When you started your business I’m sure it didn’t take long before you realized that “build it and they will come” is not really how it works. At some point you have to think about branding your company so you can market it. Let’s talk about how to get started branding your small business.
This is the first in a series of articles I’m writing to walk you through the process of branding or re-branding a business. My goal is to simplify the process so you can DIY it, if you’re just starting out and trying to save in every way possible. Or, if you want to hire a branding pro this series will give you a framework to think within as you consider your branding needs.
What is branding?
Most people think of logos and color palettes when they think of branding. While that’s definitely part of it, it’s only a piece of the puzzle.
I love this definition by Seth Godin:
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”Seth Godin
At core, your branding is the story told about the problem you solve or the value you bring in every interaction your potential customer has with anyone or anything that represents your company online or off.
There’s a lot of things as a business owner you can’t control. But, your brand isn’t one of them. When you choose to be intentional about every interaction a customer has with your company, you will see your business grow.
The most important rule of branding
I doesn’t matter what kind of business or organization you’re building — product or service based, retail or online, for profit or not for profit — there is one rule of branding that’s the most important.
Ready for it?
Consistency. A strong brand is always consistent.
I will unpack what that looks like practically throughout this entire branding series. If you can sear that into your brain though, and not forget it as you make decisions about your branding, it will put you ahead of most small businesses I encounter.
The truth is, especially in local markets, most small businesses are all over the place with their branding and marketing message. And consistently inconsistent doesn’t serve your business or the people you’re trying to serve.
4 Key Areas to Consider when Building Your Brand
As I mentioned earlier, branding is more than logos and color palettes. So what else does it include as you get started branding your small business?
1. Consistent quality of service or product
Are you clear on the audience you’re trying to serve? Do you offer a premium product or service? Are you positioned for the high, middle or low end marke
These aren’t questions of good or bad. You just need to know where you fit in the marketplace. That will inform everything from your price to the level of service you can provide.
It also informs the kind of visual elements that will best represent your brand
It’s common to have different tiers of products or services that offer a range of entry points for customers to do business with you. If your offerings are too broad though you risk going after too wide an audience. That makes it difficult to provide a consistent brand experience across the board.
It can become the classic scenario of, if you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.
Get clear on the quality of product or service you’re offering and stick with it.
2. Consistent customer experience
Every time a customer interacts with you or someone on your team there should be consistency in the experience.
Can they expect you to quickly make something right if a product doesn’t meet expectations?
Will interactions be warm and inviting or more formal and professional?
Is humor and wit part of your brand voice?
Do your customers know what to reliably expect from interactions with you and your brand?
Chick-fil-A is an easy example of this. What will you hear every. single. time. you go there?
“My pleasure!” Without fail.
They have put a friendly, service oriented, customer first experience at the center of their company. The experience you offer will certainly be different than CFA, but it should be no less consistent.
When you deliver that consistency in person and online it builds trust with your customers. And when issues arise they already have an expectation for how you will resolve it based on the collective experience they’ve had with you up until that point.
3. Consistent messaging
Who is it for and what is it for? Another bit of Seth Godin wisdom. He asks this question often when considering a project or product.
Your messaging really encompasses all the branding pieces I’m covering in this post, but for this part I’m specifically referring to the words you’re using to convey your brand message.
Are you clearly communicating who your brand is for and the problem you solve?
A confused mind says ‘no’ and will not buy from you. The clearer you can be with your brand message — the copy on your website, marketing materials, social media — the stronger your brand will be.
You might begin to feel like a broken record saying the same things over and over again. Remember, your audience won’t see every piece of communication you put out into the world. When they do see it though, every touch point must be consistent to build trust.
4. Consistent brand visuals
This is where most people start with their branding. Designing a logo, choosing a color palette and fonts are the fun part, right?
If you’re a creative person this is where you want to start. I get it. This is the fun stuff for me too.
Your brand visuals become far more effective (and easier to design) if you’ve done the pre-work of getting clear on your ideal customer, customer experience and brand messaging though. That’s why I didn’t start here.
Your brand visuals include more than a logo and colors. It includes the style of the graphic elements or photography you use to communicate your brand story. The style of your website, printed materials, packaging (if you have a physical product), signage, email signature, social media graphics, invoices, I could go on.
Anything visual that customers encounter as part of your business are included here.
I will go into further detail about how to create the visual elements of your brand, crafting your brand message and lots of other details in future articles.
For now, I hope you have a clearer sense of how to get started branding your small business and all the pieces that contribute to a strong brand. When each of these four areas are accounted for and consistent as you develop your brand you will build trust with your audience. And when they trust you they are eager to do business with you.