Small Business Branding and Marketing: Build a Brand Customers Love

Branding isn't only for multi-million-dollar corporations with big budgets. It's even more important for small businesses.

Branding a Small Business Blog Post Nov21

Do you want to know how branding a small business makes a product or service more appealing to customers? Would you like to leverage a small business brand to become more competitive?

Or do you want to know how branding makes your marketing more effective?

If you said yes to any of those questions, read this post. In it, you’ll learn:

  • how branding improves marketing results
  • what a brand identity is and how to create one
  • how a brand makes your product or service more valuable in the customer’s mind
  • how a small business brand gives you a competitive edge

Introduction: Branding a Small Business

I want to start by asking:

Why should anyone choose to do business with you over a competitor?

You can probably think of several reasons.

But whether people choose you has little to do with how fantastic your product or service is. It also doesn’t matter how passionate you are to help them.

When it comes to why anyone should buy your product or service, the real question is:

Can people see what makes you different?

Unfortunately, for most small businesses, the answer is no.

Companies and entrepreneurs that don’t focus on brand-building underestimate the value of it. But organizations that profit by selling anything should consider branding for several reasons.

There are over 30 million small businesses in the United States. Yours is one of them. Even if you serve a niche market, the competition is overwhelming.

People don’t just take your word for it when you tell them you’re good at what you do or that you take care of your customers. They research everything before they buy. They go online to find out what competitors offer that you don’t, how much they should pay, and how fast they can get it. They also “check you out” to make sure you’re trustworthy.

So, what are you doing to show prospects they should choose you over a competitor?

If you think it’s a matter of “giving value”, think again.

Why?

Because value is subjective. I may value an item that you deem worthless and vice-versa. So, it’s up to each individual to decide how valuable something is and how much it’s worth.

This is why typical marketing and customer targeting don’t work as well as they should. 

Your target audience consists of human beings. They aren’t numbers on a spreadsheet. And you can’t use demographics to determine if they need what you sell.

Instead, you must give your product or service qualities that make it more appealing. And you must know how to position your business against competitors. 

Branding is the process that enables you to do these things.

To sum it up:

Perceived value is the key to becoming more competitive and winning sales. 

Branding helps you build more perceived value for your business, product, or service.

How Branding a Small Business Improves Marketing Results

Many companies and business professionals use the same tactics to get customers.

Networking.

Attending or hosting events.

Social media posts and paid ads.

Referrals from clients, associates, and strategic partners.

These are the most common ways to find customers. But most new prospects you meet won’t be ready to buy. On average, 80% of them will say no four times before saying yes.

First, people must get to know you and decide if they like you. Most of all, they must sense that you’re trustworthy.

This doesn’t mean you have to be their best friend. But you do have to show them that your offer is the ideal solution for their specific problem or desire.

Branding a small business positions your product or service as the best option. Brand positioning is also the key to building more perceived value for your offer.

Creating a high degree of perceived value is critical. Consumers have more choices than ever before. Whether you live in a big city or a small town, people can go almost anywhere to get what you sell. Telling prospects, “I do good work and provide great service,” won’t convince them to buy.

Why?

Because your competitors are telling them the same things you are. As a result, people are skeptical. They’ve heard it all before. This is another reason why many marketing tactics don’t work as well as they once did.

Businesses that appear ordinary are at a disadvantage. So, their marketing won’t make the desired impact on the audience. And they’ll have to spend more money on marketing to get the results they want.

Many small businesses jump into marketing without developing their brand. Unfortunately, they’re missing a critical step in the sales process.

It’s what happens before the sale that makes the sale.

Branding aligns your offer with the target audience’s preferences. As a result, your product or service appears to be a unique option for customers.

Unique products and services have fewer competitors. They’re also more valuable because it’s harder for the customer to compare them to other brands.

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Brand vs. Branding vs. Marketing

Before we move on, it’s vital to understand the difference between a brand, branding, and marketing.

The term brand has two meanings in this post. First, an entity is sometimes called a “brand”. The second meaning refers to its identity.

So, for example, Ferrari is a brand name, while the logo represents part of Ferrari’s brand identity.

Ferrari logo
IMAGE: Ferrari Logo

In simplest terms, a brand identity is what people think of a business. In other words, your brand is the vibe you put out into the marketplace.

Branding is the process used to build a brand identity.

Using Ferrari again as an example, the logo and the color scheme comprise the brand’s visual image. But other factors help create Ferrari’s brand identity, such as its:

  • cars
  • reputation
  • high-end pricing 

Many components play a role in developing a brand’s identity. In fact, anything that enables consumers to differentiate a business contributes to it.

People use brand identities to make competitive comparisons.

To illustrate, what comes to mind when you think of Ferrari, BMW, and Ford?

You probably have a unique view of each one. That’s because these companies have used branding to influence your perception of them.

You can use branding to influence the target market’s perception of your business too. This process is called positioning. Brand positioning enables you to become more competitive and attract better customers.

Marketing is any activity designed to promote your business. Marketing complements the branding process but doesn’t replace it.

Branding a Small Business in 3 Simple Steps

A brand identity fosters a connection between your organization and the target audience. This connection lays the foundation for future relationships.

Purpose of a brand 2
Purpose of a Brand

Consumers want to buy from businesspeople and companies they know, like, and trust. Branding creates a persona for your business that appeals to an ideal target audience. As a result, you’ll spend more time connecting with qualified buyers. Likewise, you won’t waste time and money marketing to the wrong crowd.

Now, let’s explore a three-step framework that will enable you to build a small business brand. The steps, in order, are:

  • Profile
  • Positioning
  • Promotion

Step 1: Brand Profile

The brand profile is your business’s DNA. It consists of several elements, but all work together to form your unique brand.

Visual Identity

As the term implies, your visual identity is what people see. Here are examples of visual brand assets:

  • Logo
  • Website
  • Business cards
  • Uniforms and Apparel
  • Packaging

It takes approximately five to seven impressions for people to remember a brand. So, every element of your brand image matters. For example, the colors, typography, and pictures you use should convey the persona you want to create. 

I’ll 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. 

Now, look at the screenshot of the Harley-Davidson website. The site communicates an attitude that resonates with its target audience.

Harley-davidson used black and orange to develop its brand identity.
Harley-Davidson’s website displays its brand colors, orange and black.

McDonald’s is another example. McDonald’s uses yellow and red to attract people with a high-energy, fast-paced lifestyle. It’s no coincidence that other fast-food companies use the same colors (i.e., Wendy’s and Burger King).

Mcdonald's chose red and yellow as its brand colors.
McDonald’s chose yellow and red to represent its brand, and for a good reason.

Brand Voice and Tone

It’s not always what you say but how you say it that matters. So, your business’s tone and voice should be appropriate for the target audience.

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 style, it might be best to change the voice to something like this:

“We’ll make sure you get the best mortgage rate possible!”

These are similar statements but expressed differently. So, it’s likely that each message will resonate with a different customer type.

Tone can fluctuate, depending on the message and who you’re targeting. For instance, empathy might work best for one offer, while a friendly tone is better for others.

Target Audience

You can’t be all things to all people. But, it’s essential to target an audience that values what you sell. Going after the wrong customers will drain your time, money, and energy. You’ll also face a lot of rejection.

An ideal customer profile can help you identify the best target audience for your brand.

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. This process will make it easier for you to create marketing messages.

You must also consider the unique value you offer the target market. For example, how can you serve customers in a way that makes you different?

You may discover that you can’t serve your ideal customer now. If that’s the case, consider developing more unique value for your product or service. A customized product package is an example.

In the next step, you’ll analyze your brand position. Much of what you learn will help you improve the perceived value of your offer.

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Step 2: Brand Positioning

Your brand’s position relates to how your business compares to others like it. A few examples of brand positions are:

  • premium
  • specialty, or “boutique”
  • economy, or “affordable”
  • family-friendly
  • mass-market

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you already have a brand position. So, it would be helpful to know where your business fits in among competitors. After all, you can’t compete until you know what you’re up against.

Once you’ve identified your business’s current position, you can develop a strategy to align it with the one you want to have.

For example, you may analyze competitors and discover that your prices are below average. From this, you may conclude that you’re an economy brand. So you have work to do if your goal is to hold a boutique brand position.

Many small businesses ignore positioning. Instead, they market to a broad audience and sell to whoever will buy.

But assessing your position reveals your brand’s strengths and weaknesses. Positioning enables you to leverage what you do well while improving on what you don’t. The focus isn’t on outdoing competitors but on making your brand as strong as possible.

Competitor analysis is the fundamental step in positioning.

Begin by searching for relevant competitors online. First, enter relevant search phrases that your target audience might use to find you. Then, take note of the top ten competitors (ignore ads).

If you focus on the local market, add your location to the search terms to find nearby competitors.

If your target audience is national or global, use your best judgment to determine your top competitors. 

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Identify the top five to ten competing brands. Then, use their websites and social media profiles to gather the following information:

  • Visual brand elements (colors, images, etc.)
  • Promises (benefit claims)
  • Slogans and taglines
  • Brand tone and voice
  • Target audience

Think about how you feel as you assess each competitor. What impression does each one give? The answer to this question will help you determine their brand position.

Once you’ve completed competitor analysis, compare your findings to your own brand. How do you measure up to competitors? Most of all, how can you improve your brand?

Step 3: Brand Promotion

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.”

Preparation is the key to successful small business branding and marketing. Each time you come up with an idea to promote your business, ask if it makes sense for the brand you want to build. This system of checks and balances removes much of the guesswork from your marketing plan.

Most small businesses guess too much when developing a brand promotion strategy. Some cast a wide net, hoping they will appeal to everyone. But how and where you communicate with your audience is the primary factor in success.

The questions to answer in this step are:

  • Where are my best customers?
  • How can I communicate my value to them in a unique way that prompts them to act?
  • Which tactics and platforms should I use to reach my target audience?
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Connections Sell

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. And even though people love to buy, they hate the sales process.

Before building a connection, many business owners want to get right to the sale. But the businesses that thrive are the ones that make the connection first and sell second.

As I wrote in the section above, people are more skeptical 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 marketing should develop a connection with prospective customers first. Look for opportunities to build relationships with your audience—the sales will follow.

Be Consistent

When it comes to branding a small business, consistency separates success from failure.


While there is debate over how many “touches” it takes to close a sale, it’s almost always more than a few. Studies have shown that consistent branding increases revenue by 20%.

You never know how many people who come into contact with your brand today will be seeing it for the first time. But as the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Conclusion

Do you have questions about branding a small business? If so, email me personally at chris@goldenvineyardbranding.com.

Would you like to partner with our branding agency to grow your business? Click this link to set up a free consultation.

Until next time,

Chris

Avatar of chris fulmer

Chris Fulmer

Director, The Golden Vineyard Branding Company

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?