Essential Branding Tips for Small Businesses
People don’t just buy products, they buy stories. People buy from you because they like your story. That story is your brand. Your brand is what your customers and potential customers think, feel, and see about you. Your brand includes not just the story you tell, but the actions of your company, what others say about it, what kinds of relationships your company cultivates. You don’t really control your brand, because that’s up to your audience, but you do control your brand identity. Your brand identity is the story that you convey about your company, a story told through visual identity and consistent messaging.
Develop your message. Everything flows from this. Your message includes what your company “believes.” Start with goals, not just a generic mission statement, but real meaning and substance behind your company. What do you represent? What is the personality of your company and with whom does that resonate? Write out exactly what message you want to convey, including:
- What do you want customers to think or feel about your company?
- Who are your customers and what are their wants, needs, beliefs, etc.?
- What makes your company special and what sets you apart from the competition?
- What is your company’s boilerplate story?
- What’s your elevator pitch?
- What’s your tagline?
- What are your company values, goals, etc.?
- If your company was a person, what would its persona be?
With a clear story written out, you can guide your branding identity with a coherent and deliberate message in the visual identity, in every ad, in every blog post, copy on your web properties, interviews with reporters, company investments in charities, and other points of contact with your audience and community. This saves money with a targeted, consistent approach and it’s the way to create a strong brand.
An effective brand identity has the following, four qualities, in everything from the logo to the tagline:
- Resonates with the audience
These questions guide the visual identity, which is all the design of your brand identity, such as logos, typefaces, color palettes; art and copy used in ads, social media posts, collateral such as brochures, vehicle wraps, building signage, and so on. When the visual identity is designed, make a style guide, which defines how logos, colors, typefaces, and other elements will be used every time. This makes it easier for you or employees to keep the brand identity consistent and strengthen it every time.
If you can’t afford a professional designer, there are an assortment of online services that can connect you with discount designers, who are looking to add to their portfolio. Whether you enlist the help of a professional or you patch together pieces yourself, with online bargain services such as Fiverr, ensure that you answer the above questions thoroughly, follow them consistently, and that your visual identity has the qualities of effective brand identity.
For your logo design, ensure that it is simple, unique, versatile, memorable, and suitable for your audience. It should work in black-and-white, very small, as large as a billboard, on light and dark backgrounds, and never lose its quality. You should also have a vector file of it, somewhere that’s easily accessible for ads, posts, and emails to reporters.
The importance of quality, consistent visual identity and brand identity, generally, applies to your web presence just as it does to your brick-and-mortar, just as it does to your print collateral. Your web properties, including your website, your social media suite, eNewsletters, and online ads, need to use the same color pallette, one or two typefaces, the same logo, and the same tone in the copy. Your message needs to maintain the same consistency online, too. You can be a little more loose with this on some social media platforms, since you’re churning out so much content and it’s key to get likes, comments, and shares, but it all still needs to fit the brand identity.
Whether you enlist the help of a web marketing designer to set up your web presence, or if you’re putting it all together yourself, ensure that every point of online contact consistently reinforces your brand identity, in visual identity and message. This can be done on your own, but you get what you pay for.
The quality of your web presence reflects on your brand, perhaps more than any other marketing tools, because it gets the most reach and it’s often your customers’ first (or last) stop. If your social media accounts are collecting dust and your website is hard to use, looking straight out of 2003, then your brand looks low quality, perhaps even out of business. Your website and its satellite connections, on social media, are your 24-7, tireless advocates, representing you to your potential customers. Don’t skimp on your brand identity online.
Likewise, once they’ve found you online, they may want to find your brick-and-mortar. Does your outside presentation hold up the standards of quality your company represents? Do you have good signage? Is your store’s outside and inside appearance consistent with your company’s visual identity? The Recognition Place can help you with your signage, but you’ll need to sweep the walkway.
With these tips, we hope we’ve inspired a fresh approach to your branding identity, or reminded you of something you forgot. Wherever you are in your brand development, remember, it’s always in development!