branding strategies for a small business - Design 106

Branding Strategies for Small Businesses

If you’re a small business owner, putting some of your limited capital into branding your business may not seem very important; or that it’s best left to bigger companies such as McDonalds or Coca-Cola. Not so! If you are a business of 500 employees or 5 – making sure your branding strategies are top quality is crucial to helping your company grow.

Of course, bigger businesses may have bigger budgets, but you don’t need to be Bill Gates to achieve clear and effective branding. There are a lot of ways your company can stand out from its competition and make its mark without an inflated branding budget. Keep reading to learn our top five branding strategies to help your small business thrive.

Branding Strategies

1. Clarify Your Identity

Branding strategies are more than just inserting a logo on your website and letterhead. Your branding strategies communicate to your customers – and potential customers – who you are as a business, your values and goals and the look and feel of your visual assets. Before you can even begin to define your branding strategy, you need to sit down and clearly specify who you are as a business. There are a few steps you can follow to help with this process:

Who Do You Think You Are?

If you already have a good idea of what your company’s identity looks like that’s perfect. It’s alright if you don’t as well. Now is the time to sit down and do some corporate soul searching. Ask yourself some difficult questions to figure out who you want to be as a brand. Questions such as:

  • How would I describe my company in three words?
  • What do I want to be known for in my field?
  • How will my company disrupt the industry?
  • What are my company’s core values and missions?

The more detailed you can be in your answers, the easier it will be to infuse this identity into your branding. This will ultimately help you remain memorable to potential customers.

define target

Who is Your Target Audience?

This may sound obvious, but many small businesses put so much effort into defining their company and what kind of products or services they will offer, that they gloss over who they’re attempting to sell those products or services to. The branding for their businesses obviously then suffers as well.

Take time to figure out who your ideal customer would be. How old are they? What kind of income or education do you have? Are they predominantly male or female? What matters to them? When would they use your product or service? Once you know who your target audience is, you can use this info to guide your branding strategy.

Define What Makes You Unique

No matter what your company sells or the service you provide, likely there is competition out there that does this already. If you want your business to stand out, you need to know what makes your business different from your competitors.

Your Point of Difference (or POD), is what makes your company special. This is what makes people want to do business with you over your competition. Your POD should be integral in every part of your visual identity. Don’t be overwhelmed by this idea. Even if your POD is something simple, this is what makes your brand your brand. Is your company vegan? Do you have the best customer service in your field? Are you a family business that’s been running for generations? No matter what your company’s POD is, you should use this to help build your brand identity.

See What’s Working in Your Industry

Obviously, you want your branding strategies to be different and unique. However, if you want effective branding strategies, you need to know what’s trending and working (or not working) in your field. Examine your competitors closely. Is there something that has become more popular in your industry? For example, if you’re launching a new pizza restaurant, you notice that a lot of your competition uses the colors of the Italian flag in their branding and logo. Or maybe they focus all their marketing efforts on LinkedIn instead of Facebook. You don’t want to just blindly follow your competitors, but it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of your industry. This can also help inform you when building your branding strategy.

2. A picture is worth a thousand words

After you’ve defined what makes you special, who your audience is and what’s working in your industry – it’s time to start designing your brand. Keep reading to learn some of the things you’ll need to develop a look and feel for your brand:

A Brand Style Guide

Before you begin designing your logo, it’s important to figure out the details of your design strategy like your brand color palette, font and design do’s and dont’s. A brand style guide is the best way to organize all the details and ensures that you and your designer (and anyone else working on your brand) are all on the same page.

A Logo is so important in your branding strategies

Your logo is the ‘face’ of your company. It’s the first thing that customers will see when they ‘meet’ your brand. It is the visual element they will most identify with your company. Your logo should be the first thing you nail down as it will be the springboard for the rest of the visual elements you create – like business cards or your website.

Business Cards

It should be no surprise that if you are a business, you’ll need business cards. This design should of course match your logo and other design elements of your brand.

website design branding strategies

A Website

Your website is the virtual storefront for your company. When people visit your website, the look and feel should be consistent with the rest of your visual identity.

5 must haves for a business website

3. Establish Yourself as an Expert

We understand that as a small business, you probably don’t have much (if any budget) left over for advertising. Luckily, you don’t need to shell out thousands of dollars to get yourself in front of a good audience. There’s an easy and more affordable way to get your company out there – using content marketing.

Content marketing works on multiple levels. First, it establishes your company as an expert by providing you with a platform to showcase your industry knowledge. Your audience will begin to trust you and look to you as a valuable source of information on a certain topic. When it comes time for them to use a product or service, they will most likely choose your business over your competitors.

Content marketing also gives you an opportunity to strengthen your branding. By crafting a strong brand voice, and using that strong voice throughout your content, you solidify your company’s ethos and values. This, in turn, strengthens your relationship to your customers and drives business.

Finally, the best part of content marketing? No matter how large or small your business is you can make content work for you. The key to successfully using content in your marketing strategy is to create the appropriate content for your audience. Research what kinds of questions your customers are asking repeatedly and then create content that answers those questions. There is lots of information about your industry out there, but it may be too overwhelming for your target audience to find. Add value to your customer’s lives by creating content that simply and easily answers any questions they may have on your industry and build trust with your customers.

4. Find Partnership Opportunities

Unsurprisingly, people like to do business with brands that they trust. If you’re a new brand, establishing that trust can be very time consuming and costly. If you’re looking for a way to speed up that trust building process then forming a partnership with a brand your customers already trust is a great way to press fast forward. If your customers are introduced to your brand via a brand they’ve already grown to like and trust, they are much more likely to extend that trust to your brand and invest their time and money in your brand.

Keep this in mind though: find a business with similar (but not competitive) audiences. For example, if you’re launching an energy bar aimed at endurance athletes, you could partner with local races to include your bar in their gift bags. Or you could guest write articles in local running magazines or blogs. All of these businesses have audiences that are similar to your target customer, but none of them are direct competitors.

5. Put Your Customer First

This is another obvious piece of advice but can easily be forgotten in the busy, day-to-day workings of your company.

While your logo and branding may be the first touchpoint customers have with your company, you need to follow through with your promises. The reputation you gain and what your customers say about you – on and offline- is the most important part of your branding. If you want your company to have staying power, making your customer’s needs your number one priority is key to being a success overall. If your customers have a positive experience every time they interact with your brand, they are more likely to continue to use your product and/or service; as well as spread the word about your brand.

Search out new opportunities to reach your customers. Perhaps from touchpoints they don’t expect. Listen to their feedback and act on it. If a large number of customers say that your website is confusing, revamp the design to make it more user friendly. Is it a hassle to make a return? Send customers a prepaid label and clear instructions on how to return an item. The better you can make the customer experience, the more you’ll be known as a business that prioritizes its clients.