Growing your business
Get Started: Branding for Your Small Business
Your brand is what makes your business distinctive and recognisable, showing off the character of your business, and creating an identity which has a relationship with your customers. It’s “what other people say about you when you’re not in the room” says Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. And that’s why it’s so important to tailor your branding to represent your business in the best way possible.
Getting started with branding - or embarking on a rebrand project - doesn’t have to cost the Earth, there are dozens of online tools and templates available to help you create something compelling and professional. This month, we’ve put together a simple guide packed full of useful tips to support you in getting started with branding your business yourself!
It may seem an obvious step to take, but establishing exactly who you are, who your audience is and what messages you want to share with them is a hugely important part of branding your business. So, before you get into the detail of fonts and colour palettes, take some time to ask yourself the following questions:
What makes your business different? You’ll want to harness this unique selling point somewhere to build a brand image to help you stand out.
Who are your customers? Knowing who you’re selling or speaking to is essential in forming your brand characteristics, including visual style and tone of voice.
Matthew Crole Rees, Head of Marketing at Carfused.com says to “think of your brand as a person, and create a persona for your ideal customer. Would he or she be the easy-going friend you can trust, or the know-it-all relative who’s always there to help you?”
Remember, deciding on these personalities or traits doesn’t mean cutting consumers out, but simply pinpointing the ideal customer for your business – as discussed by Fiona Humberstone in her branding bible, How to Style Your Brand.
And the last question to ask may be: what is your business’ mission? This short statement will act as a guiding vision moving forward, and can act as a handy snippet of encouragement for your staff.
With increasingly sophisticated consumers, it’s important to establish and promote your values via your brand. In fact, research by the Harvard Business Review has found that 64% of people cite shared values as the main reason they have a relationship with a brand.
To put together your brand values, these shouldn’t be extensive, start by noting down the things that are most important to your company; for instance, practicing environmental trade, using local suppliers, hand-made crafting or providing an entirely customer-centric service.
Once you have these in place, as part of your branding strategy, be sure to reference and share these values with your customers so they’ll know exactly what your business stands for. This may include having them in the introduction or about page on your website, displaying them in your premises, or even including them in a strapline that speaks to your customers.
Your business’ name is one of the first very things that your customers will see – with 77% of consumers making purchases based on brand name alone! - so it’s got to make a positive first impression.
There are no limits to your creativity here – or when it comes to naming products or ranges - but do be careful with any use of acronyms or puns that you could regret. If you’re struggling for names, companies like Naming Force and Squadhelp may be able to help you to crowdsource some ideas.
If you are thinking of renaming your business, make sure to consider the impact this will have on your key stakeholders, and your customers. It is also worth checking on the availability of your new unique domain name if your website address changes too, and how your new name looks when written as a URL.
A business’ logo is often regarded as the cornerstone of their visual branding, as it only takes consumers 10 seconds to form an opinion on a brand’s logo. It’s an element of your brand that will be put everywhere and anywhere - your website, business cards, marketing materials, products, packaging and more – so make sure it’s something that makes sense and that you are proud to promote.
“Unless you’re a graphic designer, avoid the DIY approach and invest in a professional designer to create and develop your logo,” says Paul Strong, Creative Director at Hoopla Marketing. “Make use of websites such as Fiverr.com or Peopleperhour.com to find a freelance designer to suit your desired style and budget.”
Graphic design company 99Designs have put together this helpful guide on how and where to get your logo designed if you need a little extra help.
Colours and Photography
The visuals – colours, images and photography – that you associate with your brand say a lot about your business; with 90% of customers’ snap judgements made about products based on colour alone!
So when putting together your colour scheme, create mood boards that include your company products, values, customers and vision. This will help form a colour scheme that’s genuinely expressive of your business.
Many marketers and psychologists also believe that audiences will emotionally understand a brand differently depending on its colour palette. So you may also want to consider what your chosen colours are saying to the subconscious too. For instance, the use of blues implying trust and dependency, and purple implying creativity.
Once your colour palette has been decided upon make sure to keep it consistent across everything your brand does. And generators like Coolors.co can help you match colours that complement one another once you have your initial ideas too.
When it comes to photography and graphics for your branded material, avoid the use of generic stock images if you can. Instead use original, high quality photographs that will illustrate your products / service in the best and clearest way possible.
Tone of Voice
It can be easy to overlook the way your business speaks to your customers, but it’s very important to set standards in communication across your whole business; after all, 45% of a brand’s image can be attributed to what it says and how it says it. Just think of all the interactions you make with customers; you want to keep these aligned to your brand so that you can maintain the consumer sentiment you have worked so hard to build.
Your business’ tone of voice may be formal and professional, it may be funny and casual, or conversational and personal. Whichever path you choose, make sure it’s consistent across all marketing and communication channels to enforce that positive brand image.
Create Brand Guidelines
Having drawn all of these elements together, you’ll want to make sure that you maintain them to gain maximum benefit for your brand.
Paul Strong, Creative Director at Hoopla Marketing, says: “To keep your brand identity consistent across all media channels, create a set of brand guidelines containing detailed information on the colour palette, fonts, and tone of voice to be used in your branding, along with other elements such as how your brand should appear on staff uniforms, marketing literature and advertising materials.”
Following these guidelines will help to build your brand a recognisable, positive image; so be sure to include details on every aspect of your business that will be seen by customers.
Whether it’s to follow a change in market, the expansion of business, or to simply refresh your image moving into the new year, the motivation to rebrand is often found common amongst growing small businesses. But there are several key points to touch upon before you go making any drastic changes.
Firstly, make sure you know exactly what you’re changing and why. Whilst updating your brand could attract the attention you’ve been missing, any changes you do make also have the potential to reduce the existing connection you’ve made with your customers. Think carefully on your upgrade, and consider whether your changes truly outweigh the risks of losing business.
To gain support from your staff and consumers on your plans to rebrand, it is a good idea to remain authentic to your brands core mission. This way your audience are more likely to understand that the rebrand is a step forwards, rather than a step backwards.
As Alex Fagg-Woehlk from design and branding agency, Design Bridge advises: “It's important for a brand to stay really in touch with their core equities no matter what. It seems simple, but when you go through a thorough rebranding process it's easy to get caught up and drift from what your brand is really about – particularly if you make a lot of small changes over a period of time.”
Branding can seem a bit daunting, even if you are looking to change what you already have; but there are lots of ways to minimise cost, be time efficient and still get a great result. You have to be committed to creating and maintaining your brand for it to come to life. After all, a business without a brand is a business without a personality.
A Guide To Branding Your Small Business – The Guardian