Working with small businesses and start-ups on logo and branding solutions, it's surprising how few have a clear vision for their brand, let alone a plan for making that vision a reality. Everyone can see what a strong brand does for a company through the success of major industry leaders (think Apple, Google, Nike, etc.) but how are you, as a small business owner, supposed to get to that level?
While your aim may not be global domination, there are a few key tips that will help you meet and surpass your business goals no matter how big or small. After scouring the internet, there was a clear consensus on how to best go about branding your small business. All of the articles and lists can be boiled down to four main points.
1. Set Yourself Apart
Make sure you build great products or provide outstanding services. That's the place to start. You can have the best branding in the world but if you provide a garbage product, there's no way to spin that for long-term success.
Think about what your competition does. What do they do that you like and want to emulate and what do they do that you know you can improve upon and do better? Be innovative and set yourself apart as a unique player in your industry.
Your logo, tagline, and brand messaging come into play here as well. Invest in a strong, timeless and unique logo. Think carefully about your tagline and brand messaging to make sure it's highlighting what makes your company so special.
2. Build Trust
Just as a person is only as good as their word, so is a business. If you can't earn and keep your client's trust and respect, you have no business owning a business. Stand for things you believe in, be clear about what sets you apart, but don't bite off more than you can chew. Follow through on your promises; stay true to your brand.
3. Show Personality
The Marketing Donut explains in detail how the word "brand" is practically interchangeable with "business" these days. The brand represents your business identity. It is there to convey not only what the business is and does, but also what the business values and believes.
You need to develop a brand personality and this starts with knowing your target market. Find out who they are, what they think of you and your competitors and what they wish you were. Learn about the demographic you are aiming to reach - what do they do? where do they shop? how do they talk? Use this information to help define your brand and as cheesy as it sounds, think of your business as a person.
What do you want people to perceive your business as? Classic and traditional or modern and innovative? Fun and outgoing or formal and professional? Do some brand personality activities to really think about and nail down the brand persona that you want to convey.
4. Consistency is Key
Once you define your brand and develop a brand personality the most important thing to do is stick to it. Use a consistent tone of voice across platforms and make sure, if you have employees, that they're implementing it as well. Don't sell out and change who you are to accommodate a certain group or tap into a new platform. Stay true to your brand - it will keep your mission and values clear to the customer and help build trust and respect.
Come up with a brand strategy thinking about the "who, what, where, when and why" of communicating your brand messages and other content. In addition to the key points mentioned here, John Williams also gives a nod to style guides in his article for Entrepreneur, "The Basics of Branding". Creating a company style guide, design templates and brand standards will help you maintain consistency no matter what marketing campaign, event advertisement, or social media posting is taking place.
Consistency in branding is what drives brand recognition and helps develop long-term relationships with customers. Casey Cavanagh puts it perfectly, "Where your logo is a first impression, your content allows you to make a lasting one." Make sure your content is not only on par with your brand's mission and values, but also represented in a tone of voice and style that is consistent. Get this one thing down, and the brand recognition will follow.