How to Create a Strong Brand Identity for Your Small Business
Making a name for yourself in your industry is one of the most challenging things to accomplish as a small business owner. Is it worth putting effort into branding? If you want to stand out from the competition and find customers loyal to your company, the answer is yes.
Although the number fluctuates from month to month, the Small Business Administration reports 31.7 million small businesses in the United States. You’re competing directly with those in your sector for sales. You’re also competing for attention with the rest of the brands in your area. One could even argue you’re competing with a global economy for the limited awareness of consumers.
What steps do you need to take to build a solid brand identity? How do some companies become well-known while others fade into obscurity? Let’s look at 11 things you can do to create a strong name for your small business. We’ll also consider successful methods used by well-known brands.
1. Figure Out Who You Are
Before you attempt to make a name for yourself as a business, you have to know who you are. When someone hears your name, what is the first thing they think? Is it the same message you wish to send?
Spend time thinking about why you started your organization in the first place. What were your hopes and dreams, and how do they align with where you are now?
It’s also vital to figure out how others see you. Poll employees and talk to current customers. What strengths and weaknesses do they see? The way the outside world sees you may be different than the way you want them to.
Branding isn’t only about the message you send, but also the things your customers say about you to their contacts. Ideally, they only say positive things. If there are negative reviews, brainstorm how to fix them before moving forward.
2. Create an Experience
If you want people to remember your brand name, you must make a big statement. The best way to achieve a memorable experience is through environmental graphics.
The decor in your office or retail space impacts your employees and customers. Your workers can be your biggest cheerleaders, so invest in the place they spend a considerable amount of time.
Use displays to create a scene. There are many different ways of using environmental or experiential graphics, such as wall murals, signs, banners, and elevator wraps. Think about how you can create an experience rather than another drab workspace.
3. Develop a Personality
The best way to create a memorable brand is by choosing a persona for your company. Is your firm fun and flirty, or serious and steadfast? Don’t select a voice-based on your preferences. Think about what your customers need from you.
There are many examples of brands using personality to create name recognition. Wendy’s has a fun and snarky response for anyone who posts on social media and tags them. They chime in on posts about McDonald’s and other competitors and they shoot back with funny quips about why they are the best.
On the other hand, United Parcel Service (UPS) puts off a serious vibe. They know you rely on them to get your packages from Point A to Point B. They share facts about why they’re reliable. For years, they used the tagline “What can brown do for you?” In newer campaigns, they talk about why they love logistics and get a little nerdy in their presentation.
Think about what your customers’ pain points are and what they need from you. Your personality for a funeral home will be substantially different from the persona you present for an ice cream shop.
4. Get Noticed on Social Platforms
Social media allows you to build brand awareness and target a specific audience with pinpoint accuracy. However, just getting your message in front of the right people won’t make you memorable.
Pay attention to the trends driving traffic on social media. For example, people tend to view videos more frequently than articles. How can you tap into trends and needs to become more recognizable?
Twitter has about 275 million active users. It’s relatively easy to see what your competitors are up to and if you should have a presence there. You should always choose the platform where your buyer personas are most likely to spend their time.
5. Get Customers Involved
The people who already love your brand are the best imaginable spokespeople for it. Enlist their help as brand ambassadors. Send them new products first. Ask them to share information about your company with others.
At the same time, you may want to create a referral program. Reward the people who send more business your way. The model for your rewards depends upon your industry and what makes the most sense.
Starbucks is an example of a dining establishment offering rewards. They give you points for purchases. You can share the app with friends so they can earn freebies, too.
Many satellite television providers offer a deal to get $50 off your bill when you refer someone to them. The other person also gets $50 off. However, they also earn a lot more per order and can afford a bigger payout to find new subscribers.
6. Be Consistent
Choose your message, brand color palette, and logo, and then stick to it. If you continually change the appearance of who you are, you’ll only confuse people. Some experts suggest it takes seven times for someone to see or hear your brand before they remember it. That number likely varies, but it may take even longer if you aren’t presenting the same message.
You also show customers you’re dependable when you remain consistent. No one wants to do business with someone who doesn’t stand by their word. When you’re wishy-washy, they may wonder if you will stand by your product should something go wrong.
The Edelman Trust Barometer says 81% of people must trust a brand before they’ll do business with them.
7. Go Bold
Start any branding effort by looking at what your competitors offer. How can you match their presentation but offer something different? Think about the campaigns you remember most in your own life. They are probably the ones that were a bit outside the box.
Don’t be afraid to get creative. Study Super Bowl commercials for ideas on what top agencies come up with to brand particular products. How can you do something similar but unique to your company?
8. Tap Into Emotions
The best brands have a deep understanding of what drives their buyers. They know the pain points that create a situation where the person looks for the product or service they offer.
Once you understand the problem, it’s easy to offer a solution. Your taglines and branding should focus more on the customer and their needs than on you as a company.
One example of this type of advertising comes from Folgers coffee. They create commercials with scenarios where someone comes home and how moments spent over a cup of coffee ties them together.
9. Apply Your Branding Everywhere
Once you understand the message you’d like to send and how to reach your base’s emotions, use it everywhere. Add taglines to your social media headers. Plug your branding into your website. Train your employees to use your voice in interactions with customers.
When people walk away after encountering your brand, they should have the same message whether they heard it on social media or saw it on a billboard. Remember how important consistency is, but you also need to remember to use your branding.
If you set up a booth at a local craft fair, are you using the same colors and messages as you use in-store? It’s a good idea to create a style guide for your organization. Anyone working on marketing, sales, web design, or store layout can refer to the rules you’ve laid out and stay on the same page.
10. Conduct Split Testing
You can come up with the most brilliant brand identity in the history of small businesses, but if your audience isn’t impressed, it does you no good. Make sure you survey your customers to see if your branding matches their thinking.
Conduct A/B tests when you try a new logo, a different layout for your site, a tagline, or any other change. How does your base respond? Tweak what doesn’t work and keep what does until you find the perfect messaging for your target audience.
11. Use Offline Strategies
Whether your business is brick-and-mortar or e-commerce, you still need to utilize offline branding strategies in addition to your online presence.
Sponsor a local little league team to get your name in front of parents and coaches. Offer a local event for a fun evening out. Donate money to local charities near and dear to your customers’ hearts. Look for opportunities to get your brand name out locally and give back to the community where you reside.
Repeat Successful Attempts
Branding isn’t something you look at once and then ignore. If you want people to remember your name and what you do, you must make consistent, long-term efforts.
Spend time considering which of your branding methods were most effective. Repeat those regularly. There may be other attempts that fell flat. Lose those and try something else. Over time, you’ll find the perfect combination of advertising, philanthropy, and involvement to bring people to your business and keep them there.