Branding is a term that often gets used by entrepreneurs and small business owners but lacks clear direction when it comes to the actual implementation. Of course most are familiar with the importance of branding and what it can do for their business if properly executed.
Whether it’s the lack of resources, design experience or understanding of the subject, most small business brands don’t come across as professional as those of larger corporations. Naturally, there are a lot of examples of beautiful small business brands but generally speaking there’s room for improvement.
Let’s take a look at some branding best practices so that you can build a professional, consistent and memorable brand for your business.
Why is Branding Important?
Before we get into the specifics let’s look at why branding is so important. Branding isn’t just about creating pretty designs but crafting an image for your business. Your brand assets are the face of your company. That’s how potential leads and customers experience your business visually.
We all know how important fist impressions are and that is particularly true when it comes to branding. If your logo, business signage or website are poorly designed visitors will quickly draw negative conclusions about your service and product.
On the other hand if your branding comes across as professional it will help you convey a message of trust and credibility which is hugely important in terms of generating sales.
Do Your Homework Before You Create Any Brand Material
During the startup phase many entrepreneurs are overwhelmed with the amount of tasks they need to complete to get their business of the ground. Many of those tasks are rushed; creating brand assets is typically one of those areas.
At this stage of your business launch it’s advisable to slow things down to make sure you get your brand strategy and implementation right the first time around. If your branding strategy is off you might be forced to rebrand once you are up and running which will be a lot more time and resource intensive.
Before you design anything or hire a graphic design complete the following steps:
Step #1. Study the Competitive Landscape
Your branding should be unique and help you stand out from your competitors. A careful review and analysis of your competitive landscape is advisable to make sure you know what you are up against. This doesn’t mean to simply review their logos and websites but to take a deeper drive.
What is the unique selling proposition? What’s their messaging and tone? Who are they targeting? Once you understand your competitive landscape you’ll know what type of branding will perform best.
Step #2. Conduct a Careful SWOT Analysis
The next step is to look internally. What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT)? If you have already written a business plan or pitch deck you most likely already have a SWOT analysis in place.
How can you use your strengths to play up your branding? A clear picture of what you have to offer will help you define your brand much effectively.
Step #3. Write Your Mission and Vision Statements
Out of the SWOT exercise you should be able to draft an effective mission and vision statement quickly. Having those statements in place is beneficial not just in terms of helping to define your brand and messaging but to dictate your overall business direction.
Set the Right Branding Foundation
Once you have completed the research and analysis it’s time to start thinking about design and your creative direction. Approach these three tasks next:
#1. Define Your Messaging
Your messaging is crucial for your brand. It consists of two aspects, communication via content and visual communication. Make sure you are absolutely clear in what message you want to send for both. This decision will inform the next step, choosing your brand colors.
#2. Choose Your Brand Color
When it comes to color choice don’t take this decision lightly. Most entrepreneurs simply go with their favourite color pattern without thinking about the impact it can have on buyer behaviour.
Study what each color means and then choose colors that represent your business in the right light. Aligning your business’ core values, colors and brand material will ensure your branding efforts will resonate with your target audience.
#3. Create Your Logo
Now it’s finally time to tackle your first design task – your logo. Make sure you don’t rush the process and build in an unbiased feedback loop from potential customers and other business stakeholders. There are a lot of ways to get your logo done ranging from logo design applications to custom services and design contests.
Whichever route you choose make sure you get your logo absolutely right. To ensure you create a timeless logo that’s practical ask yourself the following questions. Is it simple and unique? Is it scalable? Does it look good in color and black and white? Does it look good in print and on the web? If you can answer yes to all of those questions you have a winning logo concept.
Create Templates for All of Your Other Brand Assets
After your logo your second most important brand asset is most likely your website. To make sure your logo and website work well together be sure to repeat your logo’s core color across your website.
You can use secondary colors to add even more cohesiveness. Your logo needs to be implemented in the exact right file dimensions and format to ensure it doesn’t look blurry or skewed.
Social Media Channels
With your website in place the next logical step is to set up your social media profiles. These profiles need to be consistent in look and feel to your website. Make sure to upload your high-resolution logo to each channel and to repeat your branding colors.
Business Cards and Other Promotional Material
Most businesses also have the need for printed promotional material like business cards, flyers, brochures, merchandise, etc. Take the same disciplined approach; make sure you include your logo on all of your printed material. Add the main and secondary colors as well to add a nice visual touch and create more brand cohesiveness.
As you build out other branded material take the same disciplined and deliberate approach. Ensuring your logo and brand colors are represented will give your brand a professional and consistent look. In addition, you can leverage visual tools like photos, icons and fonts to create even more consistency while elevating the quality of your design.
For example, if you repeat the use of images that are similar in style they will quickly become part of your visual brand. The same goes for icons, illustrations, effects and any other visual aid.
Enforce How Your Brand is implemented
As your business grows and you start to hire people you need to make sure you put branding guidelines in place. Without those rules defined employees and outsiders like the press might use your branded material in ways that aren’t consistent.
Write a set of branding guidelines early on and enforce them strictly. In your guidelines you’ll define color codes, fonts, layouts messaging and more. Your branding is only as good as your implementation so be sure to stick to the guidelines in a strict way.
Monitor How Your Brand is Perceived
Creating all of your branding material takes time and effort. After finally publishing and printing your marketing items make sure you have methods in place to monitor how your brand is perceived. You can use survey tools from Google or apps that help you monitor brand mentions.
Of course the way people talk about your brand isn’t typically about the design of your promotional material, rather the experience they had with your business. It’s crucial you make sure potential leads and existing customers have a positive experience every single time they interact with your business.
You can have the most beautiful branding in place but if a customer has a poor UX experience on your website or is subjected to rude customer service they will see your brand in a negative light. Enforce a positive experience at every single turn.
Monitoring brand chatter online will allow you to catch any negative feedback so that you can make adjustments early on. When you come across negative feedback don’t stick your head in the sand, rather view it as an opportunity to make changes before your brand name is tarnished.
A Summary Before You Go
Defining your branding strategy, creating branding material and implementation can all be a bit overwhelming. A lot of information was covered in this article. Even if you don’t have any design or marketing experience don’t be intimidated. When you are ready to launch your brand simply come back to this article and work through it step by step.
Brand recognition can’t be built overnight. This process takes time and as long as your follow the tips highlighted here you’ll be moving in the right direction of creating a professional, consistent and memorable brand for your business. Now it’s time to put on your marketing and designer hat and get busy. Good luck with your new venture!
About the Author!
Deacon Burgess is a passionate writer, sports enthusiast and vinyl collector. He has spent years writing for different print and web publications covering topics in the field of marketing, design, entrepreneurship and finance. These days he’s a freelance writer who enjoys writing from a coffee shop while sipping on a freshly brewed cup of Java.