When you first think of the word “brand,” a logo may come to mind, but a brand is so much more than that. “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room”—Jeff Bezos. If a company does their job right, their brand identity is the first thing that comes to a person’s mind such as excellent customer service or unbeatable prices. Every small business has to start somewhere with their branding though, right? We’ll cover how to brand your business step by step in this article.
Why is Branding Important for Small Businesses?
A brand is essentially the DNA of a business—it creates a recognizable identity that sets it apart from competitors and creates a promise and set of beliefs for their customers. As a small business, building a loyal customer base is no easy task! But a brand helps do just that so that customers will continue doing business with that same company and recommend their products and services to others.
How to Brand Your Small Business
Here’s how to create a small business brand in 10 steps (they’re not hard—we promise!):
Step 1: Define your mission and vision statement.
Every business should start with the question why. Why does your business exist? What purpose does it serve? In other words, what is the mission of your business? The mission should help guide all of your decision-making. For example, SCCU’s mission is “to create value in cooperative ownership.” The vision statement for your business helps you define what success looks like for your company and what you’d like your business to achieve.
Step 2: Research your competitors.
Next, put on your detective hat and research your competitors. You can start by googling other businesses in your area and reviewing their website and social media. Note their strengths, weaknesses, and your advantages over them. Additionally, jot down their prices and any special promotions they’re offering. Pro Tip: Join their email marketing list to be in the know about their offers!
Step 3: Identify your target markets.
“When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one”—Seth Godin. In other words, your business won’t appeal to everyone because your products or services may not apply to them. Proven research has shown that businesses that focus on reaching specific target markets yield higher returns. Your business should be able to solve a problem for your target market, and they should see value in your solution. It can be helpful to create a profile of your target market. Here’s how:
- Geographic: Where do your target markets live or work?
- Demographic: What is the age, gender, education, income marital status, etc. of your target markets?
- Psychographic: What are your target markets’ values, beliefs, interests, personality, and lifestyle?
Knowing your target markets can help you create ads online, in the media, and outdoors that speak to your market with graphics that combine images and messages that resonate with them.
Step 4: Note your market’s pain points and problems.
What are the pain points and problems for your target market? For example, if you own a dog sitting business, then your target marketing could be single working professionals who may not be able to take out their dog during the day because they work too far away from home. Additionally, they don’t want to have to come home to messes their dog left behind.
Not only does a problem involve logical consequences, but it involves emotional consequences too. Busy working professionals may feel guilty and sad that they cannot devote enough attention to their dog during the day, and their dog may experience loneliness.
Step 5: Name your solutions and benefits.
Design a complete solution for your target markets’ pain points. Continuing with our dog sitting example, a package could include twenty walks a month at a discounted price that includes some play time, food and water checks, and any updates with pictures.
What are the benefits of your solution? In other words, how do people feel after they do business with you? How have their lives changed for the better? This could be convenience, more time, saving money—any advantages they’re gaining. For example, dog sitting services give busy professionals a sense of relief and peace of mind that their dog is getting the attention they so deserve.
Step 6: Determine your competitive advantage(s) and provide proof.
What ultimately sets you apart from your competitors? A competitive edge, or unique selling proposition (USP), gives people a reason to choose you over other businesses. A competitive advantage depends on the nature of your business, but some examples may include low prices, a dedicated team of professionals, an ideal location, customer service, technology expertise, and special sourcing of products or services.
But it’s not enough for you to simply tell others your competitive advantage—you need to back up your claims. Here are some proof examples: awards, credentials, case studies, testimonials, independent tests, recommendations, and reviews. You could provide your proof on your website, in advertisements, and on your social media.
Step 7: Weave together your story.
Did you know that “About Us” pages are often the second most-visited page on your website
(after your homepage)? Your small business’ story can help attract interest and build your brand. Plus, it may put future customers at ease so that they’ll initiate a relationship with your business. Your story is an opportunity to give information about the origins of your business and why you do what you do.
Your “About Us” page could include your story, years of experience and credentials, the areas you serve, your mission, competitive advantages, and any guarantees or pledges. A guarantee or pledge can reduce the buyer’s perception of risk. A guarantee is more ironclad whereas a pledge can be a softer promise. Some ideas include a money-back guarantee, free trial periods, or a lifetime warranty.
With all of that in mind, it’s important to prepare an elevator pitch when introducing yourself and your business. A good elevator pitch should be less than 30 seconds, show value, and generate interest. A good format would be who you help and the benefit of helping them. For example, “I help busy working professionals get peace of mind by providing personalized dog sitting services.”
Step 8: Create your giveaways.
What is a giveaway? It’s something that you offer to your customers, usually for free or for a small fee. Giveaways help build credibility and trust with your customers, an important aspect of your brand. They also build awareness about your business and can get people in the door.
Some examples of giveaways include newsletters, webinars, coupons, discounts, videos, eBooks, free trials, and free samples. They help demonstrate that you value your customers and your products or services are worth your customers’ hard-earned money.
Step 9: Generate your tagline.
The tagline for your business should capture the essence of your value and brand, boiling down your company’s benefits and differentiator into something memorable. Some famous taglines are: “Think different”—Apple®
, “The happiest place on Earth”—Disneyland®
, and “You’re in good hands”—Allstate®
. Your tagline may take some brainstorming, but you’ve got this!
Step 10: Design your logo or graphic.
Last but not least, develop your logo or graphic that conveys your business brand and value promise and captures the essence of your company’s benefit. Some questions to consider: What colors would you like to use? Would you like to include your tagline in your logo or graphic? Would you like to include it on your products?
It’s a good idea to reach out to a graphic designer that can help you create your one-of-a-kind logo or graphic. The designer will often come up with a few ideas (or proofs) that strategically use your colors, wording, and imagery to capture your brand’s identity.
Plus, the designer will usually create the logo/graphic in a vector-based program so that you can make it as big or as small as you’d like without distorting the image on billboards, products, shirts, documents, invoices, business cards, etc.