Small Business: 5 Questions to Create a Meaningful Brand

How To Make Your Small Business Brand Stand For Something

Open for business In their eagerness to start working, many small business owners and solopreneurs put up an “Open for Business” sign in the form of a website and business cards and think they’ve branded their company.

Yet nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is you must know who you are as a business and what your goals are before you can start to build a brand. This goes beyond selecting your favorite color and a fancy typeface. (If you’re still not convinced, read Why Brands Matter and Size Doesn’t.)

5 Questions to develop a small business brand

Here are 5 steps to help you develop your business identity and in the process define your small business brand. Since it can be daunting to look at a blank piece of paper, these steps are structured in the form of questions to focus your thinking.

1. Why are you starting the business?Being laid off isn’t a good enough reason because having your own business will take lots of time and energy. Therefore you must want to be in business for yourself. Taking odd jobs or projects between other, more meaningful long-term work may be an economic reality but it doesn’t make your work a business. To build a business you need to want to grow and until you make that a commitment, it won’t happen.

Before you jump in, spend some time thinking about what you want from life. Think holistically about what you want to accomplish in terms of work, family, romance, health, finance, spiritual and other outside interests. The point of this exercise is to help you align your business with your longer-term personal goals.

2. What does your company do? Start by listing your firm’s products and/or services. If you’re offering services, consider how you can make them more tangible. What is your point of differentiation? How are your products positioned in the market? If you’re selling heavily discounted products, it’ll be difficult to persuade the public that you’ve got the best quality. By contrast, if you’re located in a high rent area such as Park Avenue or Rodeo Drive, it’ll be a challenge to prove you’ve got the best prices.

3. What is your company name? Your business’s moniker is an important element of your brand. Are you using your personal name? While this is a reasonable place to start, understand that using your name may make it difficult to grow your organization, long term. Can you incorporate your product or location into your name? Is there another name association you want to leverage? Are the related sentiments positive or negative for your objectives?

Check with some colleagues you trust before you finalize your decision to get some objective feedback. Ask them to tell you what their first impressions of what the business does before you explain your plans.

4. Who are your prospects and customers? While it’s easier to look at your existing customers to figure out who your potential buyers are, if you’re starting from scratch, you need to make assumptions. Create a marketing persona so that you have some basic concepts about your buyers and their influencers. What do you think people will want or expect from your organization? What benefits will they get from using your company versus other ways of getting the products or services you offer? Don’t overlook products your target market considers substitutes.

Realize that most businesses tend to be myopic when it comes to competitors. They only think in terms of firms selling the same product in the same market. Can you easily segment or target your potential audience? You want to be able to define your audience so that they recognize that your product is useful to them. Take some time and talk to people you think will be potential customers to get their feedback.

5. What makes your firm unique? This is more formally known as a USP or a unique selling proposition. It’s not new. It dates back to Rosser Reeves, one of the original Mad Men. What sets your business apart from others in the marketplace? Think in terms of what’s missing from the current marketplace. If you have a difficult time figuring out what makes you different, chances are so will your customers. Sometimes, it’s easier to approach this topic by examining your competitors and what do you do that they don’t do. Among the factors to consider are price, location, product quality, product bundling, and/or staff knowledge.

A brand is more than just a logo, it’s ingrained in your business. Therefore, take the time to understand what you want your business to stand for.

What other elements would you add to this list and why would you add them?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies. You can find Heidi on , Facebook and .

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  • Upasna Kakroo

    I do believe that the first point on why you’re starting a business is often given far less importance by many people. I’d like to believe that not just from the perspective of a brand, but the personal aspirations and expectations that come with the whole process are far better placed once the answers to this question are clarified.

    Thanks for sharing

    Upasna at Someplace Else

  • http://www.annbevans.com/ Ann Bevans

    Heidi, this is a great list. I meet entrepreneurs every day who have no idea what they sell, so that’s a great place to start.

  • Dennis O’Donnell

    Great post, Heidi. This is a topic that I’m always revisiting and interested in, as it seems a lot of small businesses get as far as “name” and “logo”, and just stop there. Thanks!

  • Ann Smarty

    Very helpful. Easy questions, and yet, integral to defining the brand. I especially like the question on what makes the company unique.

  • http://www.it-sales-leads.com/ Barbara Mckinney

    Great article here.Knowing the status of your brand affords a business the advantage of having a starting point in their efforts to be the leader in their category. Knowing where you stand eliminates any assumption of your brand status.

  • Alicia Casiano

    Very insightful Heidi. I think its very important for any potential small business owner to really sit down and come up with a strategy to brand themselves. So many “entrepreneurs” come up with a simple idea that’s not executed effectively enough to cause long term success. Your 5 questions cover the basics that any business owner should be able to answer before going forward.

  • MHolt

    But what is the value of branding to a small business? There’s a survey here trying to find out: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SmallBiz_1

  • http://marketingwitfred.com/ FREDDIE ROSS

    Hey Heidi awesome blog and very helpful i think that branding yourself is a powerful asset for any business. It’s how you build report keep sharing.