A universal challenge that many small businesses face is the question of, “how can I build a unique, identifiable brand?”
This is particularly true in competitive marketplaces, where new companies are often required to compete aggressively with established brands and start-ups that share a similar value proposition.
In this respect, the key to success lies in your ability to build a strong and consistent brand identity that’s capable of engaging your ideal customers. Keep reading to find all of our best tips for small business brand building!
Getting Started – Why is it Important to Have a Strong Brand Identity?
There are several reasons why a strong brand is so important, including the limited window of opportunity that you have to make a good impression in the minds of consumers.
While estimates vary, some studies suggest that it only takes an estimated 50 milliseconds (or 0.05 seconds) for potential customers to form an initial opinion about your brand or website.
So, unless you have a visually strong and eye-catching brand that can instantly capture the attention of customers, you’re likely to lose ground to your closest rivals and become lost amongst the noise.
Of course, having a strong identity can also help to create brand awareness for your small business over time, while driving recognition and laying the foundation for you to build emotive relationships with your target audiences.
Increased recognition and the subsequent sense of familiarity can certainly help customers to connect with your brand, particularly as they come to identify shared values and how they underpin your products and services.
Over an extended period of time, this can also translate into increased rates of brand loyalty and advocacy, with this central to long-term success, optimising the value of individual customers and safeguarding even premium price points in the market.
Remember, 81% of modern customers have said that they need to be able to trust the brands that they buy from, with this number expected to increase incrementally in the future.
So, SMEs that successfully utilise their branding to build loyalty and create an underlying sense of trust are best placed to achieve their objectives, no matter what market or niche they operate in.
We’ll touch more on the process of defining your brand later in the piece, but this exercise alone can help you to better understand your business’ position in the marketplace.
Most importantly, you can contrast your brand identity with those of your rivals, creating key points of differentiation and leveraging your products more successfully in the process.
While in the process of refining and understanding your brand’s visual identity (and underlying tone of voice), you may also find that your communications and messaging become increasingly targeted. This applies to primary, secondary and even tertiary messaging, while it will influence how specific messages are shared across different marketing channels.
Make no mistake; each of these advantages translate into better lead generation and increased conversions in the longer-term, which is why the brand building process is so integral to your business’s prospects.
Defining Your Brand – The What, the Who and the How
At this stage, the time has come to start imagining and defining your small business brand.
There are several elements to this process, but your key focus should be to create an identity that personifies key values and appeals to target demographics. Here are some of the key considerations to keep in mind:
Defining Your Brand – Why Should Customers Buy From You?
We’ve already spoken about how defining your brand can clarify its unique market position, which is fundamental if you’re to create cohesive and targeted advertising campaigns.
When drilling down deeper into this, there are several questions that you’ll need to keep in mind. These are as follows:
- Why does your business exist? This is a broad and open-ended question, and one that should consider your business’s core products and services ahead of anything else. Determine who these products are aimed at and where they sit from a price perspective, while thinking about what inspired you to create your venture in the first place.
- What problem does your business solve? On a similar note, revisiting the inspiration behind your business should highlight the core issue or problem that you originally intended to resolve. This will refer to the precise gap in the market where you initially positioned your business, while it can help you to build a more compelling brand narrative that persuades and engages customers.
- What Differentiates Your Business? Whether it’s pricing, the composition of your products or the narrative around the inception of your business, it’s also important to identify unique selling points and the factors that differentiate your firm from others. This will also shape and inform your business’s brand, especially as you look to truly stand out from the crowd within your chosen market.
- Why Should People Care? Of course, these elements mean little if you cannot connect with target consumers, so you’ll also need to understand the emotional and rational reasons why certain demographics may buy from your brand. This should have a clear influence on your messaging and the way in which you engage individuals, as you look to leverage key motivations and utilise these to your advantage.
It’s important to answer these questions thoughtfully and with the help of key stakeholders, as the information garnered will provide the foundation of your branding while also influencing decisions pertaining to pricing and distribution.
From here, you can begin to develop your brand further and put some much-needed flesh on these bare bones!
Reimagine Your Brand as a Person
We also talk about brand values, which refer to the unique characteristics that underpin your business and its core proposition.
However, it’s also important to build on these in order to personify and add depth to your brand, in order to afford them more purpose and make it easier to create an emotional connection with customers.
The question that remains, of course, is how can you achieve this?
The easiest way is to think of your brand as a person, before identifying three or so unique traits that are relevant to your brand and reflect the company’s core products and services.
Then, you should expand on each value in further detail, as you look to create a wider selection of associated attributes that can be translated in specific communications and across alternative channels.
For example, let’s say that your brand’s core value is authenticity. This is important, especially with research suggesting that 86% of customers believe authenticity to be a critical factor when deciding which brands to back financially.
When breaking this value down, you may identify associated and more actionable traits such as trustworthiness and directness, the latter of which can influence your communications by creating simplified and more concise messaging that’s straight to the point.
From a broader perspective, however, this process builds out your brand identity and contributes to an increasingly unique and engaging persona, and one that can more effectively communicate with customers.
To put this into further perspective, think of this as something that affords your brand a clearly defined voice, and one that remains both audible and authentic across alternative marketing channels.
In this respect, it should supplement your brand’s visual identity perfectly, in order to create a holistic and trustworthy visage that customers can identify with.
Understand the Key Drivers of Your Business
Of course, there are other ways in which you can personify your brand, some of which involve the people and individuals that work within the company and strive to embody its values each and every day.
Such individuals are often described as ‘brand heroes’, while they enable businesses to leverage real people and narratives to promote their business.
Brand heroes can come in numerous forms and guises too, as companies can also partner with everyone from high-profile celebrities and ambassadors to the customers that sustain them.
The key is to align such individuals with your brand values and create engaging narratives around them, while sharing these across a number of channels.
The process of creating brand heroes also helps you to determine the key drivers of your business, including its purpose and the objectives that were established at the outset (we discussed these in a little more detail earlier in the piece).
In fact, once you’ve fleshed out your visual identity and created a viable tone of voice, it may be a good idea to revisit these fundamental factors and determine whether or not you’ve created a holistic brand that boasts the necessary authenticity.
Remember, the evolution and development of your brand can sometimes cause a shift away from your core purpose and objectives, so it’s important to constantly review your business and present a truly consistent identity.
How Else Can You Build Your SME Brand?
By now, you should have a well-defined and holistic brand identity that adequately reflects your business and its core products.
However, you’ll still need to take additional steps to successfully cultivate your small business brand, including the following:
Maintain a Consistent Tone of Voice Across the Business
We’ll start with one of the most important considerations, as maintaining a consistent identity and tone of voice can be incredibly challenging across multiple marketing channels.
This process can be even harder as part of integrated marketing campaigns, which require you to combine on and offline channels in order to optimise the typical customer journey.
There’s also a good reason why you should maintain a consistent brand identity; as this helps to drive recognition across different channels and create a scenario where your business becomes synonymous with key branding elements, specific characteristics and even certain typographies.
Luckily, the process of personifying your brand can help in this respect, particularly as you create core values and a number of relevant (and associated) attributes.
If we evolve this process further, we can also create additional personality traits that can be used to shape content on certain channels. For example, engaging brands may consider themselves to be both playful and humorous, which should impact how they look to communicate with their target customers.
You can then adapt this depending on the precise channel that you’re utilising, with social media providing an opportunity to ramp up the playfulness and create spontaneous messaging alongside scheduled content.
This enables you to maintain a consistent tone of voice across various elements of your integrated campaigns, while also allowing room to vary your messaging according to the confines of individual channels.
Don’t forget to pay attention to elements of your visual branding too, as you must maintain similar logos and typographies where possible across brand-specific campaigns.
It’s also wise to create a brand colour palette that features several viable shades, so that you can vary your presentation to suit specific marketing mediums without staying from familiar and consistent visual guidelines.
Monitor, But Don’t Copy, Your Competitors
It’s always a good idea to monitor your market rivals, especially in relation to their market efforts and individual sales drives.
After all, this can help to provide some inspiration on how to successfully promote your business, while potentially identifying gaps in which your brand can carve itself a viable niche.
However, one of the most important aspects of brand building is to create a distinctive identity that’s as unique as possible, both visually and in terms of how you communicate your ideas to customers.
This means that you should always look to adapt and build on appealing ideas rather than copying them in full, as mimicking the look or tone of rival brands will simply cause you to blend into the background of your market.
Of course, some may argue that copying elements of rival and more established brands enables you to leverage their status to attract customers, but this simply doesn’t fit with modern consumers who are in the market for genuinely authentic and trustworthy businesses.
Not only this, but mimicking a rival brand may detract from your own unique selling points, making it hard to convince new customers to buy from you directly.
Most Important of All – Keep Your Promises
Last, but not least, it’s absolutely crucial that you adhere to the promises that you make as part of your marketing messaging.
Similarly, you’ll need to deliver on your brand’s core values, especially if you’ve built your SME on emotive factors such as sustainability.
Ultimately, the failure to keep such promises will completely undermine any trust that customers may have in your business, while contradicting your brand identity and causing it to lose traction in the marketplace.
Similarly, you’ll have to ensure that every element and department within your business delivers on both spoken promises and core brand values.
For example, if your brand is built on the value of compassion and empathy, you’ll need to maintain an outstanding level of customer services that prioritises the needs of consumers.
This may also create opportunities to scale your customer service and market products to individuals when they’re most engaged with the brand, but at the very least it will ensure that you deliver an experience that reflects your branding.
You can also aid this process by being concise in your messaging and not over promising as a brand, especially as a small business that may be in its infancy!
The Last Word
Ultimately, branding your small business can be incredibly challenging, especially in a busy and competitive market that’s constantly changing.
However, there are practical steps that you can take to build a strong and purposeful brand, and one that differentiates your business from its closest and keenest rivals.
When done well, this can translate into success in every area of your business, from sales and marketing to the lifespan and spending power of every individual consumer!