The concept of branding can confuse some and is vague for others. What it means often depends on who you ask. Many associate it with a logo and color scheme. For others, it’s what they feel when they see or hear a company’s name.
Branding is all these things—and much more.
Many business owners aren’t sure what branding is or how it can help them, so they ignore it or don’t implement it properly.
Once you finish reading this article you will know:
- What branding is
- How branding affects buying decisions
- How small businesses can use branding to make more sales
What Branding Is
A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.
Branding, as defined by the American Marketing Association:
The process of branding your business helps you establish its unique identity, designed to attract a specific target market.
To illustrate how, I’ll use an example.
If you suffered a burn from touching a hot stove, you would have a vivid memory of that experience. The pain you felt after touching it guarantees you won’t forget. That memory would also include where you were when it happened, who was with you, and perhaps even what day it was.
More than likely, you would think back to that painful event every time you saw a stove or even heard the word. Put another way, stoves became “branded” in your mind as having the potential to cause pain.
This same concept applies to business branding (hopefully without burning anyone!).
Building a brand helps you create an impression that will help people remember your business. This is important because most people won’t need your product or service when they first come into contact with a business. In fact, research shows it takes six to eight contacts to get one sales opportunity.
Since most people won’t be ready to buy right away, you must stay top-of-mind until they are. Your brand helps people remember your business so they will think of it when they need it.
As a simple exercise to illustrate the effects of branding, think of a business you are familiar with. Any will do.
- What words come to mind?
- What images do you see in your head?
- What feelings do you get?
Immediately, you may think of words like “friendly”, “expensive”, or “happy”. You may get nostalgic or euphoric. If the business is one have been to, you might remember what it was like to visit their office.
There is also a chance that negative words and feelings come to mind, like “rude” and “poor quality”. These are impressions we want to avoid making.
All these images and feelings work together to form a business’s brand.
Brand Building for Small Businesses
Here are some specific branding concepts you should be familiar with.
Brand Purpose and Promise
Why did you start your business?
The answer to this question is the essence of your brand’s purpose. Too often, mission statements fall flat and don’t communicate interesting reasons the business exists.
Let your values and beliefs come through. Your mission statement should tell people how your business makes the world a better place.
Knowing why your business exists and who it serves will make it easier to clarify your brand promise. This promise tells your customers what they can expect to receive from you.
Once you have developed your brand promise, let it serve as a compass for all your business decisions.
Another component of your brand is the group of people your business helps. Your target customer may evolve or change as you learn more about them.
Be sure to communicate with your target audience on their level. Avoid guessing how they feel or what they about. Have conversations with people in your target audience to learn how they describe their problems.
This is a powerful way to connect. This also shows them you likely have the best solution for those problems which can magnify your marketing and advertising campaigns many times over.
This information is also the basis of your brand message (see below).
The logo is the most prominent representation of your brand. A unique and distinct visual identity that resonates with your target audience is key to creating brand recall. Strong brand recall will help people remember you when they need your product or service.
You should align your visual identity with your target audience.
For example, if you’re a female entrepreneur who works with women, it makes sense to choose feminine colors. The same is true for males or neutral target audiences.
Brand Style and Guidelines
Consistency builds trust. The more consistent your messages, delivery, service, and quality are, the more confidence people will have in you.
Brand style guidelines refer to how all design components should be used.
These guidelines ensures consistency in all your marketing. Consistency across all platforms and channels is critical to brand building.
In fact, consistent branding can increase business revenue—as much as 33%.
A compelling message is essential if you hope to grab your target audience’s attention. Your brand message should include reasons to buy and benefits customers will receive.
Subjective statements such as “great service” are not effective reasons to buy. Instead of hoping people will buy from you based on your logic, you must deliver benefits your customers want. This is yet more evidence for why you should know your target market well.
To send a compelling brand message, use language your audience can understand. Be sure the voice and tone of your messaging is consistent with your brand style.
When you create content—blogs, video, websites, social media pages, or print material—your brand style should guide the process. Avoid the temptation to post content that is not relative to what you do. It’s important to link the topic to your offer (i.e., product or service) in every piece of content.
How Branding Communicates Your Business’s Value
If you will invest time and energy in building a brand, here are some benefits you can expect:
Most small businesses get their customers from networking and referrals. You must make a strong impression and make it fast. Likewise, every business wants their target market to see the value of what they offer.
By leveraging brand visuals and messaging, you will communicate your unique value to a qualified audience in less time.
Branding Generates More Leads and Sales
This special report from Edelman reveals that trust is declining. People have grown tired of aggressive sales tactics, poor service, and low quality. They want the businesses they buy from to stand for more than making a sale.
Instead, they want to buy from purpose-driven brands.
While making sales is and always will be crucial to success, the approach is changing. The trust barrier is higher than ever. Consumers want to learn more about the businesses they buy from.
This means businesses must do more to build a relationship prior to the sale. Branding your small business helps you master each phase of customer evolution. Each prospect that comes into contact with your business is in one of four phases. Each phase is described in the graphic below.
The branding process prepares you to address prospects in all four phases of the buying process.
For example, you will have content designed for those in the connection phase. These are people who have come into contact with your business for the first time.
The content developed for this segment may introduce them to your business philosophy and brand promises. Perhaps you offer a free sample or other giveaway to help them become more comfortable with your business. This also gives you an opportunity to show your expertise, which builds confidence in your ability to help them.
But prospects in the consideration phase—those who are evaluating their options—aren’t looking for content that introduces them to your brand. They already know who you are. Instead, they need content that educates them what makes your solution better than others.
Having a system like this in place will lower the trust barrier and increase sales conversions. It also allows you to meet them where they are in the buying decision and lead them the rest of the way.
Branding Supports Advertising and Marketing
Most advertising focuses on an offer of benefits to make a sale. Strong brands use marketing and advertising to accomplish the same goal but also as an opportunity to reinforce their brand image.
Brand marketing campaigns are more “consumer friendly”. While the primary goal is to generate a sale, the aim is to link the benefits of a product or service to your brand values, philosophy, and image. Essentially, the marketing or advertising campaign becomes an opportunity to reinforce your brand identity in the minds of consumers while making a sale.
Over time, your business promotion will meet less buying resistance because people won’t perceive you as a company trying to make a buck, but one that makes a difference.
Branding Fosters a Positive Work Environment
This benefit is often overlooked by many small business owners but can be one of the most powerful. High quality, delivering multiple benefits, and exceptional service are part of the brand building process.
Businesses with these develop a reputation and foster a work environment most employees would love to be a part of.
Branding isn’t limited to having a logo. The process allows you to create an identity that target market segments can connect to. It also gives you an opportunity to build more trust with your audience. It allows you to meet them where they are in the buying decision and lead them the rest of the way.
The small businesses that focus on building a brand will thrive in 2021 and beyond.
If you have questions, email me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Until next time,