its brand image. Unfortunately however small businesses and start-ups don’t have that luxury so you will need to work harder to establish trust and make customers feel secure on your site.

Use trust signposts to help make a customer feel secure. This can help a customer feel comfortable parting with money or personal data and give them confidence in the quality of  your product or service. Examples of trust signposts could be:

  • Trustmarks  and security logos
  • Customer testimonials
  • Awards
  • Product reviews
  • Visable returns policy
  • Easy to find contact details and registered address
  • Links to official organisations and associations

 

brand personality, competitor advantage3. Give your business a personality

Having a brand personality can help set you apart from you competitors giving you a competitive advantage. People want to deal with people and so giving your business a personality is a great way of building your brand identity.  Businesses that have a human element are more likely to be able to build an emotional connection with their customers and consequently generate loyalty with strengthened customer relationships.

Use your social media to give your business a human face. This is where social media comes into its own, it gives you the chance to interact directly with your customers and build a two-way dialogue. Blogging and email are also great tools to use to help get your business personality across to customers.

online customer engagement4. Content is central to customer engagement

You want your customers to love your website and all it has to offer. Content is integral to successful customer engagement, which is in turn is central to building your brand. Quality content will engage your customer, bring them back for further visits, reinforce your brand as professional, informative and authoritative and help with your SEO which increases your brand awareness and recognition.

So think about ways to keep your online content fresh and informative to help engage customers. For example this could be through implementing things like new feature and product updates, informative articles, video tutorials, weekly newsletters, blogs, social media competitions and press releases.

brand recognition5. Build brand recognition through consistency

When you are starting out building up your online business, it is important to implement some consistency across certain areas so as to reinforce brand recognition.

Did you know that it takes at minimum 6-7 brand touches before someone will remember your brand?…Consistency is key when it comes to social branding. Consistency doesn’t have to equal boring. It simply means you have a consistent representation of who you are, what you do and how you portray it to the world.” Social Media Today

For example starting at a basic level, keep your logo consistent and use it on everything associated with your brand. Make sure it is present and consistent from your letterheads to your social media pages. Try to also use a consistent colour theme. For example Cadbury’s purple is so synonymous with the brand that you almost don’t need to see the word Cadbury to recognise it. So keep the colours on your website, social media, blog, email newsletter, flyers, banner advertisements and so on as consistent as possible to increase recognition of your brand.

You all so need to be consistent when it comes the message you are conveying to your audience. Of course your tone and approach will change depending on your audience and communication channel, however your underlying brand message and brand values should remain consistent – you shouldn’t be sending out mixed messages about your business.

By starting to think about your brand at the very beginning and implementing some of these simple tips, hopefully it won’t be long before you create a solid, recognisable business brand  to your customers – increasing sales and growing loyalty.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic, so do please leave a comment.

  • Coca-Cola image courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  • Unique sphere image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  • Branding Written on chalkboard image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG /FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  • Trust image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  • Heart Apple Image courtesy of Claire Bloomfield at FreeDigitalPhotos.net