Many small businesses feel that having a strong brand identity is not necessary. Some think it is something only large companies need. And although some might invest in a logo, they miss the fact that a brand identity is so much more than just the visual impression of your business.
Even if you don’t have a logo, your business still has a brand
Branding is about the impression you make to your customers. It projects what is special about your business and how you connect with your target audience. It includes your visual brand – your company name and logo. But it also includes what your customers say about your business and what it is like to do business with you. It is the total package.
However, few small businesses really understand what brand identity is and why it is important to their overall marketing strategy.
Small businesses should take advantage of building a brand that reflects who they are and creates visibility and trust. This piece of your marketing plan is especially important when trying to attract new customers via online marketing activities.
Your business brand – promise, message and values
A strong brand identity clearly communicates your promise, message and values. It is the perception the world has of your business. It creates an emotional connection with your target audience and highly influences whether they want to do business with you.
Your brand should:
- Project everything you are, the value you deliver and the total client experience. Every image you project, from your visual brand identity, location, office furnishings and the way your staff answers the phone, needs to accurately reflect your business.
- Communicate the personality of your business clearly, visually and promote credibility. It shapes clients’ perceptions of you. Your brand conveys the expectations and promises that you extend to your clients in terms of quality, service, reliability and trustworthiness.
- Helps the audience differentiate you from your competitors. This differentiation will attract those that have a need and positively influence their decision to hire you, directly impacting your profitability.
6 benefits of a strong brand identity
Makes your company look bigger
When prospects see a professional brand consistently used on your business cards, website or social media profiles, they get the image of a company that deserves their business. Prospects look for a company that has the resources to help them succeed. They will also expect to pay more for a more established company.
If you hand them a home made business card or your web presence is unprofessional, they will think you are small and not worthy of their business or the fees that you feel you deserve.
Creates an identity that is bigger than you
Many small businesses build a brand around themselves rather than the business. If your goal is to become a public figure, that may be fine. But if you want to separate the business from you for future growth or sale, develop a brand for the company. A unique brand will be one of the assets that come into play during the sale or acquisition.
Builds loyalty and trust
One of the ways you can separate your business from the competition is to have a unique brand that differentiates you in the marketplace. A strong brand that conveys your values connects with your ideal customer. This connection makes it easier for you to develop a long-term relationship with them, leading to greater customer loyalty.
You may be the best, most experienced person in your field, but not having a professional brand conveys the impression that the company won’t last. A well-defined brand identity projects a long term feel to those who see it regularly. Eliminate any question about your viability by having a crisp image and clear messages.
Makes your business memorable
A strong brand identity used consistently helps customers remember who you are. The more your prospects see your brand, the more likely they will contact your business for information. Every time you get to interact with your prospect, you have a chance to make a connection and create a memorable brand experience.
Shows commitment and personal pride
Investing in a unique brand identity shows that you take pride in your business and are committed to success. Customers will believe you are more likely to deliver on your promises. A business that invests in its success will under promise and over deliver. This creates more brand loyalty and trust with every customer interaction.
Listen to part 1 of our podcast on branding:
How do you determine your brand identity?
If you have never thought about your brand and just let it happen, it would be beneficial to take some time to determine what your brand projects and whether it is consistent with your values. Ask customers the first words or images that come to their mind when your business is mentioned.
- If they consistently respond with adjectives that fit your business, then your brand has been developed. Words like reliable, committed to excellence or delivers quality on time and within budget. You can now take it to the next level.
- When responses are inconsistent, ambiguous, or refer to attributes such as cost, it is an indicator of a weak brand image.
If you have a weak brand, determine what it should be. Then focus on marketing efforts that help build awareness around your brand.
Remember that your brand is developed through an entire customer experience. That experience needs to be reinforced consistently through your:
- Social media profiles
- Sales tools and promotional items
- Customer service
- Other aspects of doing business with you.
Evolving your brand
If you have developed a strong brand identity, it should continue to evolve with your business. As your business matures, so should your brand. Keeping it fresh helps your business continue to be relevant to your customers.
Evolving your brand does not mean changing your brand but rather refreshing, updating, or clarifying the image you use so it aligns with your mission and values. If you have had the same logo for several years, talk with a designer to see if you can update its look without changing the overall image it projects.
If your brand is weak, work on strengthening it. Review your web presence and work to build a strong online presence to drive more qualified traffic to your business.
- Update your social media profiles. Consistency of the brand across all platforms builds credibility and trust. Inconsistent profiles, messages and images leads to confusion and weakens your brand.
- Obtain social proof. Encourage online reviews from happy customers to help project the quality and value you deliver. No reviews or testimonials raises questions about your ability to deliver.
- Engage with your target customer through content. Customers are researching solutions long before contacting vendors. Providing highly-informative content will increase the expertise associated with your brand.
Listen to how Bob Gustafson of Triton Financial (formerly RKG Financial) evolved his brand:
Tips to take control of your brand identity
- Create your visual identity that aligns with your vision and projects the values you stand for to your target audience
- Monitor your online reputation so there are no surprises. Ask happy customers to provide reviews on Google, Yelp or other review sites that cater to your market niche
- Deliver the experience your clients expect for each and every interaction they have – from the website, customer service, phone conversations and emails sent. Treat customers how you want to be treated if you were a customer.
- Network and expand your visibility in your community and on social networks. Building relationships is paramount to brand building and the best way to do so is to help people in ways that set you apart.
Listen to part 3 of our podcast on creating a strong brand identity:
Small businesses are under the microscope due to all the exposure that can be easily achieved by effective online marketing. Build a strong brand identity by ensuring you always under promise and over deliver. Then you can achieve those positive reviews that can propel your business to enormous success.
Debra Murphy is a marketing coach and consultant helping small businesses navigate the complex maze of online marketing. Experienced across all traditional marketing channels, Debra specializes in inbound marketing, a combination of search, social media and content marketing, to help small businesses effectively utilize this new media to gain visibility and generate inbound leads. Debra regularly writes about small business marketing on her Masterful Marketing blog.