This business branding guide is aimed to provide a practical step-by-step guide for branding your small business. Branding can be fun and also powerful. Business branding can get the results you desire, and raise your business up from the crowd, as one that is unique and easily distinguishable.
Many entrepreneurs and small business owners have misconceptions about business branding, in that it is either too complicated or too simple. Branding does not need to be complicated or expensive, and if you do hire a professional to assist you, then they can be one that is on the same level as your small business. Branding is not just for large corporations.
Another misconception is that branding is too simple. Branding is much more than designing a logo, it is about the complete and recognisable image of your business that is built on a solid and strong foundation.
This guide shows you how to define, design, develop, distinguish, and direct a brand that accurately represents your business and quickly and efficiently connects with your target market. Brand your business and notice the difference in the streamlined and smooth operations of your business.
Definition – Who are you? What do you do?
The first step in successfully branding your business is defining who you are and what you do. Understanding your business is essential, if you would like others to understand it also. A well-defined business produces a brand that is consistent and clear, one that is easily recognisable and communicates your messages specifically and concisely.
Defining your business allows you to gather marketing materials that are relevant to your brand, and that are streamlined. You will be more organised, your work will be more affective, and you will achieve an end result that is profound and gets the results you are after.
Who are you?
Consider who you are and what you stand for. This is the time to reflect on your professional goals and values. What is your philosophy in business? What do you believe in, and what can you offer other people?
What do you do?
What is your unique selling point? What products and or services do you offer consumers, and why is it that they should be purchasing from you and rather than your competitors? Take time to define your business and what it can offer, in unique and credible ways.
How do you compare?
Branding involves standing out from the crowd, so it is important that you understand who your competition is. Which other businesses offer similar products and services to you, and how can you compete with them in a busy market place? You can often compete, with other bigger or more established businesses, if you offer something that is different or unique. Consider your target market and your specialisations, and develop a brand that is designed to sell.
Who are you targeting?
Who is your target market and what do you know about them? Avoid assuming that your products and services are for everyone. Even if you have a wide target market, it still needs to be defined. What do you know about their age and gender? Do you know where they live, what their own businesses are like, or what their interests are?
Once you have defined your target market, it is essential that you consider the best way to reach them. Different markets communicate in different ways, so you will need to know the ways your target market likes to be contacted.
Communicating your unique selling point is also important in the marketing and branding process. You will want to let people know who you are and what you do, and also the unique and specific ways that you can help them. What makes you different? What specific reasons does your target market have, to purchase your products or use your services? Tell them this through your promotional material and marketing campaigns.
Building a solid foundation
Defining your brand is the first step in the entire process, and a very important step. Many entrepreneurs jump straight into the second phase, which is designing logos and branding material. This can be because they are filled with passion and feel good about getting creative.
Always remember to start at the first step, so that you build a solid foundation for your brand, to last you the life of your business. Having a clear understanding of your business, what it stands for and what it does, will ensure that you communicate your marketing messages clearly to consumers.
When you understand our target market, you can refine the messages that you are sending out, so you reach the people who are interested in, and are in the market for, the products or services that you are selling. Start with the first step, and build from this, a powerful brand for your business.
Design: Your visual brand identity
Now that you have arrived at stage two, you can start to get creative. There are many things that you need to think about when designing visual marketing materials, and you should use the information and knowledge you gained from stage one, to assist you in your visual branding.
Brand design is certainly a step that may require you to work alongside a graphic designer and or a web designer, depending on the materials you choose to create. Foremost, you want to display visual concepts that are professional, but they also need to be branded to your business. Talk about your brand concepts with your designer, and ensure that they understand what you want, and what you are trying to achieve.
Businesses use a range of marketing tools to help them communicate with their target market. Remember to reflect on the communication methods that your specific market prefers the most. Some of these may include:
- A website
- Brochures and or flyers
- Business cards
- With compliments slips
- Press releases and marketing kits
- Printed or e-mailed newsletters
You have already defined your target market and the ‘who’ and ‘what’ of your business. This is the time to reflect these in the visual design of your brand. Your marketing material should send the messages you have already defined in step one, in visual form. Consider the appropriate colours, style and effects that you will use to accurately meet your goals.
You will most likely use a range of marketing materials, so ensure that your brand is consistent among these. Try to use the same designer who understands, and has a professional style relevant to your brand. Use the same colours and the same visual concepts for a streamlined branding approach.
Memorability occurs when consumers see your brand over and over again. They will remember your branding because your visual designs are consistent, and this develops trust, and conveys a professional image. Remember that visual design in branding is extremely powerful, so make the effort to make an impact.
Develop: marketing tools and content
Once you have created an initial identity, and a set of tools to get you started, you can take the time to develop your brand further. This includes developing and refining your existing tools, including your website, and creating new ones that best reflect your chosen target market.
Remember who your market is, and the ways that they like to be communicated in. If your target market use the computer a lot, then it would be smart to spend your own time and resources on the Internet. What can you offer consumers on the web? Ideas include a comprehensive and interactive website, e-mail responders and e-newsletters. Consider developing social media and other networking profiles that can help establish and promote your business.
Developing your website
This is the time to assess your website. If you started out with a few simple pages, have you considered expanding these? You will have a range of options to choose from that can inform your visitors and keep them engaged. You may even add in extra content to ensure that your website is easily found by major search engines.
Whatever you do needs to fulfil your branding and marketing goals, and you have a range of options to choose from. These may include:
- Adding in longer content, or more pages
- Developing a blog to show off your expertise
- Adding in forms for consumer communication and information gathering
- Links to other industry websites and or social media
- Images, videos and podcasts, relating to you and your business
Create a full set of printed materials
This is the time to get organised, and have several boxes of printed materials ready to go. What you need depends on the size and operations of your business. Some businesses will keep it simple, and only have business cards and a set of flyers; others will have a full range of different printed materials including brochures and catalogues. When you set them out in front of you, they should look consistent and completely relevant to your business and the brand that you are projecting.
Invest in promotional items
The opportunities for promotional items are endless, and what you need does depend on your business operations and goals. If you have larger corporate clients and showcase your work at exhibitions and conferences, then you may choose to purchase more. Options include coffee mugs and t-shirts, pens and pencils, posters, display boards and even well-branded greeting cards.
Ensure that you don’t rush out and purchase marketing tools and materials, just because they look good and you are enthusiastic about your business. Go back to the basics of step one, and reflect on who you are, what you do, and what your target market wants and needs. Develop the right branded materials and aim for a streamlined and efficient result, so that your marketing efforts are more automated. A good business brand will save you time, effort and money, while achieving the results that you desire.
Distinguish: Stand out from the crowd
While you are developing your marketing design and materials during steps two and three, think about how you can stand out from the crowd. Develop a brand that is unique and easily distinguishable, among the other businesses in your industry and geographical area.
Different products and services
When a consumer is in trouble they should immediately think of your service to help them. What are you doing that others are not? What is so special about the products you supply and the services that you provide? Stand out from the crowd with something that is slightly or majorly different, so when consumers need someone, you are the person they think of.
Stand out from your competitors
Get to know the branding of your competitors. What are they doing that is so special? How can you stand out from this? If they are using specific colours to promote their business, this might be the right time to avoid them. If they are using specific marketing concepts such as logos, images or promotional materials, then think of your own creative and unique alternatives. How can you develop your own concepts to stand out from the crowd?
Develop a visual vocabulary
When you are selecting and designing your visual marketing concepts, choose a style guide that is loose and flexible. You will select concept that can transcend easily between your different marketing tools, and these will include colours, images, visual arrangements, textures, and even words.
A visual vocabulary will also help with consistency, so that your marketing tools are streamlined and memorable to your consumers. There will be repeated patterns and concepts that are unique to your business and easily recognisable to others.
Showcase a big business
Even if you are small business, working from home, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a big business image. Your branding can portray you as being much bigger than you really are, but most importantly you should market yourself as being reliable, knowledgeable, competent and highly professional in all the work that you do.
Be clear and accurate
Develop a brand and stick to it. A well branded business is powerful, and you can really showcase your business as a successful industry leader, if you take the time to consider who you are and what you do. Understand your target market, and communicate clearly with them. Understand your brand and accurately portray this in everything you do, including your visual imagery, marketing tools, and marketing materials.
Direct: Build you brand to its full potential
You brand is like a human being. It can grow, change and develop. A good business leader keeps track of their brand and the many facets that are contained within it. You will ensure that your brand is always memorable and consistent, even when you start developing and changing it.
Ensure that you regularly audit your brand and assess where it is and what it is doing. Go back to the basics, and ask yourself who you are in business, what you stand for and what you believe in. Does your brand reflect this?
Ask yourself who your target market it is. Are they changing in their own identity, the things that interest them, or the things that they purchase? Are you keeping up with your target market, and ensuring that their interests are at the core of all of your branding, including marketing tools and materials.
Develop a marketing plan
At least once a year, reflect on your marketing plan, and develop a new one for the year ahead. Look at your goals and what you want to achieve, and ensure that these are reflected in your marketing plan.
A good plan will encapsulate your brand, work with our brand and drive it. You will have clear concepts, and a well written marketing plan that will ensure your tasks for the year are regulated, and almost automated.
Audit your marketing materials
As you use your marketing materials, like brochures and flyers, you will need to get new ones printed. Ask yourself if you want to continue using the same designs, or if there needs to be a new design. If you are implementing a new campaign or developing your brand, you may decide on a redesign, but ensure that you always keep consistent, so that your customers can recognise and remember what you do.
Develop creative skills
As a professional, and a business owner, you can develop skills that help you run your business better. These may include basic graphic design or web programming, however even basic skills such as word processing using MS Word can be useful. This is the time to work out what you can learn, and what you can do to be a more innovative and creative professional, while supporting the complete development of your brand.
A well branded business is powerful, and if you follow these steps, from one to five, you will have control over your business, and have a brand that is developed on a solid and functional foundation. Congratulations for having so many creative ideas, so let’s go and start putting them into practise.