“I will take ‘what is a brand’ for $600, Alex!” (RIP to a Canadian legend).
You know that feeling you get when you’re driving and you see those golden “m”-shaped arches from a distance? Yes, that feeling that immediately whets your appetite and makes you think of potentially grabbing a saucy Big Mac from McDonald’s? Or if you’re a gadget geek, when you notice that long lineup of people outside the Apple store waiting to grab the latest iPhone? That’s the power of branding.
Branding is the most influential factor in the success of your business and for many companies, the trump card that sets them apart from the competition. However, there still seems to be some uncertainty about the relevance of branding, specifically among small and medium sized businesses looking to accelerate their growth, but don’t know where to start.
So, what exactly should your brand be? A quick answer: authentic. As Oscar Wilde said it best, “be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
As a small business owner, you might think branding is something that is best left to the Fortune 500 Companies–the Amazons, Googles, and Starbucks of the world. But the truth is, no matter how big or small your company is, you need to think about branding your business. Ask yourself this:
- Who am I to my customers?
- How can I position my business in the market to set myself apart from the competition?
- How do I convey this to potential customers?
Now, just because larger companies have huge budgets to spend on their marketing and branding efforts doesn’t mean you need a Coca-Cola sized bank account to build an effective brand strategy from the ground up.
Contrary to what many business owners believe, branding goes beyond creating a memorable logo and calling it a day. It is more about your message, reputation and being relatable to your clients. Stepping inside the shoes of your target audience and building an emotional connection is an essential component of successful branding. With the right message, you can provide endless value to your brand’s community, resulting in easily acquired customers, customer loyalty, as well as giving your employees the right direction and motivation to grow with the company.
Take this quick lesson from Starbucks to heart. Founded in 1971 in Seattle, USA, Starbucks has revolutionized the way people drink coffee. Being so accessible, the brand has essentially become a go-to place for a quick grab-and-go cup of coffee as well as a coffee shop experience, establishing itself worldwide. Starbucks has invested significantly to perfect its brand and merchandising, making it consistent across all stores – so customers will always know what they’ll get. Read more about Starbucks’ evolution and branding here.
If your small business can connect with your target audience on an emotional or personal level, you can sit back and let your audience come to you!
To get there though, you need to first lock down what your company’s mission is. Here is a look at some established mission statements from some of the top reputable companies in the world to give you a little inspiration:
- Starbucks: To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.
- Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
- Honest Tea: To create and promote great tasting, healthy, organic beverages.
- TED: Spread ideas.
- Twitter: To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.
Next, here are some basic branding tips to help you take your small business to the next level:
- Create Trust: Quality and professionalism are key to establishing a credible brand! When a small business presents itself in a professional way, along with a USP (unique selling proposition) and quality products and services they provide, consumers will trust that company and feel more comfortable giving it their hard-earned money. Be genuine – don’t be shady!
- Brand Recognition & Recall: First impressions count. While your logo and website are not the be-all-end-all your branding efforts, you should still dedicate time and effort to come up with a professionally designed, memorable logo and website. A memorable tagline will work in your favor too. This will give customers a quick (and ideally one desire) impression of your company so when they see it, they instantly think and feel what you want them to.
- Authenticity: Use emotion to let your customers know who you really are as a brand. Chances are, there are a lot of other small businesses with similar products and services in every corner. So, what makes your business different? When you give consumers a reason to care about your company, it usually translates into a reason to buy. Regardless of the size of your business, if you focus on building valuable customer experiences, it can transform consumers into brand ambassadors, ideally making you a leader in your market or niche.
- Target Audience: Always have your customers in mind. Your brand must always align with your customers’ needs and wants. Do your research, look at reviews, analyze your competitors, and perfect your product or service until you feel like a customer wanting to buy from your brand.
- Emotional Connection: If you’ve made it this far, that’s great . . . because this is the most important tip in this list! We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: form an emotional connection. After all, people don’t have relationships with products, they have relationships with the brands. Creating an emotional hook with your brand that reflects your company’s deepest values and vision will help position you in the market. This also builds brand loyalty, which will always ensure that your customers choose your product or service over your competitors’. Keep providing that value, because you reap what you sow.
Your brand is your opening act and the front door of your business. It can either help you or hurt you, and you can take immediate steps to make it work in your favor — analyze your company, create a mission statement, and create a branding strategy. Even for small businesses, branding can bring significant positive influence.
Now get started!