Branding is vital for small business owners running businesses of any size. And it's not as complicated as you might think! First, you need to understand what branding means. It's marketing lingo for your logo, name, symbol, design, and other components associated with your business. 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.
Here are 5 ways to invest in branding to stand out from the competition and accelerate your business growth:
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. What are 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? It's your brand's personality!
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. Figure out who your competitors are. It's also helpful to follow a questionnaire like this.
2. Know your target audience
Who is 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 customers and potential new customers, and how you're different from other brands in the same industry.
Nextdoor is a neighborhood hub where local residents, businesses, and public agencies can connect with each other online in their respective neighborhoods. If you are a local business, chances are your target audience and/or regular customers are those that live nearby. 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 messaging to better appeal to your customers. And you can more successfully target 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 bounced without making a purchase. Or 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, color palettes, visual style, website, social media content, and business cards. While you can certainly do all of this on your own, you might want to step away from Photoshop and hire a professional, especially when it comes to logo design. You don't need to hire an expensive branding or marketing agency—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 company and can be a useful resource 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. Guidelines will help them understand your brand message when creating any marketing materials.
Your brand guidelines should include:
- Brand mission statement and vision
- Brand story
- Photography or imagery
- Brand voice
Some small businesses forgo brand guidelines. Don't skip it! Successful brands have brand guidelines that contain everything from visuals to sample copy to audience personas.
5. Differentiate your brand
Successful 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 your special thing is, include it in your brand strategy and use it in your marketing whenever possible.
These tips may seem like a lot to do, especially if you're running a small business 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. It’s the first impression of your business and how your customers will remember you. Make it count!