Archive for July, 2008

Small Business Branding Lessons from Big Companies

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

As a small business owner and operator, do you think branding is something exotic and lofty, reserved for the big companies with millions to spend? Think again. Branding is every bit as relevant to the smallest business as to the biggest business.

Branding, defined as simply as possible, is the way you differentiate your business from your competitors. The purpose of branding is to create a connection between you and your customers. Ultimately the goal of branding is to build customer loyalty and trust.

As a small business owner, you know that your livelihood depends on customers that keep coming back. Long-term customers are the backbone of any business. You don’t live in a vacuum. You read. You watch TV. You even shop. You’re almost certainly aware of classic examples of branding, such as Nike, Apple and Starbuck’s and why these companies have been so successful from a branding point of view. You don’t have their resources, or their budgets. What to do? There are still many valuable lessons you can learn from the big boys and apply to your business.

The first lesson is simple: if customers are going to respond to your brand and be loyalty to it, they have to be able to recognize it. You will need to be recognizable. You no doubt have many famous corporate logos burned into your retinas. There are even some that do what they’re supposed to do—conjure the associations the company wants them to in your mind, and inspire brand loyalty in you.

You can’t afford to hire a top design firm to design your logo, but you don’t’ need to. The key component is to be recognizable. Nobody ever chooses one brand over another because of the company’s logo. However, what does work is building the link between logo, product and values. You need a logo. It doesn’t have to fancy, clever, pretty or well designed, but it needs to be on everything. It should be on every letter, every business card, every invoice, every advertisement, every newsletter, every blog, every sign… every piece of communication form your business, really.

Once you have a brand that people can recognize, manifested most simply by plastering your logo all over everything you do, the next step is equally simple—but not necessarily easy. You must know what your core values are, as a business, and allow them to inform everything you do. The simplest way to figure out what your message is, is to write it down. That’s right, make a mission statement. Enumerate your company’s values and principles, everything that guides how you do business. Write it all down.

Once you’ve written your core message down, you must focus on your core message. Read it, learn it, live it. Your core message must penetrate into, and emanate from, everything you do. You won’t need to share your mission.