Why your small business needs branding and how to build it

If you’re a startup or a relatively small business, you may not have thought about branding for your future just yet.

But branding isn’t just a huge buzzword reserved for giant corporations: it’s just as essential for SMEs. No matter what stage of growth your business is at, it’s important to perfect your branding from the bottom up.

But we understand that it can be tricky to know where to start.

We’ve rounded up advice from experts across the creative branding industry on how to begin your journey to establishing a strong, recognisable brand.

What is branding?

In a nutshell, branding is a business’s way of identifying who they are and what they do. It represents your values and the true core of who your business is.

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Having a strong brand also helps you to build a good reputation. Whether you are starting out and have no reputation at all or are looking to improve the profile you already have, branding can help. It’s all about building expectations about your services or products, which in turn can encourage your staff to exceed them as they are motivated to live up to the name you have nurtured.

Why is branding important for small businesses?

The most successful companies keep branding at the very heart of everything they do. It’s a way of defining your business’s identity: it helps keep your core values at the forefront of your new ideas.

Not only will it keep your customers coming back for more, but it will also ensure that your employees feel more at home and loyal.

We can give you a few more reasons why branding is important for your small business:

  1. Recognition - When you see some of the most famous logos in the world, you instantly remember the name of the company, what they do, and what they stand for. While you may not achieve that status straight away, a strong brand will help you build a reputation as a recognisable, trustworthy company.
  2. Trust - Speaking of reputation, appearing professional and consistent in your branding improves your credibility amongst customers and prospects.
  3. Being found - If you sell offline as well as online, having a well-established brand helps potential customers find you wherever they may go.

Brian Lonsdale from Repeat Logo added why SMEs shouldn’t overlook branding:

“Logos, brands and products are important as they build deeper connections and associations with consumers. In many cases, consumers hold a brand’s identity close to their hearts. Branding should be personal: we often choose to buy from a brand that we like, rather than the brand that’s the cheapest.”

Why logos are a good place to start

Your logo must represent you. It needs to tell people who you are, what kind of company you run and communicate your values all in one. It’s a tough balancing act, but if done well, it can revolutionise your relationship with your target market and customers.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Name and tagline - It sounds obvious, but make sure the name and slogan are visible. That way, your customers will remember your name, and it becomes far easier for them to talk about you to other people.
  2. What do you do? - Does your logo represent the services or products you provide? Your potential customers should know they are in the right place at a single glance.
  3. Show your personality - Acclaimed poet, singer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou once said: “At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” How do you want your customers to feel when they see your logo? Hone in on one emotion to avoid confusion; perhaps you want to be fun, sincere or authoritative. Otherwise, you risk being forgettable.

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Brian from Repeat Logo says that your logo is your first chance to make a good impression:

“A logo is often the first thing a customer will see whether it is on your website, on promotional material or at your physical business space. That’s why your branding impact must be instant. 90% of the information transmitted to our brains is visual, so connecting with your customer through design should be at the top of your list when your business is establishing a branding strategy.”

Finding your brand's voice

Some of the biggest and most well-known brands out there all have one thing in common: they have a very distinct voice.

For example, a luxury watch brand like Rolex is known for being classy and upmarket. Red Bull is daring, adrenaline-spiking and exciting. Innocent is cheeky and creates copy that speaks to customers in a light, conversational tone.

Libby Bearman, CRO Manager of Browser Media, said: “Finding your brand’s voice starts with understanding how your audience is talking about what you do. Asking for feedback from customers will reveal the type of language that resonates with them. It helps you understand what to communicate, as well as how to communicate it.

“Take the time to test different phrases or wording in marketing collateral to see what your customers prefer, so they’re more likely to enjoy your campaigns. If they enjoy your campaigns, they’re more likely to engage with your brand, and if they engage with your brand, they’re more likely to convert.”

Here are some top tips for defining your brand’s voice:

  1. Be honest - Consumers are smart. They can spot a fake brand and phoney tone of voice a mile away, and they will have no problem with visiting your competitor instead of you.
  2. Tell a story - People love a good story, especially one that is full of human interest. Tell the tale behind why you started your business; maybe it was from a place of true passion or a family-run business that started 50 years ago? Dig deep, and you’ll find it.
  3. Be relatable - Think of your company as a living and breathing person, and that way you can start to create a brand as something that people can really relate to. Don’t be afraid to show your personality; that way you can appeal to their emotions.

Keep things consistent

Nowadays, there are so many different marketing avenues to consider. There’s your storefront (if you sell offline), your online presence, any marketing materials that you produce, and especially social media.

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Gavin Bell, founder of Blue Cliff Media, believes that in this day and age, brands shouldn’t neglect social in their branding efforts. “When it comes to branding your business on social media,” he says, “it’s hugely important first of all to establish what your voice is. That means sitting down and determining what sort of voice you want to portray: corporate, fun, happy, inspiring, etc.

“It’s hugely important to keep that voice consistent across all social platforms. You need to have a consistent representation of who and what you are. If your tone is different on your Facebook to your Twitter, what message does that send out?

“It takes, on average, a minimum of six to seven brand touches before someone will remember your organisation and what it stands for. Every time someone comes across your brand, you’re leaving them with an impression. Of course, these people are potential customers; you want to make every brand impression a positive and memorable one.”

Perfect branding isn’t something that you can achieve overnight, but it is something into which  you should put a great deal of thought. Before you begin, ask yourself some of these questions:

  1. What makes your business different from competitors out there?
  2. What sort of value do you provide that they don’t?
  3. What kind of benefits do you offer and how can they be linked to emotions?

David Dews from creative branding agency, Speed, sums the first stage up perfectly. “The steps to developing your perfect brand position are to start with some soul-searching. Ask yourself some hard questions about why your business exists: what is its main purpose? Involve your key members of staff to get them bought into your vision. Ask some difficult questions to your customers and be prepared for some home truths.”

Your answers to these questions will be a great place to start, and over time they will help to define everything that you do and establish a strong identity. While larger companies are, of course, able to spend more on their branding efforts, it doesn’t have to break the bank! Slapping your logo on everything you produce just won’t cut it anymore; your voice and message must be strong, consistent, and connect with your target customers. Nail this, and you’ll have them coming back for more!

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