5 Small Business Branding Lessons

Lesson 1

Gone are the days when an ad in the newspaper, a billboard and a stack of well-designed flyers are enough to get you noticed. These days if you don’t take the time to establish your business brand online chances are you’ll be quickly overshadowed by your competitors or even worse never get noticed by consumers.

Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, big, small, retail or B2B. When done right it will give you a major edge over your competitors and help you stand out in even the most competitive markets. Effective branding is all about the image of your business and contrary to popular belief it’s about much more than just a fancy logo and a catchy tagline. It’s about the perceived image of your business and what it can do for your customer.

It tells consumers what they can expect from your products and services, and sets you apart from your competitors. It’s derived from who you are, what you want your business to be and what people perceive it to be. Think of it like a promise you’re making to your customer.

A good branding strategy includes multiple aspects that paint a picture of your business to consumers across multiple channels. This can include your website, social channels, content, marketing creatives etc. The goal is to make it easy for consumers to recognize your business the instant they see it no matter where they’re looking. *It’s anything that gives your company an identity that consumers know, like and trust.

The goal is to differentiate your business from your competitors. This process should start as soon as name your business and factor in on every decision you make from your logo and tagline to your content and advertising. You want to come up with something memorable that explains your brand promise.

For example, M&M says, “Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hands” and Nike says, “Just Do It,” and we immediately know what they’re all about. You can go anywhere in the world, see their logo and know exactly who they are.

Now I realize you may not be that big yet, but try and think like you are and it will help you come up with creative ways to brand your business so that it is easily remembered by potential customers.

Distinction is a very important part of your brand strategy. It lets people know you have something unique to offer that’s above and beyond what your competitors have. Keep in mind that your branding will impact sales and when you create a one that is easily recognized and remembered (in a good way), then you’ll see much better results overall.

The first step for a successful business is taking the time to let people know who you are, what you do, and how you do it.  So, before your next lesson I want you to take some time to think about how you want your customers to perceive your business.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What is your business’s mission?
  • What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
  • What do your customers and prospects already think of your business?
  • What qualities do you want them to associate with your business?

Next:

  1. Do some research on your competitors and see how they are presenting their brand.
  2. Brainstorm some ideas that will help you effetely communicate your vision.
  3. Jot down some possible taglines that you think will tell your story.

Lesson 2

As we discussed in the last lesson, branding is all about how customers perceive your business. Your brand is the promise that you make to your customers and as you develop it, it’s important to keep your ideal customer in mind.

If you don’t know who your ideal customer is yet I recommend that you take a break from this course and go download the Customer Avatar Worksheet from Digital Marketer and take some time to get clear on who you’re selling to!

You can get it here: http://www.digitalmarketer.com/customer-avatar-worksheet/

With any branding campaign, the goal is to spark an emotional connection between your customer and your business. When you can accomplish this, you will create a loyal following of people that can’t wait to buy what you offer.

It’s no secret that most customers hold true to products they enjoy. It’s very common for a customer to be so attached to a brand that they won’t even consider buying from another one. Take people who drink Coke and ask them if they like Pepsi and nine time out of ten you’ll get a resounding NO!

Along with knowing who your ideal customer is it’s also a good idea find out what they think of your business.

  • Do they know you exist?
  • Do they have a clear understanding of what you offer?
  • Do they have any negative impressions of your business?
  • Do they have any positive impressions of your business?
  • Do they have any negative impressions of your business?
  • Do they see you as trustworthy enough to buy from?

A good way to collect this data is by using surveys. This will give you valuable insight into what your target audience knows and wants from your business and help you build a campaign that will be irresistible to your target market.

 

Here are some touch points to consider:

Quality – How well do your products satisfy customer needs?

Value – Do your customers put a high value on what you offer?

Visual – Is your business/products visually appealing to consumers?

Senses – Can you use smell, taste, touch and sound can make an impression?

Personality – Can consumers relate to your business on a personal level?

Emotion – Does your business appeal to consumers emotional state and needs?

When it comes to building a strong brand, perception is everything. Especially when you’re trying to stand out in a competitive niche. Being perceived as “the best” in a customer’s mind can be the difference between success and failure. If you can manage tap into your customers minds and get them connect with your business on multiple touch points you will be rewarded with a loyal following of brand advocates.

Lesson 3

Brand identity is the message the consumer receives from you, your business or merchandise and now that you’ve thought about how you want customers to perceive your business it’s time to start working on the components of its identity. These are things like the name, logo, tagline, style, and colors that work together create an appeal and increase consumer recognition. This message should be a consistent across all aspects of your business.

Let’s go over a few simple strategies that will help you establish a solid brand identity:

Logo and creatives

Developing a logo is the first aspect of developing your brand’s visual vocabulary. In addition to the logo, you will need to create a specific look and feel for your brand that will be consistent throughout the various platforms you will use to promote your brand.

This means that every aspect of business, your website, your social media pages and even your business cards, should feature the same creative elements.

Don’t just choose a color just because you think it is pretty. Remember that specific colors tend to evoke very specific emotions. Yellow for example is often associated with happiness, while red is often associated with anger or romance.

Always keep your target market in mind while selecting your creative elements. The occupation, age and even social status of the group you aim to target will influence how they view your logo, colors et cetera. Be sure to also test your logo by means of a focus group before you launch it.

Some logos, as creative as they may be, can be misinterpreted or even confused with the logo of a similar brand. Whatever you decide, ensure that your creative elements are so memorable that even if a client sees only half of the picture, they can still imagine exactly what is coming next.

Social Media Presence

What good will it do if you build your brand if no one knows you exist? Social media allows you to reach the right people, with the right message all the time. Additionally, social media is one of the most affordable options to reach your target audience. So why not make full use of it?

There are so many social media platforms just waiting to help build your brand. In fact, many successful brands invest heavily in creating a strong social presence. When your business is small it’s even more important to connect with consumers on a more personal level.

Many small business owners shy away from social media because they think it’s expensive and time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. Just like any other type of marketing you just must keep your audience in mind. Take the time to post content that will appeal to them on a regular basis and engage with them as much as possible.

Optimize Your Website

Your website (if you have one) should be loaded with useful content, easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing. While building a website is beyond the scope of this course I feel it’s important to touch one the importance of having a well-designed site that loads fast on multiple devices. A website is one of the few points of contact that you have full control over so make sure you use it to your advantage.

Before your next lesson, take some time to think about how you can develop the different aspects of your brand identity that we went over in this lesson.

Here is an interesting article I recently read that may help give you a few more ideas:
https://www.inc.com/molly-reynolds/5-steps-to-building-a-strong-brand-identity-when-the-game-is-constantly-changing.html

Lesson 4

Brand credibility is all about believability. It’s how your customers perceive your business as we discussed in the second lesson. It says you have the knowledge, willingness and trustworthiness to deliver what you say you will to consumers and it can have a big impact on sales.

It all starts with customer perception which is primarily established by providing them with a quality product or service. When you make claims in your advertising about your business, you need to meet or exceed those claims to build that positive perception about your business.

Competence

Regardless of what type of product or service you offer, it’s your job to demonstrate that you have the expertise to provide something of value. Consumers want proof, so provide them with as much (pre-purchase) information as possible to show them that your capable of delivering. When consumers see actual results in the form of statistics, product reviews and testimonials, it increases believability and confidence in your business.

Consistency

Establishing credibility is not a one-time job. It is a continuous process that needs to be monitored and maintained. As I’ve mentioned before, your branding should be consistent all aspects of your business, from promotion to production. For example, if your social media campaign is quirky and lighthearted but your product packaging is plain and crisp, you’re sending mixed signals that will confuse consumers and leave them feeling like your brand can’t be trusted.

Consistency makes your brand feel more dependable. As you plan your campaign keep in mind that brand recognition isn’t just about getting your name out there. It’s about helping consumers get to know your brand on a personal level.

When you achieve this, you won’t have to work as hard to convince consumers to do business with you. The goal is to make your brand is so consistent that when a consumer sees your logo they are already thinking about making their next purchase without worrying that you won’t meet their expectations.

Developing a unified look for your business across your website, all social channels, even in your store and on your product packaging will make consumers feel more comfortable with your brand, and will make them more likely to remember you and better yet purchase from you again.

Lesson 5

In this final lesson we are going to touch on some of the more common branding mistakes so you can avoid making them and then talk about how you can use branding to increase sales.

As we know, branding is more than just a pretty logo. It’s about creating a seamless experience for consumers so that they will know, like and trust your business the instant they see it.

Remember your brand is your promise to consumers that you can meet their expectations. It’s important that you build it carefully, deliberately and be prepared to invest a lot of time and effort maintaining it.

Audience

One of the biggest mistakes I see when it comes to effective branding is the failure to understand your target audience.

Before you begin branding or selling anything for that matter it’s important to have a good understand of what type of audience you’re speaking to. Take time to get to know them, understand their problems, their wants, needs, the places they like to hang out, the brands they follow. Once you have a clear understanding of your target audience, branding and messaging will be much.

Competition

Failure to research the competition is another big mistake. This is especially important if you are a new business. Researching your competition will help you get a handle on what established businesses in your industry are doing right and what they’re doing wrong. It will also help you see opportunities that will give you brand an advantage.

Look at their products, services, websites and social profiles. Pay attention to their target audiences. What are people saying about them? What can you do better?

Feedback

Taking feedback from the wrong or limited sources can cause a lot of damage to brand campaign. Consumer feedback is very important and should be leveraged to boost your brand but it’s important that you take feedback from the right sources.

Every business owner wants great feedback. It’s our natural instinct to only want to focus on the good things, but limiting our sources to only positive feedback can actually cause more harm than good, because it won’t help you set measurable and appropriate goals.

Inconsistency

We’ve talked a lot about brand consistency in these lessons because it has a huge impact on your business. Consistency helps raise awareness, loyalty and credibility. If there are inconsistencies in your brand consumers will become confused and lose trust. The more consistent you are with your image, promotions, communication and every other interaction you make with your audience the stronger brand presence will be.

Building and managing a brand isn’t always an easy thing. There are many businesses that think a brand is something you establish and then it takes care of itself. Unfortunately, this is never the case.

If you want your business to be successful you must be ready to adapt to the constant changing needs of the market and you should constantly improve and refine your brand to provide better quality and consistency for your customers because ultimately your success depends on them.

As we close this final lesson, I would like to thank you again for joining me for this short course. I sincerely hope that you’ve learned a lot about how to brand your small business and even though the lessons have come to an end I want you to know that you can still feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I’m more than happy to help.