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Small Business Branding: Steps for Building Your Brand for Long-Term Success

business branding

Developing a memorable and effective brand is a key element for business success. Small business owners often neglect brand development because they think it’s something that only applies to large businesses. Building a strong brand identity, however, should be a priority for small businesses wanting to grow. Let’s examine some of the essential steps to build a brand.

What is a brand?

Before we walk through the steps for developing a brand, we need to define what it is. It’s common to think about a brand as the business name, logo and colour scheme. Although this is true, your business branding is much more than these elements. Simply put, a brand is a consumer’s overall view of a business. So it is much more than the business name and logo. It also includes:

  • Marketing materials – website, brochures, print and online advertising, business cards
  • Your locations – shopfront, office
  • Signage (outdoor and vehicle) and product packaging
  • Content and social media posts
  • Customer interaction – sales, customer service, service delivery, product repair and maintenance.

In summary, your branding comes into play at all touch points between customers (and potential customers) and your business.

Determine who you are targeting with your brand

The starting point for developing your image is to determine who your target customers are. An effective way to do this is by creating hypothetical customers who match the people you are marketing to. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘persona’ or ‘customer archetype’. A persona will include personal characteristics such as age, gender, location, level of income, education completed. You will also want to determine the person’s needs and interests when developing a persona. If you have been in business for a while, you should have a clear picture of who this person is.

You can’t be all things to all people. So by narrowing your focus, you can focus on the customers who you can best serve and who will truly appreciate your product or service. You will also be able to develop a marketing strategy that targets the personas you have developed instead of trying to market to a larger group. This will enable you to reduce your marketing costs and not waste your efforts on trying to attract the wrong customers.   

Create a clear mission

When you uncover and document what you stand for and are passionate about will enable you to create a meaningful brand that connects your business goals with customer wants.

Some examples of mission statements include:

  • Spotify: To unlock the potential of human creativity—by giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by it.
  • GE: To invent the next industrial era, to build, move, power and cure the world.
  • TED: Spread ideas
  • Coca-Cola: To refresh the world in mind, body and spirit; Inspire moments of optimism and happiness through our brands and actions; create value and make a difference.
  • Google: Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
  • Nike: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.

By defining your mission, you will be able to determine who you can serve best and target this niche more effectively.

Research what others are doing in your niche

If yours is like most businesses, you probably have many competitors. For this reason, it’s a good idea to analyse what others are doing. The idea is not to copy anyone, but determine how you can differentiate yourself in the market. After examining some of these brands, ask yourself “How can we do it better?” You will want to keep in mind the personas you have created to determine how you can create a more favourable brand than your potential competitors. Things to consider when reviewing the competition in your niche include their marketing efforts; messaging and visual imaging; products and services; and reviews and customer feedback.

Summarise the key features and benefits of your brand

Analyse the features and benefits of your brand to determine what stands apart from others in your niches. Think about what areas out stand out in delivering your products or services. Things that you might stand out for include:

  • Innovative ways to save your customers’ time
  • A high level of transparency
  • Enhancing productivity for manufacturing
  • Creating solutions faster than others.

For example, Toyota Prius has been positioned for its fuel efficiency, environmentally-friendliness, leading-edge technology. Apple has become known for its slick design and the ease of use of its products.

What positive traits come to mind when people think about your brand? Your answer to this question will help you uncover the key features and benefits that matter to your current and potential customers.

Create your logo and tagline

Based on what you have uncovered to this point, it’s time to create your logo and tagline. Your logo is the visual encapsulation of who you are and what you are about, so will want to spend some time and thought on this part of your business branding. Your logo fonts and colours will have a big impact on how people see you. Find out more about The Psychology of Colour in Logo design.

Your tagline should be memorable and include the benefit that you are offering. Here are a few examples:

  • “The Burgers Are Better at Hungry Jacks” – Hungry Jacks
  • “For A Hard Earned Thirst” – VB
  • “I’m Lovin’ It” – McDonalds
  • “Just Do It” – Nike
  • “Think Different” – Apple
  • “Imagination At Work” – GE

Learn more in How to Create a Powerful Tagline to Get Your Business Noticed and Remembered.

Once you have your logo, colour scheme and tagline, you will want to create a brand style guide to ensure they are used correctly and consistently. Here are some examples of brand style guides.


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