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Branding a small business

Updated: Jan 7, 2020

When marketers talk about branding, they often focus on how to differentiate a product or service. But thinking about your organization’s brand—how your company represents itself—is hugely important, especially to your staff. The bottom line is that your company’s brand is a lot more than a logo. It should represent a unique position in the marketplace, a promise you can own credibly and a business vision, all wrapped up in one sexy package. Sounds good, right? But how do you do it? And where do you start?

Choose a great name

Long gone are the days when AAA Movers had a business advantage because they were listed first in a printed phone directory. In today’s Internet-driven marketplace, a name that conspicuously stands apart is more important than ever. In fact, strong business names are A) easy to spell, B) hard to forget and C) meaningful. If your current business name resembles your competition’s or is an acronym (an abbreviation of some sort), it’s probably weak and renaming may be in order.

Communicate your category

Potential customers need to understand in an instant what you do and find you easily on search engines. Whether you’re a florist, an importer or a coffee shop, try to communicate your company’s category, or line of business, explicitly in your brand identity. This usually means introducing a word or two following your brand name. E.g. Johnny’s Bike Shop. Aardvark Software. Veritas Bookkeeping. Do not assume prospective customers will understand what you do. Tell them!

Position your brand

Most organization brands are not positioned—meaning, they do not try to make a unique promise in the market. So, what sets you apart? Why should a potential customer even consider you versus the competition? Are you faster? Cheaper? More reliable? More creative? Take a stand! Try to sum up your promise in a catchy slogan that gets your position across. E.g. Johnny’s Bike Shop. Your fast and friendly fix for wheels. If you can make a compelling promise, you’ll be ahead of the game.

Look for a tasteful logo

Your company’s logo, or graphic identity, should bring your name, category and positioning together in one visually-appealing package. Don’t do-it-yourself. Commission a graphic designer, design studio or ad agency with an impressive portfolio of work to create a graphic identity for your brand that’s polished, contemporary, distinctive and attractive. They’ll help you through the process. You will be amazed by the impact that a professionally-designed brand identity makes.

Express yourself consistently

Once you’ve gone through this big creative process (naming, categorizing, positioning and designing), it’s almost time to launch your hot new brand. Make sure you apply your new branding to every “touch point”—web, email, business cards, letterhead, signage, uniform, fleet, sales materials, etc.—so that how your customers experience your brand is fully integrated. Then stick to it! All expressions of your brand going forward should share a consistent message and look.

Inspire your staff

Before your launch your new brand, make sure that everyone inside your organization understands your brand’s promise and what they need to do every day to keep that promise. Get all of your staff together. Communicate your vision. Set goals and expectations. Talk about your corporate culture. Your brand is not marketing fluff; it’s the synthesis of a thoughtful business strategy that dovetails into everything your organization does. Once everyone is aligned and excited, then launch it!

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