While huge budgets might help, don't underestimate the importance of branding for small businesses. After all, what is a brand?
It's statement about what you stand for and where you're going. Big companies don't have a monopoly on values and vision. As often as not, small companies retain a clearer picture of those things.
It's not enough to figure out your brand, you must manage it. Keep reading and we'll give you some tips on how to do that.
Figure Out Your Brand Story
The House of Couch is the region's largest furniture retailer. It has over 100 locations in five states. The House of Couch is an equal opportunity employer.
Pretty boring, right? Yet, that is what passes for a brand story for countless businesses. Sadly, it doesn't do much branding and it's not a story.
It's a recitement of facts. So, why is that a problem? People are fundamentally hardwired for stories, not facts.
Try this on for size, instead.
In 1982, Henry "Red" Beauregard drove out to the local furniture store in search of a new couch for his wife, Sally. Red bought Sally a couch that very day. A few months later, Red saw the same couch for a fraction of the price he paid.
Red decided that he was going to open his own furniture store, The House of Couch. His guiding star was the best price for the customer. Since then, Red's honest ways let him open dozens of stores across the region.
This version tells you a story. It tells you why the House of Couch exists, who launched it, and even one of the brand's core values. Not bad for six sentences.
Admittedly, not every brand has a colorful founder with a driving passion, but every business has a story. Tell it like a story and you'll attract more customers.
Get Your Visuals Sorted Out
It's true that your brand is more than your logo. That said, you can't leave your visuals as an afterthought.
Think it through. What do most businesses use as their profile image? Yup, it's their logo.
As far as possible, most companies aim for a unified color scheme across the board. It's not a decision you want to rush. Changing your logo or color scheme is difficult at best.
Plus, there's a psychology behind color choices. You want your logo and color scheme to support your overall brand message.
Then there's the font selection.
That hyper-stylized Old English font might look great on the screen, but does it reflect your brand? It might if you run an antique shop, but probably not if you sell website design services.
There's also the issue of readability. Some fonts look fine on a billboard, but aren't even readable on a business card? You want a font that works at any size.
Leaving these decisions until the last minute almost ensures you'll end up with colors, a logo, or a font you'll regret later.
Pick Your Social Media
Social media might prove the single greatest gift that the Internet ever gave business.
Most of your customers will participate on at least one of the major platforms. That gives you the chance to talk with your target market and existing customers. Plus, they often self-select into interest-specific groups.
The tricky part here is that you can't realistically manage profiles on all of the social media platforms. It's a numbers game you can't hope to win.
The strategy that lets you hang on to some sanity is choosing two or three platforms.
Your choices depend, in part, on your industry. After all, a photo sharing site won't offer many opportunities for accountants and bookkeepers. It's not like they can screenshot their client's accounts.
By contrast, a photo sharing site offers a golden opportunity for chef's, graphic artists, and photographers. Those are intrinsically visual careers that can benefit from photo sharing.
Take a hard look at your business and ask what kind of social media platform it lends itself to. Make your choices based on that, rather than what's hot right now.
Choose Your Brand Voice
No, we don't mean James Earl Jones...unless you can get him. If you can get him for your ads, use him.
No, what voice means here is the overall tone you'll use when communicating. This choice largely stems out of other choices.
For example, if you use a down-home story like Red and the House of Couch, you must adopt a down-home style. Come at customers with slick corporate communications and you shatter the brand story in two seconds.
If your brand thrives on whimsy, you need an airy tone.
The real key here, though, is consistency. That tone must pervade every bit of communication by your brand.
It must come through in blog posts, in tweets, in status updates, in your advertisements. Every time you don't deliver on that voice, it weakens your brand. It erodes the vision of the brand you want customers to carry out in the world.
There are only a couple choices for maintaining that voice. Choice one is that a few people handle all communications. Choice two is that you develop a very stringent in-house style manual.
Both options pose potential problems, but option two lets you spread the work out to more people.
Parting Thoughts on the Importance of Branding
Don't underestimate the importance of branding for your business. Branding isn't about plastering your logo across Times Square. It's about communicating your story and values to potential customers.
You accomplish that, in part, with a solid brand story. Just remember that a brand story must tell a story, not just list some facts.
Get your visuals sorted out earlier than later. They serve as visual cues and psychological primers for customers.
Choose social media platforms that work with your brand's natural strengths. Once you pick them, make sure you always communicate with a consistent brand voice.
TomsSEOLink specializes in brand management, SEO, and link building. For more information, contact us today.