Building a brand for your small business

Branding may sound like a word that only applies to large businesses but ALL businesses no matter what their size will benefit from good branding. So what is stopping you? It isn’t money as you may suppose. Yes, to build your business to a household name quickly will need lots of cash, but most small businesses this isn’t their goal. They are looking to build reputation and a loyal customer base locally, or to a niche audience and for this small budgets can suffice.

Step 1 – define your brand

You should have a clear idea of what your business or brand is all about. What is about what you do or how you do it that is worth shouting about, is different or will appeal to your target customers. It doesn’t have to be big differences, sometimes the small points of difference can be very effective. This you can do yourself by following our Step By Step Guide to creating your USP

Step 2 – build the foundations

The visual elements of your brand are extremely important. Like the clothes you wear, these are the things that people will immediately judge your business on. This is one area were getting a professional job done by a graphic designer is worth the investment. You need to consider your logo. Brief your designer on your target customers, your brand USP and what personality you want to convey. Do you want to look extremely professional and corporate , quirky or friendly and approachable. This personality should be reflected in your branding elements from the logo to your colour scheme, choice of typefaces and even the style in which you write.

Step 3 – be consistent

Once you have these elements make sure you get the digital versions of your logo, colour references and typeface names so you can pass to any of the people creating marketing material for you such as sign companies, newspapers, printers etc. That way you will make sure your brand is consistent across everything you do.

A word of warning, don’t be too exotic or whacky with your colours. You may like a metallic gold or neon green but certain printing methods cannot reproduce these, or can at an extra cost so it can be better to stick to colours that can easily and accurately be reproduced. Speak to your designer who should be able to advise you on this … and if they an’t perhaps look for a new designer!

Step 4 – take through EVERYTHING you do

Branding is a war of attrition. Even though you are a small company you can get a big presence through applying your branding wherever it is possible (this is why Step 3 is so important). So think about all the ‘touchpoints’ you have. Most people think of business cards, stationery and websites but what about email footers, uniforms and clothing, signage and vehicles. Even if you don’t have a company vehicle you want to be permanently signed, you can have magnetic signs made that are just used when you are travelling in work time.

And don’t forget the functional items. If you have paperwork such as jobsheets, invoices and purchase orders, don’t forget to brand them. Simple stickers are ‘cheap as chips’ to produce and can make any parcels or envelopes you send out branded to your business.

Step 5 – think about the customer experience

The visual elements of your brand are important but so is your customer’s experience of your business. So think about the buying experience and make sure it lives up to your brand. If your brand says you are a professional ‘go-getter’ business yet your premises are scruffy and staff apathetic no amount of logos, cool websites or brochures will convince customers you are what you claim.

Big brands spend a great deal of effort making sure the people who work in their business and the customer experience lives up to their brand. This can be difficult when you have thousands of staff, so for a small business it should be a lot easier but it does need considering. Make sure your employees understand what your business and brand is all about, what is expected of them and why it is important.

So even if your business is just you, you can still create a brand that people can related to and love and with that comes the loyalty that is so important to keep a business strong, whatever its size.