Small Business Brand Strategy: What it is and Why You Need It
Many small businesses manage their own marketing to save cost and maintain control over their image, though it may not always be the most effective strategy in competitive markets. Often, branding doesn’t come until later for small businesses. Here’s how to pick up and polish your image for future marketing efforts.
What Is Branding?
Your small business brand is the image you portray through your marketing materials, from your logo to your website, to your letterhead. It is your company’s personality. Your brand is who you are: it builds trust with your target market and keeps your business in the front of their minds when they think about your products and services. Branding differentiates you from all the rest.
“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com CEO
A well-defined brand adds value through emotion or quality. The expectations and connections drive consumer choice through persuasion. Changes in attitudes and beliefs affect behavior. When you tell your business story, you connect with people and appeal to their emotions through that connection: a shared value, similar belief or favorable idea.
Where Branding Can Go Wrong
- Failure to fully define your brand identity (or complicating it)
Having clear language, imagery and logos sets you apart from the competition. A vague brand will not stick out in your customer’s minds. Sticky branding, consistent branding stays fresh when you stick to your brand efforts. Having too many styles and colors don’t stick out. Look at branding genius: Nike, Coca-Cola, McDonalds. You instantly recall the colors, the products and the emotional appeals of their marketing messages.
- Not adhering to brand guidelines
Establish brand guidelines such as colors, typography, tone of voice, message layout. Guidelines provide direction for success – stick to them. Ensure that necessary team members follow these guidelines.
- Forgetting your values
Mimicking other brands because they seem compelling doesn’t help you stand out. Be unique, be bold, and be your brand – don’t jump on trends or incorporate fads into your business branding. Communicate your value consistently, with awareness of your marketing channels. For example, share different messages for different social media platforms and make your messages work together to build a coherent identity.
- Failure to respond to problems
Gathering and responding to feedback can significantly improve public perception and earn that customer that would have otherwise turned away at one unsatisfactory review. When a mistake is made, not matter how small, disaster recovery can turn around a negative impact. Show you are human and that you care about your customers by taking responsibility.
Why you need a small business brand strategy
Branding improves your recognition and differentiates you from your competition. It creates trust and helps you build your brand.
Look at Marketing Donut’s ideas on brand-building. It will help you connect and encourage loyalty.
A brand strategy provides a strong purpose for engaging with customers and communicates clearly and consistently. It helps you create messages that demonstrate your value and why you matter to the customer.
Having a brand strategy guides and supports your marketing efforts through persuasive communication. People make purchasing decisions based on emotion, and you give them a reason to buy when they care about your brand.
Brand awareness and brand recognition are crucial to SEO. Google favors big-brand, knowledge graph or featured snippet answers that don’t prompt additional clicks. As a small business, you’ve got to compete with those well-known industry leaders. Your best bet this year is through brand awareness. Brand recognition drives clicks and sales.
How to Build your Brand
If you’ve already established your business, don’t worry, you can assess where you stand, and then establish or refine your brand strategy, depending on where you are. You may even consider a brand re-launching, which makes a great PR piece for reaching a vast new audience. Look at Coca-Cola’s rebranding – they modified their logo only slightly, taking away the rounder curves from the font of their logo and making a slightly bolder, italicized version. A simple change can go a long way.
- Determine your target audience and define your customer persona
- Research the competition and find your niche. How can you do it better?
- Ensure your name is easy to spell, pronounce and remember
- Define your brand with focus. Tell your story, make it emotional: Who are you and why do you do what you do? Do a search for “About Us” pages to get some ideas for style and form.
- Create your value propositions, your main selling points, and display them
- Establish style guides to maintain uniformity and consistency
- Ensure your logo is professional, simple and stylish. It may even indicate the nature of your business.
- Asses or create your memorable tagline or slogan. “The best part of waking up is…” or “The quicker picker upper” are examples of memorable slogans.
Think about your brand, your values, and how and why you help your customers, then visit HubSpot’s list of 7 Components for a Comprehensive Brand Strategy. They talk a little more in-depth about what your brand is and what it isn’t. It isn’t your website or your logo, but an intangible thing that makes your company character identifiable by connecting to consumer needs and emotions, and separates you from your competitive market.
Fundera also has some ideas and examples for Branding Exercises that help you to establish your brand identity.
How do I build brand awareness?
Once you’ve got your brand strategy, start developing content for different platforms and for varying mediums following your established style and brand guidelines. Here are some brand awareness ideas:
- Consistent content, online and off
- Infographics, slideshows and videos
- Free PDF guides, downloads, offers or trials
- Interactive checklists and calculators
- Email signature
- Press releases
- Frequent Social Media posts with hashtags and mentions or polls and surveys
Once you assess what will provide the most benefit for the least cost, develop your content marketing plan or reach out to a professional. Learn more about our inbound marketing and content marketing services.