Small businesses are crucial to the health of our economy. 99.8% of Australian businesses are considered small– to medium-sized, with about 98% employing 20 or less people. Even with such a significant contribution, many small businesses fail to make it past their first year in business and thrive long-term. Those that do succeed have something powerful in common — a strong, identifiable brand.
Branding is the key to establishing a name for yourself in your respective industry, increasing your company’s value, and consistently attracting and retaining customers. You’re also better able to stand out from your competition and compete with big brands.
Why Building a Brand Is Important for Small Businesses
One of the most important reasons you must build a brand for your small business is to take advantage of brand awareness. When you have a strong brand, it’s easier to stand out from your competition. The more you stand out, the more memorable you are to potential and current customers. As a result, they’ll be more likely to purchase from and engage with your business repeatedly, while spreading the word about their wonderful experience with your brand.
A strong brand also allows small businesses to compete with big brands. You may not be able to go toe-to-toe with Fortune 500 companies. However, you can give their unsatisfied customers an opportunity to experience the intimacy and care small businesses often provide.
Here are a few other benefits of building a brand for your small business:
- The company feels more “real” — to you and potential clients;
- You attract and retain top talent to work for your small business;
- You become a thought leader in your industry and establish credibility;
- You offer your customers a cohesive, consistent customer experience across touchpoints.
If you want to make it past your first year in business and continue growing every year after, you must be intentional about brand building.
Tips for Navigating Brand Building as a Small Business
Building a brand is critical for small business success. But it’s important not to jump into the process unorganized, as there are levels to brand building. Instead, use these four tips to keep the process organized and productive.
Specify what your business and brand are all about
First, you must identify what you want the foundation of your brand to be. In other words, specify what your business and brand are all about.
Be as detailed as possible answering the following questions to ensure you’re building a brand you and your customers can stand behind:
- What are your company values?
- What is the purpose of your business?
- Why did you start your small business?
- What causes does your brand stand for?
- How do you want people to perceive your brand?
- What challenges do you solve for your customers?
- What kind of customer experience do you want to provide?
- What values does your company share with its customers?
Even if you think you already know the answers to these questions, actively writing them out will give you and your team a tangible reference. Further, you may discover traits and goals of your brand that you didn’t think of before.
Study your target audience
For your brand to impact your target audience, it must be centred around them. The goal is to create an emotional connection between your brand and your target audience so that they are more inclined be loyal to you over your competition.
Take ample time to study your target audience. If you already have data on your customer base, dive into it. Extract as many meaningful insights about them as possible, like how and where they interact with your business.
If you don’t have any data yet, research who you think your ideal customers are. Define demographic information, how they think and behave, what attracts them to specific businesses, and what increases brand loyalty. Once you better understand your ideal customers and who you are as a business and brand, then you can move forward with developing your visual branding elements.
Develop your visual branding elements
Many of your potential customers will form a first impression of your brand via your visual branding elements. Visual branding elements include:
- Colour palette;
- Layout designs;
- Fonts and typography;
- Images and illustrations.
Note what catches your target audience’s eye regarding visuals. You can do this by tracking social engagement, administering surveys, or even using a heatmap of website activity. Find a happy medium between what your customers will love and what authentically represents your brand.
Also, don’t forget about the non-visual elements of your brand. Define your brand’s personality, tone, messaging, and how you want to communicate all of this to your customers. Keep this voice consistent across platforms to remain recognizable and familiar.
Promote your brand
Creating your small business’s brand is the first step of brand building. The next step is promoting your brand. You may craft the perfect brand image, but it won’t be effective if you don’t market your business and brand.
Particularly in the time of a recession and inflation, small businesses don’t have extra wiggle room in their budgets. Luckily, promoting your brand doesn’t have to be expensive. You can take advantage of budget-friendly marketing platforms and tactics.
For example, promoting your brand on social media is one of the best ways to gain traction without spending much money. You can start a profile on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Whatsapp for free. Then, you can create unique content and connect with your customers through comments, direct message conversations, live streams, and so forth.
In addition, you can promote your brand with these tactics:
- Start an email list;
- Create an SEO-friendly website;
- Host virtual and in-person customer-centric events;
- Create and maintain your Google My Business Page;
- Contribute to meaningful industry conversations consistently;
- Use the same visual branding elements across all marketing channels.
Remember, it’s difficult for people to get to know your brand if you don’t promote it. So, do so relentlessly.
Your small business won’t survive long-term without intentional branding. You need a solid brand to stand out from the competition, build your reputation, and attract and retain loyal customers. So, use the above four tips to build a robust small business brand.