“Once my business is up and running, I’ll start investing in brand building.” Does this sound familiar? The fact is most small business owners focus on marketing and building sales leads, but forget the importance of creating their own brand identity. A lot of them also think that branding is typical to big organizations like Nike, Apple, Google and Gucci who invest a lot in increasing their organic visibility. It doesn’t matter how small (or how big) our brand is; if you’re running a business, you should think about branding.
While big organizations have huge budgets for branding, you don’t really need to spend a fortune on building an effective branding strategy. There are loads of things you can do to grab your audience’s attention, make your brand stand out, and build a unique business identity without blowing your budget. But before we move on to discuss these pocket-friendly branding ideas, let’s take a quick look at what it really means. This is particularly for budding entrepreneurs in the industry, who have little to no knowledge about business branding.
What is brand development?
Broadly speaking, a brand is the idea or image that people have in their mind when thinking or speaking about specific products, services, and activities of an organization, both in a practical (the bag is sturdy) and emotional way (the bag looks elegant). Therefore, it’s not just the physical or functional characteristics that build a brand but also the feelings attached to the company and its products or services.
It is the sum total of the experiences that the audience has with your company. A strong branding strategy communicates about what your business does, how it does it, and thus, establishes trust and credibility amongst your customers. Your brand is not a one day stake. It exists in your everyday interactions with your consumers, the pictures and information you share, the content you post on your website and social handles, and other offline marketing collateral. It’s also the visual identity you create through your brand logo and tagline that are used across a range of marketing platforms.
Although a product or service facility can be copied by your contenders in the market, a brand will always remain unique. For instance, sports shoes are available with both Nike and Adidas, but for some reasons, a certain number of users feel more emotionally connected to Nike than Adidas, or even vice versa. It all lies in their branding techniques.
Pro Tip: Always choose a professional creative design agency to design the face of your business. Avoid automated logo generators if you want to create a strong and winning brand identity.
Determine Your Audience
This is one of the first and most important steps in creating a strong brand identity, and it’s applicable for all types of businesses in the industry. Always start with researching your target audience. If you don’t know who your target audience is, you won’t be able to deliver the right content to the right people. And obviously, you’ll miss out on prospective business opportunities.
For example, if you sell baby products like mitten gloves and diaper bags, you’d want to target new parents in the age group 25-45. Promoting them to 60-75-year old men and women won’t make sense. You have to be a little sensitive in your approach when reaching out to new parents and tactfully use their emotions to draw attention to your products. On the contrary, if you’re selling fashion accessories to the young generation, you can be as flamboyant and frank as you want. It’s easier to create a strong brand identity when you do so around the taste, needs, culture, and priorities of your audience.
Start Small and then Proceed
When you’re new in the industry, it’s wise to take only one baby step at a time. Start small with your business branding, which means you need to work on your brand’s messaging: vision, objective, brand value, and guidelines. Establishing your business name, tagline, logo, and mission statement is the key foundation of your brand. Never skip this step!
How to create an inspiring mission statement?
Your brand’s mission statement should be all about what your company deals in and why it does so. Here are a few things that you need to ask yourself.
- How can your customers benefit from your brand?
- What does your business do for its employees?
- How does it influence the community?
- Does your business have any global impact (even if it’s small)?
Once you’ve answered these questions, put everything together in three to five sentences to draft your mission statement. Read, edit, and rearrange them until you like the final result. Now use this piece of content on your website, social media accounts, and offline marketing collateral like event flyers, hoardings, brochures, and the like.
Build a strong brand identity
Creating a unique and recognizable brand image is key to distinguishing your business from the competitors. And contrary to the common belief, it is more than investing in an engaging logo or slogan.
Branding depicts who you are, what you do, how you’re doing, your business values and goals. Hence, before you work on your marketing strategies, it’s important to establish a strong and reliable brand identity. Here are a few tips on how to create a powerful brand image.
- Determine important business goals.
- Define your brand’s personality in a few words.
- Conduct a transparent business audit.
- Determine the company’s mission statement and values
- Create a distinctive look, feel, and voice for your brand
- Develop key messages that align with your audience’s needs.
Focus on the 3 Cs of branding
By developing a strong brand identity, a company illustrates that it is committed to delivering only superior products or services to its customers. Big brands with strong identity have these 3 Cs in common: clarity, consistency, and constancy.
Clarity is an important characteristic of any successful brand. There is complete transparency in what they are and what they aren’t. It’s your job to clarify your brand’s message, not your customers’. If they have a hard time figuring out what you do or how you do it, your brand image isn’t clear enough. You need to work harder at it.
One of the biggest trademarks of a good and influential brand is their consistency. They are always what they depict themselves to be. Your brand message should be consistent and clear unanimously, not just on social media platforms. Everything you say or do should work together, in unison: your brand logo, tagline, website, packaging, social media content, and offline advertising campaigns. If there’s disparity in what you do and advertise, you’ll end up losing customers. Remember, it takes ages to find a loyal customer, but only seconds to lose one.
Constancy is the last but equally important C in the 3 Cs of branding. You can create a strong brand only if it is constantly visible to the media or the audience. The idea is to remain on your audience’s mind and persuade them into making a purchase. Although clarity and consistency are the key reasons behind a brand’s success, they won’t be as effective unless you’re constantly visible to your target audience. One of the best ways to do this is to remain active on social media. For this, share good quality content on your company’s social media handles. This will fetch you more likes, shares and links from your audience, which will also boost your customer reach. This will also improve your brand’s relevancy and boost your website’s search engine ranking. The more social exposure you have, the better it is for your business!
Be memorable instead of being modern
Humans are slaves of habit and are most comfortable using products from brands they recognize and are familiar with. Let’s think about Gap’s rebranding project—and epic failure—circa 2010. As a part of their rebranding initiative, the company changed its 20-year-old logo to something they hoped would gain more popularity and leads. Unfortunately, the existing customers weren’t very pleased and wanted their traditional logo back!
Thankfully, Gap took their customers’ opinion (on social media) into consideration and gave up on its revised logo in an attempt to keep them happy. So, here’s an important lesson to learn: Be creative and memorable, instead of being blindly trendy. If your prospective and existing customers recognize your brand and are comfortable using your products/services, why mess with them?
Create a website to own your online presence
Having an attractive and user-friendly website is one of the biggest assets you can create for your small business. In this age of online branding, your website is the best platform to show who you are, what you do/offer, where you’re located, and how a prospective customer can contact you. Unlike other branding platforms that may change their policies or go in and out of trend, your website is a reliable branding channel that you’ll always own. Additionally, it has the capacity to generate organic traffic and (hopefully) drive conversions. Unlike a brochure, hoarding or flyer, your website serves as the single most important virtual equivalent of a physical store.
Deliver useful content for your audience
Building a sense of credibility in your audience’s minds is not a simple, overnight job. You may have to spend months or even years to convince them about your quality of products or services. Firstly, you have to remember that consumers come online primarily to look for information they need to choose products or services that’ll solve certain problems. For example, if you deal in kitchenware products, enlighten your target audience with the benefits of using a nonstick pan or sandwich maker.
If your prospective customers are convinced about the benefits of these products, they may end up making a purchase from you. Even though there’s no guarantee for sale, it’ll definitely help create strong brand recognition. Once the information is applied by your prospective customers in their real life and it provides the value they had expected, they begin to hold your brand in high esteem. A happy customer is a huge asset; they’ll not only come back to you for future purchase, but also recommend your brand to their family and friends.
Consider blogging to generate leads for your website
Blogging is an excellent way to boost organic traffic, especially from those prospects who haven’t yet reached a buying decision. Additionally, it can increase your brand’s credibility and gradually establish you as an industry leader. To start blogging, you can use a free website tool to create your website by using one of their templates. Post a blog on a daily or weekly basis to improve your website’s online visibility and educate your audience on why they should choose your company over others. You can also add a call-to-action button on your posts for readers to subscribe to your blog and receive newsletters or other important notifications. This is an effective way to increase leads and offer prospective customers a way to get updates about your business, even if they aren’t purchasing anything from you yet.
Branding is an indispensable part of small business marketing, but its importance can at times be lost amidst the other priorities of running a business. Without proper branding, your company will be just another sheep in the flock. The audience needs to know why they should choose you over others. Is it your low price, quality of products, quick delivery service, or something else? Try these above mentioned branding tips and build unique brand recognition without spending a fortune. But most importantly, remember to remain patient. Branding is an ongoing process and never a static, particular goal.
Business Development Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the Media and Digital marketing sector, Passionate about innovation and bringing the future into new business solutions.