Do you want to build a brand for your small business but aren’t sure where to start? Many people confuse an identity package–i.e. a logo, color palette and standard fonts—with branding, but in truth, branding is so much more! In this article, we’ll dive into how to capture the essence of the brand you want to create and communicate it to the world. Use the links below to jump to a specific section.
Focus on the Customer Experience for a Strong Brand
A brand is what a consumer buys when there are many competing products or services that could potentially satisfy their need.
What is Branding?
“A brand is the contract between a company and consumers.”
-Simon Clift, former Chief Marketing Officer of Unilever
“Brands are verbs. Nike exhorts. IBM solves. Sony dreams.”
– Dan Wieden, legendary ad-man and founder of advertising agency Wieden & Kennedy
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
-Seth Godin, marketing and leadership expert, best-selling author, and speaker
Brands Embody the Ideas and Feelings of the Target Customer
When branding a small business, it’s important to remember that your brand is defined by the ideas and feelings that your customers and the general public have about or toward your business. Your customers’ understanding of your brand may be very different from what you think your brand is, and I cannot overstate how important it is for you to remember that. Your brand, as it is understood in the marketplace, is defined by the people who interact with your business.
This is the reason it is a good idea to have a process in place to gain insight into what your customers and potential customers think about your business and your brand. For example, your process might include periodically surveying your customers to understand how they interact with your products or services and what their perception of the brand is. Better yet, you could include quick-single question surveys at various touch points in your customer journey.
There are also many affordable customer relationship management and social media tools that can help you obtain insights into the perception of your brand. I use Hubspot.
How to Get Started with Branding Your Small Business
As we begin explore tactics for branding your small business, it is important to note that branding and positioning are not the same. This discussion of branding assumes that you already have an understanding of what your customers’ needs are and how your business fulfills those needs.
Knowing that your business’s brand is shaped by how customers and the general public feel about your business, I recommend that your first step in branding your business is to take some time to identify exactly how you want customers to feel. How customers feel when they interact with your company is the essence of your brand.
For example, even though my business is very new, creating a business is something I have wanted to do for years. I have spent a lot of time, thinking about how I could help small businesses and nonprofits be more successful with their marketing, and I want the feeling of my business to be that of a supportive big sister. Whether I provide marketing services for an organization or I only interact with someone by sharing information, I want those who interact with me to know that I am rooting for them, and I am going to do my best to help them in whatever way I can.
Make a List of Your Desired Brand Qualities
To help you get started, I suggest making a short list of the words you would like people to use when referring to your business. For instance, is your business friendly, authoritative, hassle-free, trust-worthy, cool, cutting-edge, welcoming, exclusive, etc.? Come up with a list of 3 – 5 qualities that you would like people to associate with your company. These are your desired brand qualities.
Examine How Your Business Aligns with Your Desired Brand Qualities
Now, it’s time to think critically about your business operations with an exercise to help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your brand inside your organization. You need to think critically about your processes, products, services, and interactions with customers to see where you are succeeding in creating the brand you desire to have and where you can improve.
Gather your team (if you have one) for a brainstorming session. Take your list of 3-5 brand qualities and spend some time brainstorming what you are currently doing in your business that is in alignment with your desire to make customers feel the way you would like them to feel.
Next, spend some time thinking about the ways your business may not be delivering an experience that supports the feelings that you have identified desirable for your brand. I encourage you to invite colleagues and employees from different areas of your business to join in the brainstorming–especially people who work in customer-facing roles. They will have a deeper understanding of their function area and may possess insights and observations that aren’t generally known across the organization.
Finally, brainstorm what else you could do, that you are not currently doing, to ensure customers leave any interaction with your business feeling the way you want them to feel.
Be Intentional at Every Touch Point
Delivering an experience that embodies your brand qualities is the key to building a brand. It doesn’t matter what your marketing copy says or how attractive your logo is if the customer experience is out of alignment with the image you are trying to project.
As a mentor of mine used to say, “the brand lives in the hearts and minds of the customer.” At every touch point, be intentional about the feeling you want your customers to have, and you will be well on your way to building a strong brand for your small business.
If you need help defining and communicating your brand, check out my Marketing Packages for Small Business. Let’s work together on your small business branding!