Investing in a branding strategy and building a brand is not reserved only for large companies. Small businesses thrive when building a strong identity and can even develop more loyal customers than corporations in the same industry.
Many small business owners have a general understanding of branding, labeling a graphic identity as the logo, slogan, and colors. While this is definitely a start, there is actually much more going on beneath the surface and a carefully constructed brand requires significant time and effort.
What is branding and why do you need it?
As mentioned previously, branding is more than just the graphic identity of a business. Branding also describes what the business is and what its core values are.
Successful businesses build up an image. Not only is this a graphic presentation, but it is also a reflection of their interactions with an audience. Personality, tone, consistency, dependability… all of these elements come together to form a cohesive picture of how a company does business.
Markets today are extremely oversaturated with competitors, so you need to stand out through your story. Economic choices are emotional. Customers are not only looking for an effective product or service, but are also seeking a company that aligns with their personal values.
Choosing a brand signifies that you identify with it, which is indeed a personal choice that should be respected. Understanding that, as a business owner, will help you on your journey to building a community of dedicated supporters.
Here are 10 tips on how to create a successful brand for your business.
1) Define your brand
Before building your strategy, it’s crucial to have a clear idea of what your business represents and what type of value you add (this is also known are your UVP or Unique Value Proposition). You must have a well-defined purpose. Ask yourself:
- Who is my ideal customer?
- What do my customers need?
- What exactly do I provide that is different from my competitors?
2) Outline the personality of your brand
Customers seek a personal relationship with brands. This is why you will need to create a personality for your brand. Does your business have a more classic, traditional feel to it? Or are you a a bit more whimsical and playful? Define some of the key personality traits of your brand, as they will set the stage for your communication and image.
3) What inspires your own business?
This question begins to tap into a deeper understanding of your brand’s identity: values. Your core values will be defined by a higher purpose, whether it is the ethical production of your product, premium customer service, donation of a portion of your profits, support for local suppliers, and a wealth of other possible positions. These are all prime examples of values your brand can align with, appealing to customers that share the same values.
4) Be consistent in the relationship with your audience
Building the image of your business into a powerful brand requires consistency. If you fail to meet people’s expectations, the relationship often ends before it can begin. Practice the same core values across the board with all your brand strategies.
5) Use the same tone in your communication
Similar to the previous point, your tone should remain pretty consistent. Decide if you want to have a friendly tone or something a bit more formal, and then stick with it. Staying true to who you are as a person will always pay off in the long run. People can immediately tell if you’re not being genuine.
6) Don’t forget about variety
Being consistent doesn’t mean you have to be boring. Make sure to come up with new ways to deliver your message while maintaining a consistent underlying tone.
7) Be your own brand and avoid imitation
As a small business, you are not expected to reinvent the wheel, but steer away from imitation. Many small business owners try to create a big brand look-alike and hope that the customers will come in because they see something familiar. While this may work on occasion, in the long term it is damaging to your image and likely will have legal implications.
8) Use your brand as a guarantee
We know how hard it is to compete in today’s market as a small business, but compromising too much can devalue your company and service. Don’t feel tempted to overuse discounts and promotions, as they can deliver the wrong message. Use your brand as a guarantee of quality and give customers a chance to trust you.
9) Don’t get lazy
Many business owners tend to find a strategy that works and abandon everything else. Of course it’s important to capitalize on what’s working, but it’s never a good idea to have all your eggs in one basket. Challenge your audience, split-test marketing ideas, offer new resources, share your knowledge.
10) Believe in innovation
This may sound like something reserved for the big players, but success often stems from those who dare to be innovative. Stay in touch with your customer’s feedback/requests, and react promptly. A brand that reacts quickly to the needs of its audience is on the path to success.