Just because you run a small business, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to think about branding. Even if you are so small that you yourself are your only employee, branding is vital. Furthermore, it doesn’t have to break your budget. Sounds good, doesn’t it? So maybe you’re fired up and ready to go out and brand yourself and your product or service. That’s Great! But first you need to define the problem—you need to know and understand what branding is.
Branding, essentially, is the process of differentiating your company—or yourself, if you are a company of one—from your competition in the hearts and minds of your customers and potential customers. Your goal, ultimately, is to build customer loyalty. No doubt you can see the value of that, no matter how small your business.
Many people have a corporate-centric view of how business works. After all, b-schools and textbooks all tend to emphasize big businesses as case studies. Major corporations are given as examples of all theories. You may, as many people do, have the die that in order to be successful you must project the attitude of a big business. This idea that you must project bigness in order to convince your customers and potential customers that you can deliver goods and services better than your competitors is not only not true, it’s potentially detrimental.
Charlemagne, when faced with a battle wherein he was substantially outnumbered and an all but hopeless situation, allegedly said, “let my armies be the rocks and the trees and the birds in the sky.” The meaning is clear enough—use the landscape around you to your advantage. This strategy, in business terms, can be translated to look around you, figure out what your situation is, and figure out what aspects of your reality you can turn into your strengths.
First and foremost, if you are a small business or a sole proprietor, stop being ashamed of your (lack of size). Size matters, but it isn’t always an advantage. Nothing says, “we don’t care about you” than bigness. Have you ever dealt directly with a major corporation? How did you feel? Chances are, you felt lost in the shuffle.
Maybe you’ve dealt with one of the better-run, customer-focused corporations. Have you noticed that these big, faceless corporations go out of their way to personalize their business, to make your interaction with them feel like a one on one interaction with an individual person? Well, you’re already an individual. Make that work to your advantage.
As a sole proprietor or small business, your smallness is actually an asset and should be part of your brand. You deal directly with customers. You are the one who gets things done, or sees directly to it that things get done. As a sole proprietor, you are the sales department, the marketing department, production, billing, and accounting. You are the business—use that fact to your advantage, and stop trying to act like a big company.