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Branding is probably one of the most discussed topics in marketing circles, small business conferences, marketing and business podcasts and more. It’s near impossible to have a conversation about marketing, especially around small businesses startups, without the word “branding” being dropped a thousand times.

It makes sense given how important the brand is in the healthy growth of a startup. More than that, a strong brand is vital to the success of a small business especially in competitive markets.

But what exactly is a brand?

Ask a dozen marketers that question and you’ll get as many different answers. While some think your small business’s brand is isolated to the fonts, colors, and logo you choose others see the brand to be far more encompassing.

And it is. A strong brand includes some (read: a lot) of the following:

  • Visual and design elements (color, typography, logo, and even packaging)
  • Website
  • Physical signage and the storefront
  • Social channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
  • Taglines and slogans
  • Environment and culture
  • Tone of voice
  • Customer service

So, What Makes A Strong Brand?

 

The most successful businesses, from small to large, develop a strong brand that’s a combination of many of the above bullets. It’s rarely one thing that begins driving massive growth for the brand, though in time one of those aspects from the list above could become a major identifier of the brand among its target audience.

For example; as a small business grows in popularity it can become well known for it’s tone, it’s customer service, or its slogan.

Death Wish Coffee has quickly become well known for it’s highly-caffeinated products.

What started with online sales quickly grew to become a global sensation. It’s branding has helped the product move into major retailers, like WalMart.

In every case of a strong brand there is one thing that’s consistent – the customer. A strong brand can’t really be bought. It’s up to your customers and their perception of your business.

You can establish certain elements of your brand but it’s also made up of how your customer feels about you, what they think, and what they have to say about you. You can’t launch with a strong brand, but you can grow it to that point.

And there are numerous benefits to building a brand for your small business.

Branding Ensures You Stand Out In A Crowded Market

Every business in every industry has competitors from small businesses selling similar products to big box and online retailers that compete in similar verticals to grab your customer’s attention. Small business owners need to differentiate themselves from the local competition. If your customers can find similar products online then the sea of competitors grows exponentially.

Branding your small business makes it easy for customers to identify who you are, what you stand for, and even what you sell. When your brand stands for something and customers can identify that then they’re more like to choose you over a competitor.

Branding Creates Trust With Prospective Customers

A business with an established brand presents itself as a more professional establishment, and customers are more likely to purchase from a business that appears polished and authoritative as opposed to something that was thrown together and opened overnight.

For example; Customers must choose between two local restaurants based on the branding. Restaurant A has a basic black and white sign on the building that reads “Coney Dogs and Burgers”. Restaurant B has a colorful lit sign with a logo and a branded signage in the windows showing various dinner and family specials.

Restaurant B is more likely to grab the attention of first-time customers and win their trust.

This example from Pouted Lifestyle Magazine doesn’t exactly inspire trust or a memorable experience.

Branding Makes It Easy For Customers To Find And Engage With You

Many small businesses may not deal with online sales but your customers still expect more of an omni-channel experience. They want to reach and engage with you across all mediums, including social media.

When you have an established brand online and manage social profiles for your business it makes it easier for customers to find you online and engage with you. When they see others engaging and following your brand, and your logo is visible on profiles, your profile stands out.

This is important because 90% of consumers expect their experience with a brand will be the same (or similar) regardless of how they engage with the brand. Maintain a consistent brand for your small business creates a seamless transition between the web and your brick-and-mortar business.

Branding Helps Establish Loyalty For New Customers

Your brand has a lot to do with the whether or not customers choose to return. Customers see your logo and signage, they experience the attitude and atmosphere of your business on the first interaction, and they form a first impression from that.

First impressions directly influence loyalty. According to data shared by CrowdSpring, 48% of consumers report they’re more likely to become loyal to a brand based on the experience from their first purchase.

Customer service, employee attitude, values, and the personality and vision shared among employees can have a profound impact on your brand and the loyalty of first-time customers. That loyalty isn’t just important for customer acquisition though.

Loyalty generates customer referrals. With so much of your brand revolving around customer perception, word of mouth is how your brand will strengthen and spread. As it grows, your loyal customers will help send new business your way.

Word of mouth is trusted by around 80% of every generation, with as many as 50% of purchase decisions based on referrals.

And customers who are referred to your brand are as much as 4x more likely to make a purchase.

When your values are woven into your brand your customers will see that. According to Harvard Business Review, 64% of customers cite shared values as the primary reason they have a relationship with a brand.

Branding Helps Influence Customer Perception

Your customers will quickly form their own impression of your business based on their interaction with you, but there’s a lot you can do to influence that. Your brand is made up of numerous elements including color, the logo design, and the tone used in printed copy.

Color plays a big part in brand recognition and customer perception. Choosing the right color can grab up to 40% more attention from customers and it’s one of the first things we perceive when we encounter a brand. Using a signature color consistently throughout your branding can improve brand recognition by as much as 80%.

And when combined with the setting of your business and the tone of the copy (and environment), color can help you influence the customer toward a desired mood.

Even the design of your logo can influence customer perception; the brain processes images 60,000x faster than words. Many of the most successful, memorable brands use an easily identifiable glyph or image in their logo.

Think about a few brands that could be easily identified if the name were removed from the logo; Pepsi’s round logo, Starbucks’s mermaid, the Nike swish.

Branding Creates Consistency In Your Marketing

Once you establish your brand and have things down for the vision of the company, tone, colors, logo, typography, etc. then it gradually becomes easier to model your efforts around that brand. Everything you do is built around that brand. This is especially true with marketing.

With an established brand all of your marketing becomes simpler. Rather than trying to design campaigns from scratch you have brand guidelines that guide your efforts.

The consistency in marketing also makes it easier for customers familiar with your business to identify you.

Most importantly, it takes 5 to 7 impressions of your logo/brand for consumers to recognize it in the future. Consistency in marketing cements your brand with prospective customers and makes it easier for them to recall and remember your small business.

Branding Can Unify Employees

 

Just like good branding gives customers something to connect to, your overall brand becomes something representative of not just the business but also your employees. When they become part of the image, personality, and voice of the business then they’re far more likely to work together to support your vision and the company’s mission. Your brand plays a role in bringing employees closer together, working toward collective goals.

When your team is unified and embracing the brand, they’re more likely to project the correct personality and tone, maintain a higher morale, and improve customer service overall lending to a better customer experience and more memorable brand experience.

Conclusion

As you can see from the benefits above, your brand does a lot more for your small business than fill signage to make it look attractive. Branding gives your small business presence. It becomes something your customers can connect with, lift up, talk about, and share with those around them. A strong brand is as much about the customer experience as it is the visual identification of your business. If you want to establish yourself as a leader in your market, make it easy to identify you over your competitors, and easily communicate to prospective customers what you offer then branding your small business is a must.