Branding is the key aspect of any business regardless of the size, industry or whether it’s B2B or B2C. Effective branding strategies increase brand awareness, credibility, brand trust and loyalty. And, needless to say, it gives you an edge in competition.
But what exactly does “branding” mean? And is it possible for small businesses and startups to manage an effective branding strategy without blowing their budget?
Branding is more than your visual design
We encounter a common confusion about “what branding is” within many businesses – from early-stage startups to big enterprises. So let’s clear that up first.
Branding is no longer limited to having a cool logo or visual assets. It should be looked as a long term strategy that gives your business an identity in the eyes of your target audience, makes your brand recognizable and makes your brand stand out from the crowd. Building a brand and maintaining brand identity is an ongoing process and it should be managed end-to-end. So where do you start?
If you are a small business or startup owner, here are some effective branding strategies for growing your business:
1. Create your brand identity
You might already have these basic branding assets; however, double-check whether you did everything right and avoided common mistakes.
- Choose a memorable name: Choose a brand name which is easy to spell & pronounce, relevant to what you do (preferably) and memorable. Make sure that your brand name does not mean anything negative in the languages of the markets you want to target. Even if you’re not planning to go global, this rule still applies to you as a London-based business, naturally because it’s one of the biggest cosmopolitan cities.
- Have a consistent visual design: Creating a consistent brand guideline, logo, font and colour palette is important for being memorable and even trustworthy. However, we see many startups make the mistake of spending unnecessary amounts of money and time on this, in the early stages of their business. Don’t spend too much time and stress over your logo or business cards at this stage, and just focus on getting your business off the ground.
2. Do your research well
To fulfil your promise to your customers and offer something unique (and attractive to buyers), first, you need to analyse your business, your customers and your competitors.
Internal Check-up: At this stage, you need to analyse your business, covering the 4Ps – Product, Price, Place, and Promotion such as:
- The sales process (details about on-boarding, after-sales, customer success)
- Target markets
- Promotion activities (website, content marketing, paid media, email marketing, social media, SEO and earned media analysis)
Competitor Analysis: Choose the top 3 to 5 competing brands within your industry and analyse their business covering the same components as your internal check-up. Also ask yourself: Is there anything they are doing better? Is there any area where you can stand out?
Customer Research and Analysis: Customer research is the best way to understand and create your buyer personas (the representation of your ideal customer). At this stage, try to identify your customers by asking many questions as possible – in order to create the right personas. Here is a useful article about buyer persona interviews.
3. Know your ideal customers (personas)
Who does your product or service appeal to the most? Who is your ideal customer?
You can’t (and shouldn’t) be all things to all people, so you need to define your target audience. When defining your personas, take into account that every persona’s pain points and goals will differ, so all of your marketing activities and future communications will be done accordingly. An IT manager and CFO can be interested in the same product but for different reasons. That’s why you should focus on identifying each persona’s preferences based on the question: why does this persona need my solution?
4. Define your unique selling proposition
In London, where there is a massive concentration of international talent, competition is fierce. Therefore, you need to clarify the distinctive features of your offering to stake your claim in this competitive market.
In order to create your value proposition or unique selling proposition (USP); you need to ask yourself: what are the main selling points of my brand? Why would a customer choose my brand instead?
Your positioning statement will showcase what makes your brand unique to your target audience and help you not to lose focus on your main business goals.
5. Keep the ball running
As we mentioned earlier, branding is an ongoing and long-term strategy. Therefore, once you’ve established the basics and everything is clear about your brand, there are many branding tactics you can apply to sustain your brand identity:
- Align your social media presence and website with your brand identity: Put your target audience at the heart of what you do by providing them with a great user experience on the website. Convey your brand identity and messaging through your website, social media channels, tagline and anywhere you create content.
- Set a consistent brand voice and tone and ensure to create a written brand guideline for your teams (social media, sales, customer support etc).
- Be a thought leader in your industry: One of the best and most affordable ways to get noticed is content marketing. Show your expertise in your field with articles, reports, ebooks and case studies; gain brand recognition and trust.
- Take a stand for something you believe in: This is a great way to make your customers be emotionally invested in your company. Show them your brand cares about the environment or a social cause aligned with your brand values.
- Create a community and involve your customers in brand advocacy with testimonials, social media posts and success stories.
- Use influencer marketing: mostly for B2C businesses, promoting their brand with blogger and influencer endorsements increases brand visibility, credibility and engagement more than any marketing activities. But make sure you’re working with trustworthy influencers.
- Look for co-branding opportunities: Take advantage of partnerships with other brands that are related to any area of your business. You can cover each other’s gaps, benefit from both brands’ strengths and reach a broader audience.
As you can see, branding isn’t something that’s best left to the big players in terms of budget or know-how. There are many branding strategies you can apply that increase your brand recognition, loyalty and, most importantly, contribute to your business growth. And as a small business, you have the great benefit of acting promptly and deciding how to spend your budget. Just make sure you build an end-to-end strategy, always aiming at long-term, sustainable growth.
Guest post written by Asena