Introduction to Branding for Small Businesses
Quick Tip: branding for small businesses is a key part of bringing in sales.
Branding might seem like a very foreign concept to many small business owners.
You might even be thinking it’s something best left to the major companies of the world, or fall into the trap of believing a superior product (or service) will sell itself.
But that’s a serious mistake.
No matter how great your idea is, without being able to connect to your target market, it might as well still be in your head.
This is exactly why branding is so important – and perhaps even more so for small businesses than anyone else.
The problem is, branding for small businesses is a fairly complex topic: it encompasses many decisions, concepts, and ideas.
At the heart of the matter, branding is simply the way you communicate your product or your service, as well as your company’s values, to your target market.
In this introduction to branding for small businesses, we’ll help you nail the basics. After all, once you get the basics in the bag, you can expand to astronomical heights!
What is Branding for Small Businesses?
Very simply, branding for small businesses (and in general) is a marketing practice focused on actively shaping and developing recognition of your company’s brand.
To properly explain branding, we need to help you better understand the concept of a brand.
We get the word from the Old Norse word “brandr” (“to burn”), which is why it became associated with the practice of burning a mark on cattle to signify a rancher’s ownership.
But today, a brand is far more than just a logo. It’s the perception people have about your company. In fact, you could say your brand is what gives your logo its value and meaning.
In other words: branding is the way you cultivate the subconscious, emotional reaction your brand elicits from the public.
Why is Branding So Important?
Developing a good brand and implementing successful branding is the major starting point of your marketing campaign.
Without branding, you’re going to struggle to curate any sort of public image.
And you’re definitely going to struggle selling your product or service.
Even the best product or service cannot speak for itself, despite what hundreds of so-called “influencers” tell you.
While their intentions might be good (trying to steer companies away from the type of aggressive marketing that tends to alienate customers), the product or service you’re offering is reliant on your branding to sell.
And if you’re following their advice to eschew advertising altogether, then it’s going to be entirely reliant on your branding.
Just keep in mind – branding will help you become less reliant on advertising, but it’s never going to replace it entirely.
Even major companies like Apple rely on their branding to carry their more minimalist adverts.
It’s the branding that customers (existing and potential) are able to instantly recognize. And when they see your product or service, it’s your brand that lets them know they can trust your company.
This is because your brand is attached to your company’s values in a non-verbal way – and many of today’s customers are making values-based purchasing decisions.
So with the right branding, not only are you able to build that recognizability, but you’re able to better stand out from your competitors and develop a personal bond with your customers.
Under the Microscope: The Elements of Branding
We’ve been building a foundation by looking at the bigger picture. Now it’s time to take a closer look at those many decisions, concepts, and ideas we mentioned in the introduction to this guide.
Start With Your Mission Statement
First, you need to figure out who you are as a brand and develop your mission statement. Think about things like:
- How you would describe your company in a short sentence
- What you want your company to be known for
- What your company’s core missions and value are (an extension of the above)
- What kind of impact you want your company to have in your industry
This will help you find a starting point for developing your mission statement, which you’ll be infusing into your brand.
Identify Your Target Market
Once you reach that point, start thinking about who your target market is:
- Who do you want your company to reach?
- Do they fall into a specific age group?
- What income bracket or educational history do they have in common?
- Are they all of the same gender?
- What are their values likely to be and how do they shape the companies your ideal customer tends to favor?
- How would they benefit from your product or service?
This can be a great thought exercise for you to go through with the rest of your team. And as time goes by and your company grows, you can come back to this and refine it.
Unfortunately, many small businesses make the mistake of skipping this step entirely.
They focus so much on the first step that they’re eager to skip ahead – and as a result, their branding suffers.
Establish Your Point of Difference
Your point of difference (or “POD”) is what makes your company different from others in your industry.
Based on your mission statement and your knowledge of your target market, this is what will give your company a unique drawcard.
In other words, when you think about why your target market should pick your company over your competitors, your answer is your POD.
There are a few different things that can make you stand out in this way, but be careful of how you identify them.
It’s very important you identify the type of things that do and don’t work in your industry by taking stock of what your competitors are doing and how the market is responding.
For example, if your competitors are focusing on Facebook and Instagram for their social media marketing, you should be doing the same.
All of this – from mission statement to POD – will help you better establish your brand identity.
Develop Your Brand
Using your brand identity as your starting point, consolidate all that information into a set of brand guidelines. This will help you as you continue to develop your brand.
With your brand guidelines in hand, you can start getting visual.
Begin with a color palette.
Bear in mind that colors evoke different emotional responses and create a subconscious association in your customers’ minds linking your company to those emotional responses.
So your choice in color palette needs to reflect the brand values you’ve identified for yourself.
At the same time, color palettes can be a little tricky to get right. Different industries tend to have general color schemes that help immediately identify a company to that industry.
For example, financial services tend to use blue, especially with complementary colors such as yellow or green.
Make sure you refer back to your competitor research and see if you can identify any color trends. That said, don’t be afraid to design outside the box!
Once you’ve got your color palette, you can start thinking about what font (or fonts) you want to incorporate into your brand.
This might not seem like a very important step, but consider the fact your font is going to be used everywhere, from your logo and website to advertising campaigns and official communications.
We could easily do a whole article on font psychology. However, as a quick reference guide in the meantime:
- Serif fonts are best for more formal industries (financial, academic, journalistic, etc.)
- Slab serif fonts are associated with the car and technology industries
- Sans serif fonts promote clarity and forward-thinking, such as for clothing brands
- Script fonts are best associated with elegance, creativity, and history, but need to be used with caution as they can easily become illegible
- Modern fonts work for conveying exclusivity and style
- Display or decorative fonts are excellent for conveying personality
Finally, we come to the last piece of the puzzle in developing your brand: the logo.
This is one of the most important aspects, as it brings everything else together into one space.
Your color palette and font choice (not to mention everything that influences them) will typically dominate your logo design.
The logo is essentially going to be the face of your company and your brand – a highly recognizable “symbol” encapsulating everything we talked about in this guide.
It will appear on your website, business cards, advertising, and even your products.
Take great care in designing your logo. Weigh the pros and cons of using free software (such as Canva) to design it yourself vs hiring an expert to do one for a fee.
We hope you find this introduction to branding for small businesses a valuable asset in helping move your small business forward!