Does your small business really need a brand?

Written by Nigel Simpkins

You run your own business. And as such, your day consists largely of keeping a seemingly endless array of proverbial plates spinning. Your every waking thought and moment is occupied chiefly with keeping your head above water and keeping your business’ operations ticking over. You’re the kind of entrepreneur who likes to roll up their sleeves and get your hands dirty. The kind who’s happiest on the shop floor mixing it up with customers or making yourself available to your employees whether they need advice and guidance or simply a hand dealing with the afternoon rush.

Yet, while this hands-on approach is a big part of why your customers and employees alike love you, it leaves little room to approach the more strategic aspects of running your business. Things like competitor analysis, market research and that old chestnut… branding.

You may feel that branding is the sole preserve of large multinational corporations and has no place in more modest operations like your own. You may feel that the entire concept of branding is unnecessary fluff- something to keep overpaid marketing executives in a job. You may doubt whether your small business really needs a brand. Here we’ll discuss the virtues of considering branding for businesses of all shapes and sizes, and how your small business can embrace branding.

But, I’m doing branding!

Many business owners suffer from a slight misconception when it comes to branding. They assume that because they have a logo and a clever tagline that means it means they’re “doing” branding. However, while your logo, tagline, colour scheme etc. are all part of your branding, they are the window dressing. The decor. Branding goes way beyond the surface.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has a good definition of branding.

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room”

While people (and newspapers) are undoubtedly saying less than flattering things about Amazon while Jeff Bezos isn’t in the room, he hits on an important link between branding and credibility.

Your branding should be intrinsically linked to your mission statement. It should

Still not convinced?

That’s okay. In fact, it’s admirable. Many small business owners are resistant to the idea of embracing branding because they assume it means painting a glossy corporate veneer over the face of their existing operation. And that would be false and a disservice to your customers, your employees and yourself.

Yet, you can walk the line between building a strong brand for your business and staying true to your principles and practices. Master this balancing act and you’ll be able to reap…

The benefits of branding

For many small business owners the whiff of shameless self-promotion that permeates whenever the word “branding” comes up is fundamentally at odds with their unassuming and modest natures. However, branding has many purposes other than self-aggrandisation. Tipping your toe into the waters of branding can have a range of positive impacts on your business, including;

  • Establishing what makes your business unique to new prospects
  • Creating interest and excitement in your brand
  • Building value in your business and you as the driving force behind it
  • Ensuring that you’re able to charge what you’re worth
  • Differentiating you from the competition
  • Maximising customer retention and referrals
  • Your brand assures consistency (and for many consumers, that’s a quantity worth paying for).

In an uncertain political and economic climate, people crave stability, consistency and predictability. Why else would they flock to Starbucks, chug Coca Cola and gorge on Big Macs before going to see yet another remake or sequel in the cinema?

Branding your small business

Hopefully, by now, you’re thinking that maybe there’s some merit in considering all this branding malarkey. So, let’s take a look at some of the ways in which you can brand your small business without sacrificing your credibility at the altar of profit…

Don’t try and mimic the tone of big brands: Find a voice that is distinctly yours

Don’t worry, you won’t need to start adopting the kind of eerily corporate persona that you see from the likes of Amazon or Tesco. Lean into what makes your small business unique and special and use it to create a clear identity for you business and your brand. That identity should be inherent in everything from the way in which you decorate your physical presence to the way you train your employees or handle customer complaints. It should dictate your tone of voice on social media or in your marketing materials. It should be intrinsically linked to your mission statement and make a promise to your clientele.

Your brand should contain an inherent set of standards and attitudes which consumers should be able to rely on your to deliver. Do this consistently and you will earn their trust and loyalty.

Get social

If you’ve been reluctant to bring your business to social media (and we totally sympathise if you have- people can  be awful on there) now’s the time to bite the bullet.

A presence on social media allows you to convert customers into advocates and complaints into opportunities. It’s where you can build value in the relationship consumers have with your brand. From your social platforms you can shape and influence how your business is perceived and build positive relationships with consumers and other businesses.

Get creative

Find time in your busy schedule to create content that gives consumers a commodity that we all want… Something for nothing!

Many entrepreneurs are creative by nature, and blogging, creating infographics or tutorials and even making your own videos can go a long way towards building value in your brand (as well as being creatively rewarding). What’s more, as you add more and more content to your website, you’ll also find that your SEO gets a nice bump, too! Even if your business doesn’t make its money from ecommerce, a steady flow of traffic to your website can only ever be advantageous for your business. Make sure you use web development services to ensure that your website lives up to the promise inherent in your brand. This doesn’t just mean keeping it looking gorgeous. It should also leverage User Experience UX to subtly influence user behaviour and make your website a pleasant space through which consumers can navigate.

Get networking

Finally, don’t be afraid of other brands. Keep an eye out for businesses with a similar focus to your own. Look for opportunities to exchange ideas and, better yet, create co-branded products. These introduce their audience to your brand and vice versa. They can be an extremely useful (and fun) prospect.

As you can see, embracing branding needn’t come at the expense of your business’ identity and can propel your small business towards lasting success.