Now is a great time to think about starting your own business, with digital technologies opening up global opportunities on the one hand, and an increasing trend for buying locally and supporting small communities on the other. Both of these factors are enabling smart entrepreneurs to find gaps in the market where they can position themselves to good effect. However, while there is an abundance of opportunity, there is also the issue of how to get your business noticed and bring in paying customers. This means you need to get your marketing strategy spot-on, and an important element of this process is branding.
What is branding?
Very simply, it is having a unique identity that is recognizable and represents what your business can do for its customers. For instance, many global companies are known simply by their logo, e.g., the Apple symbol is instantly associated not only with the name of the company, but with what that business represents, i.e., innovation and quality. Assuming they have the means, consumers are generally more likely to buy brands they recognize, because they have the reassurance of knowing what they will get. An interesting example of this is painkillers. Brand name painkillers containing paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen, can cost considerably more than a generic version, but they contain exactly the same active ingredients. Many consumers prefer to buy the branded version because they believe it is better; even when they are shown the evidence that proves the two versions are exactly the same, they will still claim the branded version is more effective. This is purely down to the branding and marketing with which they are familiar.
How will branding help my small business?
You might be wondering how the success of global brands relates to your own small business. The principles are exactly the same, just on a smaller scale – and don’t forget, all these businesses that are now worldwide success stories started out as the entrepreneurial brainchild of one or two people! If you run a local store selling shoes for instance, having a recognizable brand that people come to identify with the attributes they require of a shoe store will make people come to you rather than one of your rivals. If your business is online sales, then you can make your offer memorable and build your Internet profile by creating a brand that speaks to your potential customers for you. It will take time and effort to establish your brand, but the investment will be worth it when your business starts to be recognized as the place to go when someone needs what you are selling.
How do I create my brand?
A brand usually consists of the business name, a logo, and a strapline. For example, KFC would be the business name, the Colonel’s face is the logo, and the strapline is “Finger-lickin’ good.” It’s unique, recognizable, and if you’re hungry, who wouldn’t want something that was so tasty it made you want to lick every crumb off your fingers? Just the sight of the KFC logo can make your mouth start watering if you’re partial to fried chicken, and this is the kind of response you want to promote when creating your brand. You now need to sit down and apply the ideas to your own business, by asking yourself these questions:
- Is your business name unique, and is there any other representation of that name that might spring to people’s minds when they see it?
- Does your name represent what you do? Mrs. Smith’s Coffee Co. might sound good, but how do people know whether you are a mobile business, a coffee shop, an importer or wholesaler, or a roastery?
- What is it about your business that will have the strongest appeal to potential customers? A statement about what you sell usually won’t be effective, for instance, “Brown’s Pet Store for all your best friend’s needs” tells people nothing interesting about you that makes your store stand out. Whereas “Brown’s Pets are the Happiest in Town” Makes pet owners take notice – after all, who doesn’t want their pets to be the happiest, and buy from a store that cares for its animals? When you come up with a possible strapline, ask the question “So what?” and if you can’t think of a good answer, start again.
Designing your logo
When you create a logo to go with your brand, you can outsource this to a design company, or simply go to a logo design website service that allows you to use your own ideas to come up with an effective symbol. You can read more here about how these sites work and how to go about designing your own logo. The most effective logos are simple and not similar to any existing sign or symbol. Color is important, because it adds to the impact of the design and will have associations for the consumer that you can use to your advantage. It’s not easy to come up with something new and different that represents your business, but a good place to start is with the essential element of your offer. If you are the owner of Brown’s Pet Store, then there will be thousands of other pet-related businesses all using animal-based logos, so your challenge is to find or create a graphical representation that is different to all the other ones out there.
Small business owners know that marketing is vital if they are to bring in customers, but it is often the case that when putting their marketing strategy into practice, entrepreneurs fail to capitalize on all the opportunities available to them. Marketing is not a simple list of tasks that must be completed, but rather an ongoing, evolving work in progress that needs constant attention and consideration. Branding is just one element of marketing, and to achieve the success your business is capable of, you need to master all the approaches that make up an effective marketing strategy.