Branding: How Customers See Your Small Business Branding: How Customers See Your Small Business

The best brands are not only visually recognizable but also create an instant perception in the minds of potential customers. Some marketing experts use the term brand image to refer to the mental and emotional response a brand elicits. For instance, Apple is considered one of the best-recognized brands in the world. Its tangible brand–the logo and slogan–sends a message about the company that makes a deep impression on consumers.

Before You Begin

When building a brand for your small business, consider your target audience. Creating a brand that appeals to them is much easier once you sketch out your ideal customers and what they want. Think about how you want existing and potential customers to view your company.

  • Explore what makes your core products and services unique
  • Identify the things that stand out about your small business. It could be the quality of items, your service, prices, or customer experience.
  • Examine your market and your competition. Find branding ideas that will allow you to stand out to existing and potential customers.
  • Look for any gaps, opportunities, or market trends.
  • Consider conducting customer surveys or using consumer feedback to better understand their needs, wants, and expectations.
  • Develop goals you want your brand to achieve and what you want your brand to say to people.

Building a Brand

Your brand must always tie back to your strategy. Look for gaps in how your brand ideas will speak to your ideal audience. Consider running some ideas by your most loyal customers for feedback.

Once you determine your brand image, it’s time to extend that brand to visuals and other tangible considerations. Here are six key factors:

  1. Logos. Your logo should be clean, professional, and memorable. Remember that you will use your logo in various places and applications. A simple design stands out and is recognizable whether on a business card, an envelope, a sign, or a shirt pocket. A logo doesn’t have to be elaborate; Apple and Home Depot logos are very simple;  over time, they have become instantly recognizable.
  1. Business identity. All your marketing and corporate communication pieces should have the same look and feel. Your goal is for every physical item that "touches" the customer to feel integrated into your brand. Ideally, customers could pick up company materials and instantly know they’re yours. Templates guarantee consistency, which improves brand recognition. Your business identity includes your mission, culture, and communication.
  2. Tagline/Slogan. Your tagline or slogan usually accompanies the logo. Ideally, this should incorporate your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)- a statement about what your firm does that no one else can do. FedEx does this well with its tagline, "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight."
  3. Company Elevator Pitch. This is an extension of your Unique Selling Proposition. If you met someone on a short elevator ride or at a networking event and had only nine seconds to convey the message about your company, what would you say to engage your audience? One consulting firm’s elevator pitch included, “We help businesses enjoy more money and have more fun.” That statement automatically evoked the question, “How?”
  4. Use the right voice. Reflect on your ideal customers. Your company’s "voice" should be professional and slightly formal if you provide professional services. A casual, off-the-cuff voice may work better in retail or entertainment. Decide who you are and communicate verbally and in writing with a clear, consistent voice.
  5. Spread the word internally. Refrain from assuming all employees understand your company’s USP, brand, and goals. Every customer interaction is an opportunity to build the brand. Teach your staff how to answer phones, respond to emails, and engage with customers. Document branding guidelines in a company policy manual and review them during employee orientation.

Finally, remember that the best-intentioned branding strategy will fail if you don’t deliver on the promises implied within your brand. If your USP guarantees a certain level of service, you must fulfill that pledge – or all your brand will communicate is unreliability.

Maintain Your Brand

Branding is an ongoing effort. Your brand will not be established by one major marketing effort, a huge promotion, or an advertising blitz. Every customer interaction builds or tears down a brand.

Take a step back and consider your brand from a customer’s point of view. Envision the customer journey from their first impressions when they enter the door. Think about:

  • How your customers are greeted
  • Whether they receive the service they are promised - and what that exchange looks like
  • Whether your prices are aligned with promises and audience expectations
  • The overall experience that each moment creates for customers

Lasting Impressions

Branding is a journey. Ensuring that the logos, colors, statements, and items your customers interact with match their experience and expectations reinforces your brand. This sort of cohesion can take time and experimentation. Building your brand in phases can often be more affordable and offer the opportunity for customer feedback. The cornerstone of building your brand is ensuring the customer experience matches your brand for a lasting impression.