10 Steps To Develop Your Small Business’ Brand Identity
For small businesses, branding is like having a super power; it makes your firm stand out in a message-laden ecosystem.
Many small businesses mistakenly think branding is expensive and leave it out of their core business plans. They miss the opportunity to position their firm and reinforce the attributes that set them apart from their competitors with each social media interaction, email communication and face-to-face meeting.
The reality is that by not branding your firm, you’re not controlling your corporate identity. Instead, your customers, competitors and the public define your organization. A lack of consistency can be confusing to your target audience and their influencers, resulting in lost business opportunities.
Branding matters for small businesses because it provides shorthand symbols representing a combination of tangible and intangible elements that give you a super power – the power to affect peoples’ feelings in a certain way. Once your brand is established, prospects, customers and the public quickly recognize your firm and emotionally respond to your message. Therefore you need to determine your brand attributes and consistently use them everywhere to build trust.
To develop to your organization’s brand identity (aka your super power), answer these ten questions.
- What’s your company name? Is it identified with a specific person and/or place? What initial impression does this make on prospects? How does it affect your business’s memorability and findability on search engines, social media and in real life.
- What does your business do? Specifically, what products and/or services do you sell? Think benefits. What specific customer needs do you meet?
- How is your product priced? This is an important attribute of your positioning and is an integral part of your branding. Are you the low price supplier or do you charge a premium for special services you provide?
- How do you define your niche? What keywords would prospects use to find your business in a search directory? What sets your company apart from others selling the same offering? This can be based on your location (although this is less of a distinguishing factor with the Internet), your product quality and/or your target audience.
- Who is your target audience? Consider everyone who influences the purchase such as the buyer, the influencer(s) and the end user. How do you want to be positioned in their consideration set? To this end, develop a marketing persona for each market subsegment.
- What is your company’s history? Think corporate once upon a time. While you should stick with the facts, you can select the ones that you want to emphasize. As Tim Gunn of Project Runway says, make it work. (If you need some help, here are twenty-nine corporate stories you can use.)
- Who are your competitors? Don’t underestimate how much your firm can be defined by your competitive set. In my experience businesses tend to narrowly define their competitors while their prospects consider a broad range of alternatives including substitutes that are different offerings altogether.
- How do you want your firm to be known? This strikes at the core of your organization’s values. What’s important in terms of product, service and public perception? This doesn’t require a ten-page treatise. Simplify it to three words that represent your organization. They should be an integral part of your mission statement. This should represent how you conduct your business.
- What are your employees like? For most small businesses, this means the owner. What’s your passion and world view? How do you treat your prospects, customers and employees? Are you an active member of your community? People are part of the extended Ps of marketing.
- Where’s the proof? Customers look for validation, often in terms of ratings and reviews. The value of a brand is the consistent customer experience you deliver. Consider how you can integrate this information into your marketing promotion.
Collectively, these attributes provide the basis for your brand identity, that acts as your super power across platforms, devices and real life. Take the time to document your answers to ensure that there aren’t any inconsistencies (otherwise your customers and the public probably won’t consider you much of a hero). Address areas where your aspirations for your business differ from reality. Remember that, like a super hero, you want to make a lasting impression by setting your firm apart from your competitors.
What else would you add to this brand identity list and why?
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