Success in business is not only dependent on how great your product or service is, but people knowing about it. Branding and communications are essential ingredients for success.
Every business owner needs to communicate their business message in an engaging way and will be the difference between failure and success. All companies aim to be the number one brand associated with the service or product they sell. However, this requires a significant investment of time and money to deliver a strong branding strategy.
At Supreme Products, we are all about branding and have created the following comprehensive 101 branding guide for small businesses. What is a brand, exactly?
A brand is a company’s ‘projected promise’ to a customer. A company’s brand should communicate to a customer what they can expect from the product or service. It should project how one company differs from others.
Why is good branding vital?
Research shows that 75% of purchase decisions are based on emotion. As branding is primarily what influences a customer’s perceptions and feelings toward a company overall, this statistic highlights the extreme importance of branding a new business.
So, how do you brand a small business effectively?
There are incredibly talented and experienced agencies out there who specialise in this. However, in the case of the new business start-up, funding is often limited and branding may not be a high priority. However, as noted above, branding has the ability to greatly impact the success of a business, particularly in the early stages of development, there is a strong case for investing in this area.
If investing financially isn’t an option, consider investing in the time needed to progress with branding your company yourself. If you opt for doing your own branding then these are the things to consider:
1/ DO YOUR RESEARCH
Don’t bark up the wrong tree from the get-go! Do some market research to establish who your target market actually is and where they are. This means researching who is interested in what your business is offering and not who you think or guess is interested, their age group, demographic, geographic location and any other relevant information.
Also, conduct a competitor analysis to learn about what other companies similar to yours are offering, and determine what makes your company unique and better than the others in your niche.
2/ DEFINE YOUR BRAND
Define the common recognisable characters. These have been used to help brand many successful companies. Some examples include “the hero”, “the helper” and “the adventurer”. Defining this isn’t intended to dictate the entire identity of your brand, but rather help you flesh out your brand’s image or persona in a clear way. Major brands who have taken this approach include Microsoft who identifies themselves as “the boy/girl next door” and Apple who consider themselves “the visionary” in designing products before people realise they need them.
3/ PERSONIFY YOUR BRAND
It’s extremely helpful when branding a company to personify your brand in detail. Our personality is what determines what decisions we make about our actions, our appearance and how we are projected. Having a solid, detailed understanding of who your company would be as a person will help you make more consistent branding choices. This will help to a stronger overall brand with a clear distinction. It would be also helpful to have a list of brands with which you’d like your brand to be associated and keep this in mind when planning marketing events.
4/ DEFINE YOUR BRAND DISTINCTION
Competition is everywhere, so it’s crucial that your branding spells out what sets your company apart from the rest. Your “value proposition” and USP describes why customers should choose you. These may include the fact that your prices are the best, you supply a unique aspect of your niche or you have the widest range of products. This needs to be expressed in some way on your website, social media and promotional material.
5/ CREATE A MEMORABLE LOGO
A logo serves as the visual of your brand. A great logo goes a long way to making your product or service memorable. You can brainstorm ideas with friends and get their ideas and feedback on your logo ideas. However, it’s advisable to hire a professional logo designer to create it once you have an idea of what you like.
These are key ingredients for a great logo:
• Is it visually attractive?
• Is it functional?
Consider if it can be used on a letterhead, a poster and a business card?
• Is it original?
• Is it appropriate?
• Is it timeless? Have you used elements that are time/trend sensitive and that will seem outdated quickly?
• Is it simple?
6/ REFINE YOUR BRAND LANGUAGE
All copy and text associated with your brand should adopt the tone your brand would like to project. If you are a ‘hip’ brand, then your language should reflect this. If you are a high-end educational product targeting universities, the hip language is not going to sit well with the board of trustees.
7/ CREATE A CATCH PHRASE
Select a few words to capture the brand message or catchphrase that you would like your brand to be known for. This phrase should be closely linked to your company’s mission statement and catchy enough for people to remember.
8/ EMBRACE UNIQUENESS
Embrace originality and the authenticity of your brand. If you are small and offer personal service, express this. Numerous international chains are currently trying to create a more independent national appearance in each country to capitalise on this belonging to their local customer. Play up your unique selling proposition if, for example, it’s being an independent operator, then project this maybe even on a custom swimming caps
9/ DESIGN A MEMORABLE BUSINESS CARD
You have not given a second thought to most business cards, so don’t dish up more of the same. In most cases, business cards are very standard and the content predictable. This is an excellent opportunity to make your company memorable, showcase your innovative logo, creating a card with a “wow” factor. For example, one law firm created translucent plastic cards with gold leaf embedded as their calling card to be remembered by. The lawyer’s logo also translucent and embedded in the card along with contact details and a call to action. An impressive and memorable business card that few threw away.
With 77% of consumers professing to keep promotional products because they serve a purpose and over 85% of people who receive a promotional item admitting to doing business with the advertiser in the future, why not consider doing something completely different? Design a USB Flash Drive as your “business card” promoting your business and ensure your business is front of mind for your prospects always.
10/ BE ALWAYS CONSISTENT
Consistent branding improves brand value. Brand value is the addition given to your business’s products that give you license to charge more for your branded product than what identical unbranded products command.
Consider the example of a price of a can of Coke versus the price of an unbranded can of soft drink. The value in brand equity lies in the perceived product quality or the customer’s emotional attachment to a product they are familiar with and grown to trust.
11/ FRIENDS AND FAMILY ENDORSEMENT
Endorsement from family or friends is more valuable than your company’s owned media assets. This is because customers will always trust the opinions of their family and friends more than somebody who is trying to sell them something. Thus, it’s essential to consider your current customers first and foremost while branding. This may include employees, clients and friends. Generating excitement and positive regard for your brand amongst these people will help the message spread quickly.
12/ BUILD AN ONLINE PRESENCE
Popular websites have what is referred to as an e-presence. E-presence is an essential ingredient when it comes to effective branding today.
Growing a company’s e-presence is made easier when the following elements are in place:
a. Professional design: The website looks great, visuals are consistent with the brand in terms of overall look and feel, corporate image is reflected, and the layout is well planned.
b. Easy to navigate: Users can find what they want on the site quickly and easily – ideally in 3 clicks or less. This can be done in several ways.
c. Recognisable: The site when advertised on other sites in the form of banner ads is recognized. This helps potential customers to recognise the logo, catchphrase and colours that represent the brand you have worked hard to create.
d. Reason to visit: Specials and promotions are featured on the front page of the website and these are updated regularly.
e. Fresh content: A blog roll is active on the site and posts are published regularly. This can help build a brand’s reputation as an expert and authority in its respective industry. New content should add value, be unique, insightful, informed and offer readers something of value. Google is looking for the visitors they bring to the site to be it entertainment, informed, given valuable opinions and great user experience.
f. Be active on social media: Make sure your social media pages are on all suitable platforms and are active – ideally the ones your brand’s target market use most often. These are used to engage with current and potential customers and cannot be underestimated in their ability to bring traffic to your website.
13/ BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR WEAKNESSES
Authenticity is essential when it comes to the values of a successful brand. Brand authenticity is boosted by honesty. If or when things don’t go well, it’s crucial that your brand voices the reality of the situation and actively works toward solving the problem. Branding a business can feel like a big never-ending task. Working through the above step by step will help to give you an idea of what needs to be done, and how to achieve this.
However, Small Business Development Centers can offer companies like yours their expertise. If you feel that your start-up could use the extra support, then consider reaching out to one of these organisations. Branding has the undeniable ability to make a huge difference to a small business or start-up, so be sure to leverage this powerful tool and reap the rewards of branding your venture well for years to come.