What’s your small business brand? Every business should have a clear definition of its brand identity. To put it simply, a brand is what your customer thinks of when she hears your company or product name. The brand is typically the visual image of your business (your logo) and how your product is expressed.
Companies that often come to mind when you’re thinking about successful branding include Coca Cola, Starbucks, Ford, and Nike. Each of these have strong visual colors and logos, and their products are easily identifiable to the consumer. Looking at these examples, you can start to think about how you want people to perceive your business.
Start Early in Your Planning:
You’ll want to develop your brand at least seven months before you start your business. Keep in mind that building a brand is not simply creating a logo (although the logo is part of the process). Let’s look at the fundamentals of defining your company’s brand.
Know Your Target Audience:
The ultimate goal of branding is getting your target market to see you as the only one that provides a solution to their problem. Just like you did when creating your marketing plan, developing a credible brand requires knowing your target audience, what they want, and what they will respond to when it comes to sales. This is not something that happens overnight. It takes time to win your customers’ trust and time to communicate clearly to them the character of your business.
Think of Branding as Core Values:
Your brand includes your company, products, and services. It’s helpful to think of branding as living with a set of consistent values. What does your business stand for? What are the values you hold? How do you want customers to think about your company? All of those values go into creating your brand or identity, and are then represented visually in your company materials.
What is Your Visual Brand:
You’ll want to define the look of your company by picking the right colors that represent your ideals. Keep in mind that different colors cause varying physiological reactions, so make sure you know what emotions you want to invoke. Give some thought about how you will create a look for business cards, letterhead, envelopes, folders, signage, and other corporate branding materials. All of these should have a consistent logo and tag line.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Expert Advice:
When it comes to developing your brand identity, there are two schools of thought. You can hire a firm to help you name and brand yourself, or you can pull together your kitchen cabinet of advisors and few close friends willing to work for food, and have a good old brainstorming session.
Be Consistent Across All Platforms:
If your business will have a presence on various online platforms and social networks, it’s important to have consistent branding across all of those channels. For example, you should have your logo on all your materials and sites, but you may need to resize that image or make some modifications between Facebook and Pinterest. At the same time, you’ll want to tailor your message to fit the culture of each platform and how the people reading it will use it.
For example, a Facebook follower may read your social network postings for information for discounts and coupons; whereas an email subscriber might want to know about new products being released. So the messages should be tailored to the platform, but the tone and brand should be similar.
Once you’ve defined your brand, start creating the marketing essentials and collateral that reinforce that message. These include your logo, social media platforms, stationery and envelopes, business cards, and website graphics. Consider working with a designer to help you create these looks.
Remember that many people can create a business or sell a product, but very few take the time to build a brand. That step will set you apart from others and bring you economic success.