Branding and Your Small Business: Image Insights for Sustainable Success
When you think of memorable branding, it’s likely you think of big name companies that have achieved global domination. But, what many small and medium-sized business owners don’t know is, that branding is just as critical for them as it is for the biggest, worldwide corporations.
What is Branding?
First off, let’s define branding. Branding is how your company defines itself both internally–to the staff, to yourself and any key stakeholders, as well as the image you’ve decided to put forth as your identity. While the concept is simple, there are a number of mistakes business owners make when trying to take on branding. Here’s a look at some of the biggest branding blunders, as well as how to avoid making them.
Failing to Understand Your Brand’s Identity
With many businesses, there’s a desire to do too many things at once. Keep your products and services simple, and steer clear of adding too many extras. So often, a business owner takes their initial idea and runs with it–say you have a snack company and you want to start with 8 different flavors, and then get into tee-shirts or water bottles, too, all before the initial product really starts taking off. Do a few things and do them well.
This concept extends to knowing your audience, and how to address them properly, too. As a brand, you need to have a consistent voice that can communicate with both the emotions of your target audience, as well as the rational solutions to their pain points. Overall, how you communicate combined with what you’ve got to offer adds up to what your brand actually is. If you need help communicating your brand’s message, employing a blog writing service like theHOTH can be a really great investment.
Graphic design, from the website to your brochures, social media channels and beyond, are all an extension of your brand that needs to be taken seriously. In many cases, smaller businesses don’t realize a failure to get all staff on board with how to best represent the brand visually will cause major inconsistencies when your logo is a different shade of blue on your website than it is on your pamphlets.
Failure to keep it consistent makes it harder for potential customers to instantly recognize your brand, and it makes you seem disorganized. Sidestep this problem by investing in a graphic designer to help you put together a style guide with consistent rules for colors, logos and more.
Using a Name that Well, Sucks
If your name is generic and simply doesn’t inspire consumers, well, you’re going to get passed up for something more interesting. We’re just being honest here. Take extra care when naming your business, and give it an identity that you can be proud of. Be wary of names that sound inappropriate, and ask for a second, third or twentieth opinion just to be safe.
Stop Trying to Copy Existing Brands
It’s great to have role models and everything, but copying an existing brand’s look or messaging seems disingenuous, and it is. Your brand’s secret sauce for success lies in what you have to offer that is unique and fills a void in the market.
Plus, as a smaller brand, you can take some risks that larger competitors simply can’t. While global conglomerates have layers upon layers of approvals and procedures to wade through before moving forward, as a smaller company, you have the ability to take risks with messaging and do some testing. Embrace your identity and use it to your advantage. These days it’s often seen as “cool” to shop small anyhow. Playing into your authenticity can really be an asset.
Take All Communications Seriously
How you communicate with customers, whether that’s on Facebook or over the phone matters. Use a consistent voice when responding to customers, as they’ll essentially be spreading the word about your company. A bad experience for a customer could be bad news for your brand, while the opposite is also true. You’ll want to establish your brand’s voice as a combination of being both friendly and competent–which can be a tricky balance to strike.
Stop Marketing in Silos
In many organizations, there’s a lack of communications between marketing and sales, or operations and marketing, or some other combination of people who should be communicating about brand goals, but aren’t. Break down communication barriers and understand, branding shouldn’t be relegated to marketing–it’s an organization-wide effort. From customer service to sales and production, branding reflects a company’s intent and plays a key role in the growth of the business.
Millie Carey is an SEO strategist and small business consultant. She enjoys writing about her insights and posting them on various small business sites.