Believe it or not, small business branding is about much more than choosing a unique logo or buying a well-placed banner advertisement. Good branding will increase the value of your company, improve the recognition of your business and create trust with your customers.
Successfully branding your business can also inspire your future employees. Most importantly, good business branding can help generate customers by associating your company with the goods and services you offer.
So, where do you begin? Here are eight steps on how to start branding your business. The good news is that each of these steps requires little to no funding to implement.
1. Create a Brand Mission Statement
Why are you starting your business and what will make your brand or service stand out from the competition? Are you meeting a need or challenge that your customers should be aware of? What is your driving force? Here are three examples of mission statements that address these key branding questions:
Facebook: “Founded in 2004, Facebook's mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what's going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.”
Disney: “The mission of The Walt Disney Company is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information. Using our portfolio of brands to differentiate our content, services and consumer products, we seek to develop the most creative, innovative and profitable entertainment experiences and related products in the world.”
Starbucks: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
A good mission statement should not only highlight what you sell, but what your standards are and what you, as a company and small business owner, stand for. Creating this mission statement will inform every other step you take the brand your business.
2. Know Your Buyer Persona
Who are you targeting? What are the needs, goals and behaviors of your prospective customers? How has your market changed as a result of COVID-19? Have your potential customers’ buying habits changed? Knowing this information will help you understand how to position your product or service in the marketplace.
If your customer base is now making their purchases online, how can you best reach them and how can they find you? Are they influenced by social media? Do they do extensive research before buying? Knowing this will help you find out what motivates them to buy and what their main challenges are. Having this information will help you build a compelling and effective brand, since it will help you reach the right people through the right channels.
3. Create a Logo, Tagline and Website
Having a website now is more important than ever, especially considering how many more people are currently using the internet to do their shopping and find services in the wake of COVID. Tens of millions of people can access your site at any moment through computers, smartphones and tablets.
You'll need to think about what your brand will look like visually, including logos, color palettes, photography, websites, etc. You may not have the means to create these materials yourself, but there are many services online that help small businesses create beautiful websites, logos, taglines and more for far less than hiring an advertising agency or web developer. There are even companies, such as Wix or Squarespace, that allow you to easily manage your website and have hundreds of well-designed templates for you to choose from.
4. Optimize Your SEO
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased online traffic. According to Statista, online shopping accounted for 16.1 percent of total retail sales in Q2 2020, which was up from 10.8 percent the previous year. Whether your new business will sell products or services, you need your website to rank in search in order to get strong online traffic.
Put together a strong SEO strategy so that potential customers can find you. The best way for customers to find your business online is to ensure that you are using the right keywords to lead online traffic to your site. A great way to increase traffic and market your brand is to also utilize social media and build links to your products and website. Millions of people use Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn daily. These sites are a low-cost way to reach a large and diverse pool of people.
5. Deliver Compelling Content
Another way to drive traffic to your site is content. There is so much information out there now, so it’s important that what you deliver to your customers is valuable to them and reaching them on the channels they use. If your business is on social media, make sure you’re using the platforms they visit most.
You will want to deliver content to your audience consistently (which means don’t leave a two-month gap between posts) and always provide a call to action that leads the customer to your website. Blogging is a great way to deliver content in a less promotional format. For example, if you’re selling vacuums, write a blog post about what to look for in a good vacuum. This will help educate the customer and begin to build trust with your brand.
6. Understand Your Competition
Who else is out there in the marketplace, and how can you differentiate yourself from them? Research your competitors' websites — what are their customers saying about them? Consider reading customer reviews of the competitor’s products or services through social media and review websites. This can help you understand your competitors’ quality and reputation. What platforms are they using to advertise their product or service (social media, radio, site direct, etc.)? It’s always good to know where you stand among your competition.
7. Develop a Brand Identity and Voice
Once you understand who you’re targeting, your brand can begin to form. You’ll want to develop a tone that you use in all of your content to keep the experience consistent for your audience. Do you want to take a more professional tone, or would you rather stay fun and cheeky? Knowing your buyer’s persona can help with that. For example, if you are a business providing funeral services, you would not want to use an excited or funny tone.
You also want to establish your core values and mission statement, which is where you decide what’s important to your business and how you want your culture to be represented. Is your business family-oriented? Do you value giving back to the community? These types of characteristics help your customers remember you. For example, TOMS donates one pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair purchased. TOMS is widely known for this initiative, making it a big part of their brand.
8. Prioritize Customer Service
You could understand your target audience and have a memorable brand, but will it matter if your customer service is poor? Having great customer service could even save you money on marketing and advertising, because reviews from your customers will create a strong buzz in the marketplace. This is called earned media, which means you didn’t have to pay for it like you would a radio or TV commercial. Customer referrals and word-of-mouth advertising are some of the most powerful forms of recognition your brand can earn. Having a reward program is another way to help build loyalty with your customers.
A brand represents people’s perception of your business’s customer service, reputation, advertising and more. Branding is one of the most significant things you can do for your business, and it can transform you from a small player to a successful competitor.
But before you begin your small business branding process, have you created an LLC? If not, Incfile can help you quickly and easily form an entity for your business as you start your company.
Peter Mavrikis is an author and editor with over 25 years of experience in publishing. He has worked as the Editorial Director for Barron’s Educational Series, as well as Kaplan Test Prep, where he ran the test prep, foreign language, and study guide divisions. Peter has also written several books on history, exploration, science, and technology.