How to Develop the Brand for Your Small Business

Illustration by Kirk! Wallace via Dribbble

If you want to start your own business, branding will be a crucial element in your success. This is the case if you are creating a more traditional small business or if you are promoting yourself as a consultant, expert or influencer.

But how do you go about creating a brand for yourself or your company? How do you know what it should be in the first place, and then how do you convey that to others? The steps below will take you through this process.

Develop Your Business Idea

Establishing your brand goes hand-in-hand with establishing the business itself, so your first steps will be the same you take in order to get it up and running.

If you don’t already have a college degree, a bachelor’s in business can help you better understand various concepts and approaches. It can stop you from wasting time and money reinventing the wheel.

In addition, you can actually try out your ideas in your courses and iron out problems with feedback from classmates and professors. You may be able to do research on the competition and identify your target audience as part of your coursework.

College can be expensive, so you might think that you would be better off putting that money toward your business. However, you may be able to use grants, scholarships, and student loans to cover your education costs. Federal loans are need-based, but private loans are not.

You need to fill out a FAFSA to apply for federal loans. The process of applying for private ones, like Earnest student loans, is usually easy and you quickly find out if you are eligible in most cases.

While you’re in school, your classmates can act as a kind of focus group for various elements of your brand, such as the name. Try to take some classes in entrepreneurship if possible since this can give you the opportunity to develop your idea and provide you with useful strategies as you move forward.

Know Your Purpose

You need to identify the purpose of your business. This doesn’t mean that it needs to have an altruistic aim. It could simply be the problem that it solves for the consumer.

Having a good grasp on your purpose can help when it comes to making an emotional connection with your audience, which is a crucial function of your brand. There are a number of different things you should consider.

What kind of future do you envision your product or service helping to create? What do you believe in? What are your values? What are your strengths, and how do they set you apart from other companies? Thinking about these questions can help you figure out your identity.

A high-end, luxury company is going to position itself very differently from one that wants to convey a cozy, down-home image. With a clearer picture of what you are trying to represent, you can move to the next step.

Further Development

If you have already chosen a name, now is the time to review it based on the above considerations. If you have not chosen one, now is the time. There are a few different approaches you can take to naming.

You could use something descriptive and Twitter is a good example of this. It cleverly evokes little bursts of sound or communication, which is what the platform is used for. As a bonus, it also creates a concrete image of a bird, which is in turned used in the company’s branding.

You could also use something related to the product’s origin–either the name of the creator or where the product comes from–or a name that creates an emotional response. There are also compound names, such as FedEx, and names that are acronyms, such as IBM.

Your Story

If you visit some websites, you might notice a link to an “About Us” page or something along the lines of “Our Story.” Creating a narrative is another important element in cementing your brand in the minds of your customers.

You can follow tips for business storytelling to guide you or simply draw on the thoughts you had about your purpose and value for this, but your story is also about where your company comes from.

In fact, if it helps, you can think of it as a kind of origin story like superheroes have. What is the narrative you want your customers to think about when they think of your company?

Marketing

All of the above, particularly your story, are about marketing, but here, you will begin to think very specifically about how you will market yourself to the customer base that you have targeted for your product or services.

Start by thinking about your logo. What should it look like to convey the idea that you’re trying to get across? If you are a restaurant, a hip eatery in the middle of a city is going to have a very different logo from a small-town Mom-and-Pop diner, which will look different from a fast casual restaurant aimed at families. What font and colors will convey the feelings you want to evoke?

Next, think about the other types of visuals you’d like to be associated with your brand. If you are struggling here, think about what it’s important for you to convey. Is your product something that is trendy, comfortable or luxurious?

Finally, you need to think about the voice that your brand will have. Will it be warm, helpful, silly, or ironic? This will be particularly important on social media. There are ways social media can ruin your brand to avoid but conversely there are also ways it can significantly increase your visibility and reputation. Knowing the demographics of your customer base will help you decide which platforms to use.

Some brands have actually found success here playing against type, taking a company that might normally be thought of as stodgy and giving it a playful presence on social media. This can be a delicate balance.

A museum can probably get away with this, but if your company is in an area like finance or insurance, tread carefully since you don’t want to put off customers who may see you as lacking in seriousness.

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