Deciding to start a small business is like an avalanche: you don't even realize that by making that first decision you're actually opening yourself up to needing to make about 84,613 MORE decisions. And somewhere between the business name and the accounting software decisions, you're very likely to be like many other small business owners and mumble something under your breath along the lines of "I got a logo, that's enough branding for my small business, right?"
First off, let me just say you're not alone if you think logos are the extent of branding. And I have a whole other post about that here. But what I really want to touch on today is the small business part. Because the fact of the matter is this:
Small Businesses are where branding thriiiiiiveeeeeees.
(yes, the bolding and drawn own words were necessary)
Hear me out on this one. Many new and small business owners may be quick to believe that branding beyond logo designs, typography and color palettes aren't something they need to worry about - that those things are reserved for larger corporations. But do you know why big corporations spend so much time, money and effort on their branding efforts? So they can make it seem as if they're authentically connecting with their consumers. If you're a small business owner, you're already five steps ahead of them. You have direct access to your customers and you ARE authentically connecting with them. You're able to speak with and understand who your customers are, meet their needs, and grow your business accordingly. And that's where appropriate branding can make all the difference.
As I've said before, consistent branding and brand planning can make a world of difference for a small business. Studies show that it creates trust, improves recognition, supports your marketing efforts, and ultimately generates revenue. Chances are you already knew all of that. The juicy, important details you want to know are HOW.
How do you go about building a lasting brand for your new business that goes beyond just logos? Well, I'm here to tell you!
Define your brand's purpose. Start by asking yourself what the real purpose of your product or service is. What problems do you solve for your customers? What promise are you making to your consumers and how are you keeping those promises? What is your mission statement, and why should your customers care?
Research your competitors. Understand what it is your competitors are doing. How are they positioning themselves? Who are they targeting and is there a gap that you might be able to meet? How can you differentiate yourself from them? Understanding this will be critical to your messaging.
Identify your target audience. I can never stress this enough. Make a very clear profile of your target client profile so you know WHO exactly you're marketing to - their demographics, what type of media they consume, their favorite brands, their behaviors... the more you understand them, the better you can message to them and meet their needs. Need a template for building this profile out? Ask me!
Define your brand personality. Believe it or not, all brands have a personality. Consider how you would like your customers to perceive your brand. Are you playful or serious, modern or classic, innovative or familiar? Decide on these characteristics and apply them to all interactions - internally with employees, in-store with customers, even on social media.
Write down your story. Customers are humans first, and they tend to connect with a human story. Make your personal story part of your business story. Why did you start your business and how did you end up here?
Set your visual identity. We've FINALLY made it to the logo! Now that you've decided on all the emotional and messaging aspects of your brand, decide on a logo, typography, colors and website design that tell that story and are authentic to the brand you are building. FYI - this is a great time to hire a designer. Don't get down on yourself if you feel in over your head! You hire someone to cut your hair for a reason!
Integrate your brand into your business. Now that you've developed a robust brand message, implement into all parts of your business! Use your brand message and your visual identity consistently targeted to your ideal audience. Stay true to your brand and make adjustments when needed!
I know this seems like a lot to do when you're trying to do those 84,613 other things I referenced earlier. But TRUST ME when I say that doing this up front will make marketing your small business feel SO. MUCH. EASIER. Because you can start with a clear understanding of what your message is, who you're delivering that message to, how you're going to say it, and what the goal is. From there, everything else is a walk in the park!