Brands occupy every corner of our lives, and affect almost every decision we make each day. Why do we choose one brand of soda over another? Why does owning one particular make of car give us a sense of pleasure or pride, while owning another satisfies less?
Branding is every bit as important to small business as it is to big companies. As marketing expert John Jantsch says, “Every small business has a brand. The question is whether the makeup of the brand is created intentionally or accidentally. There is little doubt in my mind that small businesses that find themselves in possession of what some would call a strong brand are far more likely to achieve great things than those that simply go out there and compete.”
So What Is a Brand? Your brand is how you communicate the essence of your business. Many think branding is simply a logo, but that’s only part of it. It’s also your business name, the products or services you provide, and how you deliver them to your consumer. It’s the idea you create in your customer’s mind about who you are and what you do. It’s this idea of your brand that’s so powerful, and prompts your customers to choose you over a rival.
How Is a Brand Expressed? Depending on your business, branding can mean very different things. If you’re in the service industry, for instance, you may need to give more attention to the point of delivery, such as customer service and embroidered employee uniforms, than to the logo or website. If your business is international, you’ll need to take cultural and linguistic implications into account. And if your business exists predominantly online, there’s the issue of how your branding will work in digital environments.
Where Will Your Brand Be Expressed? Where and how consumers interact with your brand is key to understanding what it needs to accomplish. Do you have an office or storefront? Do you use printed stationery, e-mail or both? Packaging, logo apparel, a website, even your business cards – these are all ways consumers will interact with your brand.
Think about everywhere and every way your customer encounters your business, from the store window, to the greeting they receive as they enter, to signage, delivery trucks, and the way the product is wrapped – all of these express your brand.
What are the key touchpoints for your business? Make a list of the ways people most frequently interact with your brand, then prioritize them.
Starting the Branding Process. Once you’ve identified your customer touchpoints, you’re ready to get on with the business of branding. But don’t leap straight into the design phase – first, you need to do your research. Seeing what the best of your industry is doing, and understanding who and where your audience is, will help you develop a blueprint that will not only make the rest of the branding process more streamlined, but also help as you continue to grow your business in all aspects.