Most marketing makes clients’ eyes glaze over. Branding doesn’t. That’s because branding for small businesses is the fun stuff. It’s the time when you come up with your business goals, mission, vision, audience, and overall aesthetics. Here are some tips to make your branding awesome so you attract qualified customers and achieve your goals.
1. Determine Your Audience
This is true to everything in marketing. Always start with your target audience. Say for instance you want to market to 60-75-year old men and women. You probably need to have semi conservative messaging and visuals. If you market to millennials, you can be as out-there as you want. It’s much easier to build a branding when you do so around the culture, voice, and tone of your audience.
2. When Branding for Small Businesses, Start Small
It’s okay to start small with your company’s branding. This means nailing down your key messaging first: mission, vision, and brand guidelines. Establishing who you are and what you stand for is the foundation of your brand. Don’t skip this step!
How to Write a Great Mission Statement
Your mission statement is the here and now—what your company does and why it does it. To create your mission statement, ask yourself the following questions
- What does your company do for its customers?
- How does your business impact employees?
- What does your business do for owners?
- How do you affect the community?
- What does your business do for the world?
Once you have these answers, put together three to six sentences to craft your mission statement. You can use this on your website, throughout your external marketing communications, and internally as a guide for staff.
How to Write a Great Vision Statement
Your vision statement lives in the future. It’s all about what your small business wants to do for people and the world down the line. To create a vision statement for your business, ask yourself the following questions
- What impact do we want to have on the community/industry/world?
- How will my business interact with customers?
- What’s our business culture / what’s it like for employees to work for us?
A vision statement should only be a couple of sentences. After you answer the previous questions, weave together your vision. Use this internally for your staff. It helps inspire everyone to work toward goals.
How to Create Guiding Principles for Your Small Business
Think of guiding principles as your company creed. For instance, what you stand for at your core. Say “integrity” is a guiding principle of your business. Couple this characteristic with an explanation as to why this is important to you and what integrity looks like in action. For instance, always being honest with customers no matter what.
3. Bring in Key Decision Makers
Too many cooks in the kitchen make it nearly impossible to nail down your branding. Designate one or two people to sign off on final branding, so you don’t end up in a holding pattern of indecision.
Of course, it’s okay to do a survey or ask a variety of employees to give their input. Sometimes a creative brainstorm delivers the most creative results. As long as you have a team lead, you’ll be able to pick the best branding elements for your small business.
4. Stay True to Your Brand
Just because you want to be a certain way doesn’t mean you really are. Stay true to you. Coming up with your guiding principles will make it easier to identify your brand personality and stay true to it.
5. Hire a Branding Designer
After you have your messaging down, you can get to your visual style guide! That being said, branding for small businesses is an art in itself. Look for a branding designer, branding agency like yours truly, or employee who specializes in this kind of work.
A great branding designer will come up with your visual style guide—including logo, typography, and color palette. An even better designer will give you at least 5 logo variations to choose from in the first round.
To make it easier to translate your vision into design, create a mood board. These are visual snippets of colors, logos, typography, and photos you think make up your brand. It’s okay to get inspiration from others. This kind of sampling will give your branding designer the vibe you want to go with. It’ll also help you iron out what you want your branding to look like.
6. Make a Brand Style Guide
Once you have your editorial and visual style guide elements, it’s time to make a brand style guide. Also known as a brand book, this document is your brand bible. It pulls together all of your visual and messaging requirements into a living, breathing branding document.
Creating one of these takes time and an investment. However, it’s so much easier to hand off a polished brand book to new hires, freelancers, influencers, and referral partners than telling everyone the same thing over and over. You absolutely should not skimp on this branding element for your small business.
7. Enforce the Use of Your Style Guide
Branding for any business is important. Branding for small businesses is even more so. That’s because you’re most likely competing with other businesses, struggling to build a following, and aggressively trying to grow your business. Your branding needs to be on point, easily identifiable, and most importantly, consistent.
Use your brand style to onboard every employee. Use the editorial style guide messaging and visuals in every social media post. Pass your brand book off to influencers so they know how to talk about your business properly. Use it for referral partners who need to know how to pass along your information in a way that’s true to your business. Use it as the guiding light for everything you do.
That way, everyone will be on the same page, and your marketing will never waver from channel to channel. Customers will always know it’s you wherever they encounter your brand.
8. Make a Press Kit
When it comes to the press, turning your branding into a press kit ensures every publication and blogger represents your business accurately. A press kit should include:
- PNG logos
- A brief bio of your business and each product or service you offer
- Press contact—someone the press can reach out to for quotes or supporting information
- Photos of your staff, products, or services
- Facts about your company
- Link to press releases
A press kit is super important. Because when you work hard to build links or generate organic ones, don’t you want what the press says to be true to you?
9. Create Nuanced Branding for Every Marketing Channel
Voice and tone are a huge part of branding for small businesses. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As you scale your business, branding for small businesses needs to evolve as well. This means creating brand guidelines for every marketing channel.
Come up with a list of guidelines for social media, email, website content, video, guest posts, and every other kind of content you produce. For instance, your tone might be a lot more casual on Instagram than it is on LinkedIn. You may also have a particular stylized treatment you like to maintain for every video you produce. If you have preferences that reinforce your branding, write them down!
10. Use Branding in User-Generated Contests and Hashtags
The trickiest part of branding for small businesses comes in the form of customers. But you can master it. To ensure your customer base and social media followings promote your branding as you see fit, steer them in the right direction.
That means creating branded hashtags and contests that reflect your branding. For instance, if you have an edgy, outdoor brand for CBD supplements you might run a contest featuring extreme sports people do when fueled by your product. Use branded hashtags that reflect your voice and tone. Set your audience up for success to reinforce your branding.
11. If You Want to Rebrand Your Small Business, Test Your Concepts First!
If you aren’t starting our from scratch with branding for small businesses, you’re probably pondering a rebrand. It might be the time to do it. It might not. The best way to reband is by testing the waters first.
Use social media to try out new messaging and visuals. See if engagement and likes go up with certain imagery, design, and posts. If you want opinions, make a poll with your company’s new logo options. Don’t open yourself up to too much input, but make your audience feel like part of the process.
Also, determine if you need a full rebrand or tweaks here and there. If you have new competition, a new demographic, and/or stale aesthetics, it’s probably time. However, you may be able to tweak your editorial style guide and leave your visuals alone. And vice versa. Just make sure the market warrants and wants a rebrand before you invest time and money into it.
We’re brand masters at Witty Kitty. If you need advice or help with your branding project, you know how to find us.