Starting a business is a career move that usually goes one of two ways. It either sucks, and your business idea fails, or it’s a massive success. Does that sound like a harsh way of describing things? As bad as it sounds, you can’t hide from the truth that most small businesses fail fairly early on. There’s a big world out there, with many small and large businesses to compete with. It’s only understandable that you’d struggle to stay afloat.
So, why do some small businesses succeed where others fail? We can talk all day about this, and we’d still barely cover all the reasons. Instead, let’s consider one common element of running a business that newbies overlook: branding.
What is branding?
Branding is where you create an image of your business that others see. It connects so many different things together, basically determining how you want consumers to look at your business. Google is always the best example of branding, mainly because of the image it conveys. It’s clear to everyone that Google presents itself as a very relaxed and quirky company. You see this in the style of the logo, the products it produces, and the style of its offices. Everyone knows about Google’s offices having slides and ball pits – it instantly makes you think that the company is super relaxed, modern, and focuses on having fun.
Then, you have businesses that want to convey more seriousness, ones that have a strong urge to demonstrate eco-friendliness, etc. Your brand speaks volumes about who you are as a company, and what you stand for.
Why is branding so important for small businesses?
Okay, why is it so crucial for small businesses to understand and utilize branding? Honestly, good branding can have a direct impact on your bottom line. In essence, your brand can be the difference between people choosing your business over others.
When you stop and think about it, you’ve encountered many examples of this every single day. Don’t lie, you yourself have been in situations where you’re choosing between two products, and decided based on the brand. It happens all the time in the clothing and technology industries. Take Apple as the prime example – people pay extra to buy Apple products over their competitors. There’s even a running meme on the internet that having an Android smartphone is worse than having an Apple one. Even though they’re regularly rated higher than Apple devices by independent tech reviewers. Still, people buy iPhones because of the way Apple has carefully cultivated its brand.
Thus, there are genuine situations where the right branding strategy can help you gain customers, even if your products aren’t the best around. It sounds a bit crazy, but it makes sense when you think about it. If everyone just bought the best product out there, there’d be hardly any businesses. Branding is directly linked to gaining customers, keeping people loyal, and making more money.
How do you create a brand?
You now know how important branding is for your small business, but how do you create one? It’s not as easy as it seems, with many of the biggest companies in the world employing entire teams to think of a branding strategy. You need to get it right, so you target the right audience.
Ultimately, your branding comes from within. It is simply a reflection of the values and thoughts that you hold dear to your heart. It’s how you want people to see your business, and the messages you want your company to get across. Arguably the number one branding mistake is focusing too much on what you think people want to see. You try to create a company that appeals to certain ideas or markets, despite the fact that you don’t care about it. In the end, this shows in the way your business acts. People can see through fake branding like a sheet of tracing paper – it’s not worth wasting your money on it!
Instead, focus on the main points you want to convey. What type of business are you? Do you want to appear modern or traditional? Do you want to focus on being very strict and professional, or more relaxed and flexible? Are there any key causes or ideas that you feel strongly about, and that might have forced you to make your business? Ask yourself questions like this, and you’ll soon understand what type of business you want to be.
From here, it’s a case of conveying all of this information to consumers. Unfortunately, this is where it gets all kinds of tricky. You have to think about loads of things, including:
- Business logo
- Web design
- Content writing
- Tone of voice
- Social media strategy
- Office/business premises set up (unless you work from home)
- Advertising material
Basically, every facet of your business should align with your new brand image. Going back to the Google example, it would look so weird if their logo was a super serious thing. Right now, it’s the brand name, but the style is very casual and the round edges of the lettering and bright colors emphasize this. If they chose a different font and had it in all black, you’d get a completely different brand image!
What is the most important thing to remember about branding?
You will find loads of resources that help you brand your business. As you’ve seen above, there are so many things to bring together. Still, the most important thing to remember is consistency. Your brand needs to be consistent across everything that you do! If it isn’t, people will be outrageously confused, possibly confusing your business as two separate companies.
A simple way to demonstrate this is with your color choices. If you choose a certain color scheme for your business, you need to stick to it. Let’s say you have red and blue as the main colors on your website, you can’t then use bright green and purple on social media. Everything needs to stay connected and consistent to help you build your brand!
Are there any tips for creating a positive brand image?
The ultimate goal is to create a brand image that people connect with. You obviously aim it at your target market, so the things you do to cultivate your image can differ from business to business. Having said that, you can apply a few general ideas that improve your brand image in a sense of boosting your reputation and building trust with consumers.
Here are a few things to think about:
Actively promote eco-friendliness
Every brand can benefit from being eco-friendly and supporting the fight against climate change. It shows customers that you actually care about the environment, which makes them respect you more. They could also be more inclined to choose your business over others as they know they’re supporting someone with a low carbon footprint. You can promote eco-friendliness through your business in loads of different ways. Setting up recycling initiatives in your office is one idea, putting solar panels on your office roof is another, and you could also use plastic-free packaging for your products. Supporting foundations and causes related to climate change is also very good, but this blends into the next point.
Support charities and foundations
Once again, this is something that everyone should be interested in. Your business can support charities and foundations around the world, simply by donating a regular portion of your profits. It instantly boosts your brand image and shines a positive light on your company. You’re showing an ability to help those less fortunate than you, even though you don’t have to. Pick foundations or causes close to your heart, or ones that relate to your business. Here’s a really random example: you run a carpentry business and support tree planting foundations.
Take a stand against inequality
You’ll notice that these three ideas are all just minimum requirements for most companies. Realistically, every business in the world should do these things! Taking a stand against inequality is obviously going to reflect well on your brand, but that’s not the sole reason to do it. Everyone deserves to be treated equally, so you can offer decent living wages to all employees, regardless of gender, race, sexual preferences, etc. Similarly, hiring diverse teams shows that you don’t care about who someone is, as long as they do a good job.
When you begin building your brand, you should start with these things as the core values. Then, you start building other things that are perhaps more specific to the brand you wish to create. It will help you develop something that people can connect with, while also creating an excellent image for your company.
In conclusion, branding is one of the most critical factors when starting your own business. If you’re thinking of changing careers and starting a company, you must focus on developing your brand. Use the information in this guide to help you do just that, and don’t forget to check out other resources to further improve your branding.
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