Branding Basics – Tips for Small Businesses

Branding Basics – Tips for Small Businesses

Your brand is the way your business or product is perceived in the eyes of the public. It tells potential customers what to expect of your products, and therefore, is one of the most important aspects of running a business. A good brand strategy will differentiate your products from your competitors and give you an edge.

Your brand extends beyond just your logo. It is a reflection of your core values and every interaction you have with customers and suppliers. Basically, your brand is your reputation so tells customers what to expect from you.

Here we outline the basics in how to create and maintain a brand.

Creating a brand identity

You need to give your business a voice and develop a “branded” tone of voice. Think about your strengths and how you are going to use that accordingly to the brand, so as to communicate with your targeted customers. How do you want to position yourself in the marketplace, do you want to be:

  • The best quality?
  • The best value for money?
  • Be known for great customer service?
  • Be innovative?

Working out your strengths will enable you to establish your brand values.

To find out how your business is currently perceived, market research needs to be carried out. You can talk to your customers about it, find out why they purchased from you, what encouraged them to do it. Ask them what they are looking for in products like yours. Understanding how you are currently seen, and what your customer wants will help you to build your brand values. If the two are aligned you know you’re on the right track. If they are not, you need to consider the way in which you are marketing yourself and how to reach your target market.

Communicate your brand values to your employees to ensure you are all sending out the same message. Make sure they understand your core values and how you want to be seen to operate.

Building your brand name

Once you have defined your brand you need to communicate to it consistently. Focus on what your customers want and how you can fulfil it. Your brand should be reflected in all your actions and communications. Consider the following:

  • Logo – source one that truly reflects your business and brand values, and put it everywhere.
  • Create a document outlining your brand messaging and circulate it to employees, make sure they adhere to the guidelines.
  • Create a “tone of voice” for your brand which will govern how you communicate – formal or friendly and approachable, depending on how you want to be perceived. Use this voice in all your communication.
  • Develop a tagline – something memorable that summarises what your brand is about. Use this in all your marketing communications.
  • Integrate your brand – your brand values should be applied to every aspect of your business – your website, email signature, how you answer the phone, what your salespeople say etc.
  • Create templates and branding guidelines for all forms of marketing materials – ensure your logo is always in the same place, have a colour scheme, always use the same font, make sure there is consistency.
  • Make sure you always stick to your brand values – customers won’t return if you don’t live up to your promises.

Above all make sure you are consistent. You may present a polished, professional image in your marketing communications and website, but for instance, if an employee is rude or act unprofessional towards a customer, your whole brand image will be ruined.

Small business owner Alan Jenkins of Quadrant2Design confirmed this “It took a while to build up our brand, but by consistently delivering what the customer wants we were able to build up a good brand reputation for quality and consistency. It’s not just about the logo, it’s the whole company ethos”.

Maintaining your brand

There should ideally be one individual responsible for maintaining your branding guidelines, if not you then appoint someone else to do it. All employees should be on board or in training with the branding guidelines so that they present a unified approach. They should all sign up to and believe in the brand. Get regular feedback from them as to how things could be improved so that they feel involved.

Seek feedback from customers – have you lived up to their expectations of your brand? If not you will know that there needs to be improvements. Feedback from former or dissatisfied customers can be beneficial to you to know where you went wrong. Even well-established brands have to work on staying relevant to their customers.

Reviewing your brand

Conduct regular reviews to ensure your business remains true to your brand. Remember that your brand is the whole customer experience. If there are any issues don’t be tempted to just change your logo in an attempt to ‘rebrand’. This is expensive and won’t fix any underlying issues that have caused the problem, for instance, problems with customer service.

Instead, find out what the issues are and fix those. Get feedback from customers, past and present and work out the problem.

Opportunities for growth

Upon reviewing your brand opportunities for growth, it may present themselves. However, be careful to not dilute your brand by diversifying into a new area. Customers will associate your brand with a particular product, so adding new products may work, if they are related. Nevertheless, it may also cause confusion. Sometimes, it’s better to launch a new product under a different brand.

Conclusion

Branding is vital to set your business apart from your competitors and build customer loyalty. Customers become emotionally attached to a successful brand and are much more likely to stay loyal to it. Your brand must reflect your core values and you must stay true to them to obtain customer loyalty. Authenticity and consistency are important when it comes to creating and maintaining a brand. Getting regular feedback from customers will help you to stay on track.