This article was written by Ray Sidney-Smith, facilitator for Alexandria Small Business Development Center’s monthly Business Development Roundtable. You may join us every third Tuesday, January through November, for different topic-based discussions for Small Business in the City of Alexandria, Virginia.
What brands do you think about when you think about the biggest brands in the world? Amazon, Apple, Coca-Cola, Google, Microsoft, Target, Wal-Mart, Wells Fargo, Verizon, and more come to mind from audiences when I ask. It’s interesting that they think mostly of technology and retail brands. According to London-based brand consultancy, Brand Finance, that publishes brand valuation studies for the largest brands in the world annually, has named Ferrari as the world’s most powerful brand for 2015, and Disney clinched that title for 2016. So, while appraising your brand is complex, the components that make your brand valuable should not be!
Branding for Small Business owners usually surround the development of a brand-enabled business name, tagline, logo, and color palette, along with the sales and marketing strategy (and collateral) to create a cohesive brand. In this article, I’d like to cover the big three components of a Small Business brand and how you might take a practical approach to making your brand consistent and effective.
Written Branding for Small Business
While most business owners will start with thinking about logo and colors for their startup, I recommend highly that you begin with your business name and tagline being what I call, “brand-enabled.” Brand-enabled means that you have thought about how your name will be perceived by your audience, how it will be interpreted, and used across marketing channels.
For example, is your business name easily spelled? If you are using it for your website domain name, this is even more important. Many times, businesses use their tagline as the website domain for their blog. Is this equally, easily-spelled over the phone, or given in a casual conversation at a networking event?
Of course, these are not the only aspects of creating your brand-enabled business name and tagline, but I usually recommend to new business owners to brainstorm the various questions their audience would ask about their business, and then create a name and tagline that can answer those questions well.
And, it is from the words you use about your company from your name, tagline, marketing copy, email signature, website domains, social media handles and usernames, let you next think about the visual components of your business.
Visual Branding for Small Business
The next consideration for any Small Business is to think about the style of your company and culture you would like to present visually to your potential and future clients. Do you plan to represent your business as a luxury brand with high-paying clients with specific tastes? Or, do you have a casual brand let’s fun-loving and playful? Perhaps you have a brand that should appeal to children? parents? Mothers? other businesses? or some other specific demographic? These choices impact your business’ visually brand decisions.
By working with a competent, local graphic designer, web designer/developer, retail architect, and/or printer (and Alexandria SBDC can refer you to their internal list of vetted, local professionals), you should be able to co-create an effective visual brand that might include a combination of logo, color palette, other visual design components (e.g., Social Media profile images and headers), website, marketing collateral (including business cards, flyers/postcards, and other printed materials), office/retail space design and layout, and/or branded apparel and merchandise.
The key to a successful visual brand is its ability to stay consistent across different media and channels, but also keep in line with your verbal and written brand messaging. If they are out of synchronization, your potential and future customers will judge your business as a poor emotional brand and you will lose business, which we’ll tackle next.
Emotional Branding for Small Business
As I intimated, creating a successful brand as a whole means that your visual and verbal/written brand messaging are in synchrony. It’s an ongoing cycle of preparation, evaluation, and enhancement. However, that’s not the totality of emotional branding. Most of emotional branding takes place once a client has worked with you and their experience builds upon their needs, immediate wants, and long-term aspirations.
This makes your brand readily accessible when they have a need or want so they contact you first, or when someone they know has a similar need or want so that they refer your product or service as their first choice solution. This is a powerful component of being in business, or being edged out of business in your first few months or years as a startup.
I suggest that businesses that feel on top of their visuals and messaging components of their brand to then work on the fulfillment and customer service areas of their business to enhance their emotional branding value.
While you can’t likely put a value on your brand easily, accountants believe they have a clear dollar value. “Goodwill,” the line item among the intangible assets on business accounting reports, is where brand value lives. And there’s a reason why the largest corporate brands command a high dollar for goodwill when buying or selling companies. Good brands bring good customers, and in turn, good profits.
Assess your verbal/written, visual and emotional branding for your business by asking your trustworthy customers and trusted business partners how they perceive your brand strengths and weaknesses. Identify where you might have improvement areas and work to make those branding decisions that will make your company more valuable, and enjoy better sales from your efforts.