stacked blocks with words like brand, design and logo
A business's brand should reflect the personality and values of the business. — Getty Images/tumsasedgars

For many small businesses, ‘branding’ is an elusive concept that leaves even the most enthusiastic business owners feeling stuck in a quagmire of colors, logo options and cheesy taglines. To best utilize branding as a legitimate business driver, it’s imperative to understand how to develop the foundation of your brand for maximum effect.

A brand consists of a set of features that distinguish one business from another. Once you’ve defined what those features are, your brand becomes the physical manifestation of who you are as a business. From signage and store window displays to advertising and tone of voice, here’s how to approach branding your small business through four key elements.

Know your audience

Before looking at the creative aspects of branding, do some research to gain insight into your customers. Your brand must communicate directly to your audience in a meaningful way. In one study, 64% of consumers said that shared values help them trust a brand — so take the time to learn who you’re seeking to attract with your product or service in order to build a brand experience that connects with the right audience.

For example, if you’re opening a day spa in an upscale neighborhood, you might include special touches your high-end customers expect, like soothing colors paired with plush, white robes and slippers. Details such as the music and texture can spark a certain affinity, too. A hardware store, on the other hand, might use earth tones, flannel staff uniforms, and unfinished wood details in their storefront. If you’re looking to attract a certain audience, your brand’s approach needs to mirror that.

Join our panel of experts to discuss how entrepreneurs can ensure their brands stay current during the pandemic and beyond.

The number one rule when it comes to branding is consistency.

Start with your brand’s look and feel

For many consumers, branding can be the deciding factor when they make a purchase decision. Your brand identity is the visual representation of your story. There are five key visual elements to establish when you begin crafting that identity:

  • Logo
  • Typography
  • Color palette
  • Photography
  • Secondary imagery, such as icons, patterns and shapes

You don’t need a design background to start creating a visual brand identity. Start with your personal story as a business owner: What are you passionate about? What drives you to start your business, and how can your colors and logo communicate what you stand for? An excellent way to keep everything in check is to develop a set of brand standards, ensuring that all your marketing materials are in line with your branding vision.

Master your brand voice

How you communicate to your customers is as important as how you look. Spend some time creating a ‘voice’ for your company that reflects both your brand story and your company’s “personality.” For instance, if you’re an ice cream shop with fun slogans printed on your napkins, your social media channels should bring that same frivolity and fun nature to your posts.

Not sure how to find your voice? Think about how you want your customers to perceive you. Is there something you, the founder, say over and over again? Pick two to three key characteristics, like honesty, humor and friendliness, to help guide everything from your customer service to your email marketing. This can help you keep the tone consistent, familiar and on brand.

Keep it consistent

The number one rule when it comes to branding is consistency. Essentially, your logo, color scheme, brand voice, signage and website all need to match. Research shows that 90% of consumers expect their experience with a brand to be uniform across all platforms and devices. If you pride yourself on excellent in-store customer service, make sure you offer that same level of support through your website. Customers need to feel they’re supported and heard across every part of the customer experience.

Branding is a powerful tool when it comes to differentiating your business. Take the time to research your customers, think about your unique brand identity and translate that to your customers to build loyalty and see your business grow.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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