One of the most important parts of your small business marketing plan is the creation and promotion of your brand. A brand is the image that your company projects to the public. It’s based on what you offer, who your target market is, and how you deliver on your products or services. It becomes the public perception of your business and this image should be cohesive, consistent and reflect what a customer values in your company. It’s important for a small business to understand that branding is more than just a logo—it’s the identity of your business as a whole.
Why is branding important?
Even if the effects don’t always seem tangible, brand associations carry a lot of weight in customers’ purchase decisions. When done correctly, brands build positive emotions, memories and associations in customers’ minds. The stronger your business’s brand identity is, the more likely it is that you’ll build loyalty that enables your business to profit and grow. For these reasons, branding your business is essential to its success.
Here are five steps to effectively branding your small business.
1. Define your brand and target market
The identity of your business should reflect the product or service that you offer and the types of customers you want to attract. Evaluate where your business fits in the marketplace and who your target customers are. It’s important to understand their needs, wants and values, as these will affect the way you communicate and how you build your overall marketing plan.
2. Evaluate your competition
Your business should have its own distinct identity. To create it, first analyze your competition’s branding strategy and business model. Customers are attracted to brands that are authentic—especially for small businesses. Pinpoint your company’s distinctive features, benefits, and customer experience.
3. Have a great logo
A strong logo is a distinctive graphic that’s simple and conveys the identity of your business – think of the logos for Apple® (an apple) and Nike® (the ‘swoosh’). Their logos represent their businesses in ways that have become immediately recognizable without a single word of copy. While a logo is only one element of your brand, done well it will help to strengthen your business’s identity immensely.
While your logo must have a great concept, it also needs to be visible and clear in all forms. The best way to ensure flawless execution is to invest in hiring a professional graphic designer who can also create brand guidelines that will tell you what color schemes and fonts to use in your marketing materials. Your logo should also be printable in any size or color.
4. Create a messaging guide
A messaging guide is an important aspect of a brand, as it provides you with the language you’ll need for your website, press releases, advertisements, collateral, and more. An effective messaging guide must include:
- A mission statement that communicates your business’s main goals
- A 2-3 sentence boilerplate that describes who you are and what you do
- Descriptions of the products or services your business provides and how they work
- A memorable, meaningful and concise tagline that will be used in most of your advertising
It’s important to proof your messaging guide to ensure there are no grammatical errors or extra fluff in your writing. Consumers respond well to writing that’s informative, but clear and concise.
In addition to having cohesive messaging, it's important to nuture relationships with your consumers by producing engaging and relevent content through your marketing channels (i.e. social media, blogging and targeted emails).
Learn more about developing engaging content in Hungry Marketing's podcast.
5. Protect your brand
Trademark your company name, logo and tagline. Many businesses can file an application online in less than 90 minutes. The easiest way to register is on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website.
Keep in mind
While businesses go to great lengths – and often, great expense – to create and promote brand identities, the most important thing you can do to ensure that your brand creates loyalty is to offer excellent products and services and be responsive to your customers’ needs and concerns. Doing these things can make a good brand great, and help a struggling company grow.
Learn how EGF’s Business Advisory Service team can help you build an effective branding strategy through free one-on-one support.
About Excelsior Growth Fund
Excelsior Growth Fund (EGF) helps businesses in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania grow by providing streamlined access to business loans and advisory services. EGF’s signature product, the EGF SmartLoan™, provides up to $100,000 in fast, transparent, and affordable financing through a secure online platform. Larger loans up to $500,000 are also available. EGF is a nonprofit organization and is certified by U.S. Department of Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). Learn more atwww.excelsiorgrowthfund.org.