Branding for Small Businesses
There are many different factors to consider as an aspirational or emerging small business owner. From product and service creation, to finance matters and set-up strategies, branding can often fall to the bottom of a business owner’s lengthy To Do List. However, branding is incredibly important – especially to businesses looking to leave their mark on an industry. So what actually is branding, and how can your business utilise it effectively?
Branding is defined as “the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products”. Creating a brand, or your brand strategy, helps customers to identify exactly who you are and what you do as a business. It’s about making promises to your customers about who you are. As a business, you can’t achieve everything – so branding is about making clear what it is that differentiates you from other providers.
Why is branding important? Look at major brands like Nike and Coca-Cola – they’ve become so recognisable around the world that their customers are willing to pay more or be inconvenienced in order to obtain their products or services. Though a fantastic product or service is crucial to this, so is the brand each of these companies has built. Building a strong brand creates brand equity – which is the process of making your products memorable, easily recognisable and superior in quality and reliability to others in the market.
Brand equity is what encourages consumers to become attached to your brand – Nike and Coca-Cola have a high level of brand equity and as such, have many loyal customers whom spend extra to enjoy their products. It doesn’t have to be to this scale though – for example, the owners of a fantastic neighbourhood coffee shop that is well recognised in its local area for both its service and great quality product, they may have a high level of brand equity within their area. That brand equity is what brings back repeat customers, and attracts new business through word of mouth.
But how do you build that brand and encourage a growth in brand equity without breaking your budget? There’s plenty of advice around branding for businesses to take advantage of – and not all of them are as costly as some might believe. With a time investment and a few simple rules, it’s easy to start the process of building your brand.
Define Your Business
This may seem very straightforward, but taking the time to define your business, your products and the services you provide is an important step in successfully branding your company. Define what it is that you do, how you do it, what your customer interactions are like and so on. If you make this clear, it will be easier to share that with your clients or customers – and they will be able to judge if using your business is right for them.
Stand Out From the Crowd
This is often easier said than done – in a crowded market, it can be hard to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Focus on the little things – factors like a great product or service, being a friendly face or an approachable organisation helps to build word of mouth from amongst your customers, and this in turn will help you to stand out. It may not be much, but every positive word helps to build a positive connection to your brand, and grows your brand equity.
Many small businesses fall into the trap of copying the ideas and brand styles of their biggest competitors – this can actually be detrimental. There are often advantages to being something of a ‘home-grown’ business, and there are many people who will choose to support local organisations when the opportunity is available. Play to your strengths – especially your authenticity. Many customers and clients like to have the opportunity to see and know that there are people behind a brand or business.
It’s important that your customers can easily recognise your services from any communication efforts you undertake. Create a great logo that is suitable for your business – for example, if you’re running an automotive service, ensure that there is some recognition of your role in the automotive industry. If you’re running a casual, friendly brand then ensure that your branding is more conversational, but if it’s a more formal organisation then ensure that the communications reflect that. Take the time to ensure that your branding reflects your vision for your business.
Remember: your visual and written communications can be adjusted as your business progresses – many businesses choose to adjust their branding at some stage in the life-cycle of their organisation, but aim to cement your business within your chosen market and industry before you make any drastic changes.
The key point for all of the above, however – be consistent. In line with the definitions of your business, and the parameters of your brand, maintain the same high levels of service standards, response times, delivery times and so forth through every interaction with every customer – this will help your brand to be seen as a leading source for customer service, fast delivery or whatever it may be that you’re aiming to be recognised for and associated with.
If you can’t be consistent throughout every interaction or every level of your business, your branding will not have the same impact for customers – and you won’t build any brand equity.
Have you been through a branding process? What tips or essential information would you recommend? Leave us a comment and share your own experiences.
This article was written by Simone Ball on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: BitRebels, VepaaInc., SBA, Entrepreneur and Investopedia.