I’ve talked to many small business owners over the years, and there is a common misconception that branding is for larger, more established businesses. I think this belief comes from not fully understanding branding and how it can impact the business and a false sense that branding (beyond just a logo) is just too expensive of an initiative for a small business to consider in early stages.
But branding is important for businesses of all sizes because it increases your value, gives employees direction and motivation, and makes acquiring new customers easier.
Before we further jump into why branding is important, let’s align to what branding is.
What is branding?
Many people immediately think branding is the outward expression only. Branding is not merely a logo. A logo is a key piece of the outward expression of a brand, but it's only a small piece of the overall strategy.
Branding is the complete image of a business.
It tells your customers what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. It is all the feelings, associations, and perceptions about your business.
Think about all the ways someone can interact and view your business: website, advertising, uniforms, menus, proposals, company meetings, the way you answer the phone, respond to emails, advertising, social media, events. This list goes on and on. All of this will create a perception in your stakeholders’ minds - from customers, partners, influencers, to employees. Branding helps to keep this experience focused on your greatest features consistently to tell your unique story in an easily understood way.
Branding is the whole experience of your business from the story, to the visuals, to the interactions. And creating a direction to keep all of those things consistent is brand strategy.
So, back to why this is important for small businesses. Here are my top five reasons why branding and creating a consistent image matters to ALL small businesses.
1) Branding gives your organization clarity of vision
I always like to start at the heart of the business. Inner peace before outer peace right? This is why, during the branding process we begin with core values and purpose - the “why” of your business. Through the process you hone what’s important to you and then why it is important to your customers. The process can be therapeutic and give so much clarity to where the business wants to go. Once you align to your purpose, your core audience, and what you can provide them better than anyone else based on your values you now have organizational vision that your whole company can get behind.
2) Branding gives your business credibility
Having an established and clear brand will make you look like an expert. If you appear to know what you're doing and come across as professional, people will be more likely to trust and buy from you. This is so important for small businesses that don't have an established reputation yet.
Our client HuDawn Facility Solutions has seen the impact branding can have on increasing credibility. This has always been a top objective for the B2B commercial construction company. Most of their new clients come from connections and word of mouth. However, during the initial introductions, prospects will interact with their brand in some form to learn more (i.e. website, social, sales materials, emails). HuDawn's strong brand provides the prospect a professional, experienced, and confident impression and incites action.
3) Branding differentiates your business from competitors
Custom branding is designed to give you the credibility you need and set you apart from the sea of other businesses that do what you do. It’s a noisy world out there. To cut through the clutter, you have to be unique and say and do things worth people's time. When you can stand out clearly from the competition with a clear brand message, you take all the hard work out of your customers hands and help them see exactly how you will help solve their problem better than anyone else.
We recently posted a job online. We had nearly 900 applicants. For a new, small business, this was a great response. Many of the applicants expressed in their emails and cover letters, that they would be proud to work for an agency like ours. They loved our brand and the work we were doing. This is 100% attributed to branding and differentiation. We tell a clear and unique story online. People who share our values are attracted to it and want to be apart of it.
4) Branding creates an emotional bond and customer loyalty
Branding can help humanize your business. Since people trust other people, we have to make your brand seem a little bit more like a person and less like a another faceless business. You can do this by creating brand character, personality, and tone of voice. Is your brand more comical like Old Spice, witty like Dollar Shave Club, casual like Chubbies, or aggressive like Harley Davidson?
When you hone your brand's "humanness" your customers start to understand your personality and can create emotional bonds that turn into customer loyalty. As you continue to grow your small business, it is critical to stay true to your personality and maintain that connection that is far easier to foster when you are just starting out.
5) Branding motivates employees
This is a very important reason why branding matters to small business and one that most brand professionals don’t talk enough about. Branding will motivate your employees.
Anyone can hire employees, but only a strong brand can hire motivated employees that are inspired to carry your vision and mission forward. When your brand exudes pride, your employees will feel it and carry it through to your customers.
Having a strong brand is essential for employee morale and productivity. When your employees admire and connect to your brand they will genuinely want to share it with the world. You won’t find a better marketing vehicle than loyal and genuinely inspired employees.
We have worked with large brands through bigger agencies and understand the branding principles. We also know the rigor, time, jargon, and hefty price tags associated can be intimidating and inaccessible for most small businesses. Therefore, we have taken our love for ambitious small businesses and eager entrepreneurs and crafted a process that can be not only relevant to your stage of growth, but easy, fun, therapeutic, and extremely valuable.
Most small businesses just jump to name and logo and stop there. Let us show you that branding is so much more and just how powerful it can be when done right. We will clarify the big picture and create a brand that truly stands out for all the right reasons.
Read our next post on our branding process for small businesses coming next.