Many small business owners believe that branding is the province of companies such as Apple, Google and McDonald’s. In fact, the size of the company does not matter here.
Determining brand identity
Branding is more than just a design. Your branding is the soul of your company, its values and mission, the way you treat your customers, and only then is the appearance of your visual assets.
So, before you move on to direct actions (e.g. creating a holding company), you need to clearly clarify who you are as a company – or, in other words, your brand identity.
This process involves several steps:
Determine who you are
To determine who you are and want to become a brand, ask yourself the following questions:
- If I had to describe my company in three words, what would those be?
- What do I want to stand out from the competition?
- What are the main objectives and values of my company?
- What do I want to change in my industry?
Find out who your target clients are
Take some time to identify your ideal customers. Who are they? How old are they? What is their income and education? Are they predominantly men or women? What do they want with companies like yours? What is important to them? When they will use your product or service – and why do they need it?
The end result will be a brand that attracts the customers you want to work with the most.
Create your own POD (or “special sauce” brand)
What sets you apart from your competitors is called a point of difference (POD).
Your point of difference does not have to be some kind of supernatural. Do you only use ethically produced materials/ingredients? Do you have the best customer service?
Find out what works in your industry
In order for your branding strategy to be as effective as possible, you also need to be aware of what is (and is not) working in your industry.
Examine your competitors and what they are doing. Have you noticed any trends? Let’s say that their logos are dominated by a neutral color palette, or they all focus their marketing efforts on Facebook rather than Instagram.
You’ll need to create the look of your brand:
- A corporate identity guide. Before you begin to develop, it is important to clarify the details of your design strategy, such as the colour palette of your brand, fonts, etc.
- Logo. The logo is the face of your company. This is the first thing that most customers will see when getting to know your brand, and it is the visual asset that will be most closely associated with your business. The logo should be developed first, as it will serve as a starting point for all your other visual elements (such as landlords and business cards).
- Business cards. If you are in business, you can’t do without business cards. They should be designed to match your logo and other assets.
- Landing. Your website is your company’s digital real estate. Its appearance should match the rest of your branding.
Depending on your business, you may need additional tools for branding (e.g. product packaging or letterhead). Most importantly, all elements should be consistent. Otherwise, you risk confusing your customers.
There is a simple and affordable way to make a name for yourself – content marketing. It gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your experience in your field and to prove yourself as an expert. The audience will start to trust you, and when they need your service or product, you will be the first to be contacted.
Do research and find out what questions your clients are most likely to ask, and then create content to answer those questions. Suppose you own a local bakery and find out that customers are looking for homemade bread recipes.
You can post on your blog or make a video about how to bake bread, what ingredients are needed, how to make the dough rise well, how to get the perfect crust, etc. When they want to go and buy bread (let’s be realistic: few people will be constantly baking bread at home), you will be the first place they will visit.
Look for partnership opportunities
People prefer brands they trust. If you’re a startup and nobody knows you, a great way to build trust is to partner with other well-known brands.
For example, you are launching a new energy bar that targets athletes. You can partner with local marathon organisers to include your bars in their starting packages.
Be a superhero to your clients
Your reputation and what customers say behind your back is the most important part of your branding.
That’s why, if you want to succeed in the long term, you have to make customer service your top priority.
Look for opportunities to improve customer service. People don’t understand how to place an order on your landfill? Update your design to make it more intuitive for your customers.
Too complicated a return process? Send customers a prepaid return shipment waybill and clear instructions to make the process easier for them. The higher your quality of service, the more customers you get in the end.