5 Small Business Branding Guidelines

Small Business Branding = Big Opportunity

Small business brand big opportunity Many small businesses believe branding is only for BIG companies with BIG budgets.

They’re missing a huge opportunity. Small business branding is a super power; it enables your firm to appear more strategic and larger than it is.

Don’t take the Monopoly approach to branding by skipping it over it in your rush to open for business. Instead, take the necessary time to develop your brand and it will reap benefits for your firm in the long run.

3 Reasons small businesses need branding

Here are the 3 major reasons why small businesses must develop their brands. In line with a small business mindset, branding helps maximize the value of your limited resources.

1. Small business branding saves time and money.

Branding streamlines decision making across a wide range of small business elements. Brand guidelines reduce or eliminate decisions related to your marketing, communications, signage, business or store interior, social media, content marketing, employee dress code and your website, even business signature files.

Brands define what’s needed when you create these business components and communications without necessitating additional discussion or decision making. (Here’s a 21 Point Small Business Brand Checklist.) 

2. Small business branding makes your business look professional, (even if you’re a one person solopreneur.)

Having a unique branded look takes your presentation up a notch. Even using low cost creation, everything from your business cards to your email signatures should be consistent and polished supporting the quality image you want to present.

By being conscious and consistent, your small firm has a bigger impact because every piece of content or impression reinforces your message so people learn who you are. For example, Content Marketing Institute and Likeable Media both use orange as their brand color and their CEOs, Joe Pulizzi and Dave Kerpen, always wear orange.

3. Small business branding prevents competitors and others from defining your business.

Without brand standards, every piece of content and communications you issue can look different. As a result, your prospects, customers and fans don’t know who you are or what you stand for.

Even worse, your competitors can define your business in a less flattering light without you’re even being aware of it.

5 Small business branding guidelines

The biggest branding challenge most small businesses face is finding the time to define their brand and to develop a set of brand guidelines.

Here are 5 small business branding guidelines to help you think about your brand. Each guideline is formatted like a question to get you thinking. Small business brand big opportunity

1. What are your business goals?

Go beyond monetary objectives. What do you want your business to accomplish that’s bigger than the work of the people involved? How do you want your organization to make a difference?

2. Who is your target audience including influencers, end users, fans and the public?

Create a marketing persona to better understand your market. What are their likes and dislikes? How do they feel towards your business? This has a significant impact on how easy or hard it’ll be to persuade them to purchase from you.

Don’t just think about the answers to these questions. Write them down to review and share them with your creative resource people.

3. What sets your business apart from your competitors and near substitutes?

Answer the question “Why should a customer buy from you and not your competitors?” If you’re stumped about how to respond, chances are so are your prospects.

Assess a wide range of competitors, online and offline. Include the top players in your category and shopping in general like Walmart, Amazon and eBay. Examine how they represent their brands across channels and platforms.

Put yourself in your prospects’ shoes when evaluating near substitutes. What tradeoffs will they make and for what reasons? For example, a consumer may take a book out of the library instead of buying a physical book or download.

4. Create a set of easy-to-follow brand tools.

Before hiring a design shop or using a less expensive online resource, assess the elements you want to represent your business. They should have a deeper meaning for you and your audience since they’ll be core to your logo and other brand representations.

Not sure how to start? Then create a mood board to make the process more tactile. It provides insights into how you view your brand. Go through magazines and other content finding visual elements you like. What colors and shapes appeal to you and why?

Develop a brand and related logo that exemplifies the core essence of your business, appears professional, and resonates with your target customers. Keep it simple and easy-to-use.  Take into account your 360° brand.

  • Look and feel. What’s visitors’ first impression of your brand?
  • Typography / font style. Is it legible for your core audience? Consider the size and spacing of the lettering.
  • Color. How does your color palette set your business apart from your competitors? How does it render on different devices?
  • Mascot/visual cues. Who or what represents your brand? Do you have a mascot or do your employees wear specific types of clothing?
  • Voice. How does your brand sound? Are your communications informal? (Remember, they must sound like a real person!)
  • Stories. What’s your business history or background? How’s this reflected in your branding?
  • Platforms. Where does your brand appear? In terms of social media, this applies to the social networks where you are actively engaged.

5. Allow some freedom to vary your brand within defined parameters.

The objective of small business branding aims make your business appear larger than it is. Therefore give your brand room to adapt for different seasons and holidays.

Google Doodles are a great example. Google remains true to its core brand but shows its fun side.

Once you’ve developed these 5 small business branding guidelines and they’ve been converted into your core logo and presentations, then document how and when to use these elements.

While this may seem like a time consuming extra step; it’s not. Without having this documentation, you take a risk each time a communication or piece of content is created that these decisions will have to be made again and again.

The result: wasted employee or contractor time and, even worse, your business looks small and unprofessional.

How did you develop your small business branding?

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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  • http://thomasowenonline.com/ Thomas Owen

    What a great post! As per packed full of value, thank you Heidi! I’m taking some excellent advice and tips away from this post. Consistency is definitely key and like you say in number 2 even the smaller things can have a big impact, something which I have lacked on. Thanks again!

    • heidicohen

      Thomas – You’ve got it. Determine your brand as part of your business creation, create a set of guidelines and follow them. This is a case where every little bit helps. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • http://www.arttechint.com/ Suraj Rai

    Hi James Carson,
    You really shared some critical points about online marketing that were difficult to discuss and find. It will helpful to increases deep knowledge about how to work online market. Thanks to share such useful tips. I am going to follow these are suggestions to give new height in on online business.