Jan 10, 2020 | 5 min read

5 powerful branding tips for small businesses

This article was updated on January 31, 2024

Strong branding is vital for any business owner regardless of their business size. When it comes to establishing your successful brand, you first need to understand what branding means. It's marketing lingo for your logo, name, symbol, design, and other components associated with your business's identity. Branding is essentially how people identify your company, whether it's through a great logo, a tagline, a color, or a feeling.

Your brand is the face of your company and can be one of your most valuable assets to build your business reputation. Small businesses that rely on a local customer base can especially benefit from having a strong, positive brand presence. Here are 5 branding tips for small businesses.

1. Define your brand identity

When you think of your business and brand, what does it mean? Who are you as a company? Defining your brand is more than picking out colors and visuals. It's about the core of your company. Think about your values and goals. Do you have an origin story or a product offering that is unique and helps you stand out? What is your brand mission? How do you want your customers to remember you? All of these elements make up your business's personality - your brand

Having a strong brand identity is one of the most important factors in your marketing strategy. You can start defining your brand by doing exercises like:

  • Picking out 3-5 words that describe your brand and define your brand's voice
  • Figuring out who your competitors are
  • Follow a questionnaire like this.

2. Know your target audience

Can you identify your brand's ideal customer? Knowing your target audience is a key component of your marketing strategy. You can't market properly without understanding who you're talking to. Think about what your business does, what benefit it has to your existing and potential customers, and how you're different from other brands in the same industry.

To know how you're different, it's important to understand what's common and effective in your industry. Looking at your competition may provide inspiration for promotional material, help you identify emerging trends, and can shed some light on what resonates with your ideal client or customer. 

If you are a local business, chances are your target audience and/or regular customers are those that live nearby. If that is your target customer base, consider Nextdoor - the neighborhood hub where local residents, businesses, and public agencies can connect with each other online in their respective neighborhoods. On Nextdoor , local businesses can build their brand presence for free and connect with verified residents that live close in proximity. Make it easy for locals to discover your brand by keeping your free Nextdoor Business Page updated and consistent.

Once you define your target audience, you can then create more specific content and brand messaging to better appeal to your ideal customer. And you can more successfully target potential customers who fit within your desired demographic.

3. Brand building: Create visuals and marketing materials

Your brand's visual identity is vital when it comes to branding and marketing. It's easily the most recognizable thing about your business and makes an impact on your reputation as well. Think about how many times you've visited a poorly designed website and left without making a purchase, or when you were less likely to walk into a restaurant on a street because of a shabby and unwelcoming exterior appearance.

Your brand's visual identity includes your logo design, fonts, photography, brand color palettes, visual style, website, social media content, and business cards. While you can certainly do all of this brand recognition work on your own, consider stepping away from Photoshop to hire a professional, especially when it comes to logo design. You don't need to hire an expensive branding or digital marketing agency to experience the benefits of digital marketing -you can hire a great graphic designer or branding consultant that fits your budget. It can be worth the investment to have someone with branding experience develop your visual identity.

4. Make brand guidelines

Brand guidelines are basically your Brand Bible. This is a document that holds all the ins and outs of your business and can be a useful resource for maintaining brand consistency when it comes time for decision-making, employee training, and outside partnerships. If you're hiring a new employee or partnering up with another business, vendor, or content marketing service, such guidelines will help them understand who your brand is. This is particularly important if you're having an outside source create marketing content for you. The brand guidelines will help them understand your brand message when creating any marketing material.

Your brand guidelines should include:

  • Brand mission statement and vision
  • Values
  • Brand story
  • Logos
  • Typography
  • Photography or imagery
  • Brand voice
  • Sample copy
  • Audience personas

While brand guidelines take time to create, it's essential for success.

5. Differentiate your brand

Impactful branding will stand out to consumers. If all your competitors have blue logos, choose red. Figure out what makes your company different and use that in your branding strategy.

More importantly than design, is there a service you provide that your competitors don't? Do you have a unique product offering? Does your customer service exceed all expectations? Or does your business have a brand personality that your competition doesn't?

Whatever it is that sets you apart, include it in your brand strategy and use it in your marketing whenever possible.

Make your branding count

These tips may seem like a lot to do, especially if you're a small business owner by yourself or with just a few employees. And that's where small business branding consultants and freelancers come in. Many people - creatives in particular - offer small business branding services as a side hustle. You might not be able to afford a full branding agency, but you can probably find room in your budget for a freelancer or two.

Whichever direction you choose, just make sure you don't skimp on your branding strategy. Investing in your identity upfront is not just for big brands, it establishes valuable brand equity and will pay dividends over time. It's the first impression of your business and how your customers will remember you. Make it count.

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Author image Nextdoor Editorial Team At Nextdoor, we love local. The Nextdoor Editorial Team is dedicated to telling stories of local businesses, providing product education, and sharing marketing best practices to help businesses grow.