Branding a Small Business: How to Stand Out in an Ocean of Competition
Branding isn't only for multi-million-dollar corporations with big budgets. It's even more important for small businesses.
What makes your product or service better than a competitor?
You can probably think of several advantages you offer.
But do you struggle to communicate these fantastic features and benefits? Do you ever get discouraged that people don’t respond—even when you try your best to help them?
If so, I know how you feel. Even with years of selling experience, I wrestled with getting my audience to see my unique value.
However, after years of random marketing, networking, and advertising, I discovered how to connect with the people I can help most.
And I’m going to share this process with you in the sections that follow.
Introduction: Branding a Small Business
There are over 30 million small businesses in the United States. Your business is one of them. No, you are not competing against every small business in America, but even in your niche, the competition is overwhelming.
So, here’s a question for you:
How are you going to get prospective customers to see that they should choose you over a competitor?
If you think it is all a matter of convincing them how great your product or service is, think again.
Creating genuine, tangible, unique value is the key to generating more demand for your offer. But establishing this kind of value is easier said than done.
This is why branding a small business is more important than ever.
In this article you will learn:
- how branding makes you memorable
- what a brand identity is and how to create one
- how to use a brand to establish real value in the customer’s mind
Will They Remember You?
Many small businesses use the same tactics to get customers.
Attending events and trade shows.
Social media posts and a few ads.
Referrals from associates and strategic partners.
These are the most natural and reliable ways to look for customers. But most of the people you meet will not be ready to buy from you. On average, 80% of prospects say no four times before they say yes.
That means you have a lot of following up to do. But, in the meantime, you must stay top of mind so that when prospective customers are ready to buy, they will think of you first.
Branding helps you stay top of mind. It makes you more memorable. It also enables you to avoid wasting time on unqualified leads and attracting better ones.
Let me give you something to think about.
Consumers have more choices than ever before. Whether you live in a big city or a small town, they can go almost anywhere to get what you sell.
Telling people, “I do good work and provide great service,” won’t convince them to buy.
Because your competitors are telling them that too. People are skeptical and cynical. They have heard it all before. For this reason, many marketing tactics don’t work as well as they once did.
If you rely on typical digital marketing tactics, such as SEO, social media, or pay-per-click ads, you may end up disappointed. These tactics usually fall flat until you create unique benefits that resonate with your audience.
Marketing only promotes your offer; it doesn’t make it irresistible.
The brand makes your offer irresistible.
So, stop trying to convince people to buy and quit searching for magic bullets. Instead, make it easier for people to see how you are different.
If that’s what you want to do, keep reading. I’ll show you how branding a small business gets results.
READ MORE: What Is Branding and Why Is It Important?
Who Are You?
A brand identity brings your business to life and gives it unique traits. The brand’s identity is essential because people want more than big promises and a catchy slogan. Instead, consumers buy from people and companies they know, like, and trust.
Like human beings, businesses have:
Unique appearances. A logo, color scheme, fonts, and other images comprise a business’s visual appearance.
Their own “voice”. The language and tone used in brand communication comprise your voice. For example, a brand voice could be authoritative, friendly, casual, formal, and so on.
Cliques. A brand’s persona will attract a specific audience while turning others off. The goal is to develop a persona that attracts the right customers.
Status. This is an unfortunate reality of life, but it’s true. Like human beings, businesses have classes and status. Revenue, reputation, and brand equity are examples of characteristics that define a business’s status.
All the concepts above apply to personal brands too.
Now, let’s look at how to create a brand identity in more detail.
All visual elements work together to form your brand identity.
Here are examples of visual brand assets:
- Social media covers
- Blog post images
- Business cards
- Uniforms and apparel
It takes approximately five to seven impressions for people to remember a brand. Yet, color improves brand recognition by 80%. The colors you choose make a difference.
This article gives several examples of how color influences sales conversions. Color strategy isn’t only for large companies with millions to spend. It works for small businesses and entrepreneurs too.
To create a visual brand that makes you memorable, combine colors that imbue the feeling you want people to get when they encounter it.
I will use a couple of examples to illustrate. What comes to mind when you think of Harley-Davidson? The most common responses are independence, freedom, and adventure. Harley-Davidson chose black and orange as brand colors.
However, McDonald’s harnesses different emotions. The bright yellow and red McDonald’s has chosen to represent their brand evoke fun and a fast-paced lifestyle. It’s no coincidence that other fast-food companies use the same colors (i.e., Wendy’s and Burger King).
Brand Voice and Tone
Your business’s tone and voice should also align with the target audience. Remember, it isn’t what you say but how you say it.
Think of voice as the expression of words and messages. Some brand voices are formal and sophisticated. Others are warm and casual.
For instance, a mortgage lender may use this heading on their website:
“We provide the best financing solutions available.”
This is an example of a formal voice.
But if the audience prefers a casual voice, it might read:
“We’ll make sure you get the best rate possible!”
These are similar statements but are expressed much differently. Therefore, it is also likely that each message will attract a unique audience.
Tone can fluctuate, depending on the message and who you’re targeting. For instance, empathy may work well for one offer, while an authoritative tone is better for another.
Who Is Your Customer?
You can’t be all things to all people. However, a profile of your ideal customer can help you identify the best target audience for your brand. These are the people best-suited for your offer.
Though “ideal” customers are hard to find, having a profile will improve the overall quality of the prospects you attract.
Get specific. As you think of your ideal customer, list everything that comes to mind. Then, use this information to create a mental picture of the person.
For example, how would you communicate with them, and where can you find them?
You may discover that you can’t serve your ideal customer now. If that is the case, determine what new products and services you need to develop so you can.
Where Are Your Customers?
Most small businesses spend too much time guessing where their prospects are. And even when they know, they cast a net that is too wide. Both approaches result in overspending on marketing and advertising.
Branding a small business relies on promotion—a lot of it. So the question to ask in this step is, “Where are my prospective customers?”
The more specific you are, the more successful your marketing will be. You will also spend less money to find your ideal audience.
Preparation separates great brand marketing from bad. Each time you come up with an idea to promote your business, make sure it aligns with your brand identity. This system of “checks and balances” removes much of the guesswork.
Times have changed. Two out of three people want to buy from companies they feel connected to.
Consumers want companies and salespeople to care about more than just making money. This number will continue to grow in the years to come.
Let’s face it. When it comes right down to it, businesses must make a profit, or their doors won’t be open long. And even though people love to buy, they hate the sales process.
But many business owners want to skip to the sale before building the connection. So the businesses that will thrive are the ones that make the connection first, sell second.
As I wrote in the section above, people are more skeptical and cynical than ever before. They also have more information available to them than at any other time in history. Consumers hold the buying power, and they know it.
Your brand communication and content marketing should develop a connection with prospective customers. This is even true for ads. Look for every opportunity to build a relationship with your audience—the sales will follow.
Whether going to the gym, eating healthy, or managing our emotions, consistency is a challenge for most. Yet, we know it often separates success from failure.
Consistency is the key to branding a small business successfully. While there is debate over how many “touches” it takes to close a sale, it’s almost always more than one.
You never know how many people who come into contact with your business today will be seeing it for the first time. So even if you have been repeating the same messages repeatedly, it will be new for most people.
Keep brand messaging consistent. As time passes, more people will hear it, which means you will be making more impressions, expanding your reach, and developing connections. This allows you to make more sales, too.
Branding a small business enables it to stand out, get noticed, and win more sales. In addition, it will give the company an advantage over competitors.
To build a small business brand of your own, focus on the actual value you offer and who benefits most. Develop a brand identity that aligns with the target market you want to reach. Explore your ideal client profile and focus on connecting with them.
If you have questions, email me personally at email@example.com.
Until next time,
Learn more about brand strategy.
Are you struggling to connect with your audience? Do you want to show them how you're different from competitors?