When some small business owners think of brand management, they think of big corporations like Nike, Google or Starbucks. Perhaps they have fleeting thoughts of McDonald’s secret sauce, IKEA’s minimalist aesthetic or Apple’s identical Genius bars. But branding isn’t just a concern for big organisations with big wallets: small business brand management is crucial for winning customers and keeping up with competitors.


Not only can brand management help your small business drive awareness and build more emotional connections – it can act as a North Star for the whole organisation. Some businesses even consider their branding to be their prime differentiator – even more important than their products or services. When done well, branding can offer impressive ROI, lock in a strong identity, improve employee retention and reduce marketing spend.


Discover what's driving today's small businesses - and see where they might be headed next.

What is small business branding?


Your business’s brand identity is how it presents itself to its customers. Branding includes everything from your organisation’s visual image, voice and values to how it showcases its products or services. How your company looks, feels and sounds: that’s its brand.


Cultivating a winning brand doesn’t require a big budget. In fact, larger companies are often forced to deal with multiple decision-makers and keep their branding on the more traditional side of aisle, leaving a creative gap where small businesses can stand out. Simply being more relatable, funny, transparent, engaging, adventurous, personal or inspiring with your branding can provide a disruptive advantage – and those are things that won’t break the bank.


How is branding different from marketing?


Marketing is how you sell. Branding is who you are. Marketing is highly changeable, with various campaigns to create awareness for new products or services. Branding is your business’s clearly defined identity – and how it presents that identity to the world. Marketing is focused on driving sales. Branding is focused on driving relationships.


How to build your small business brand from ground zero


Small business branding will give your organisation a defined public identity, so you’ll want to ensure that you’re properly represented by that branding. For example, if your business is a luxury Seville Row shirtmaker with centuries of expertise, you probably won’t want to use flashy modern graphics and jokey social media messaging. However, if you’re a start-up in Shoreditch selling tees, that might be exactly how you want to portray your business.


Here’s how to create the right branding for your small business.


Know your target audience

It will be hard to create a brand identity that’s impactful with your customer if you don’t know anything about them. Do some research to discover what your primary, secondary and tertiary audiences want. Look at different demographics and personas. Once you have a good understanding of your audience, check out what your competitors are offering. How are they positioning themselves in the market? What’s their voice? What’s their aesthetic?


Define your brand story

Look at whether there’s something unique, interesting or inspiring about your business. Do you have a legendary origin story? Do you have a socially driven mission or a sustainable business model? Do you have something that’s driving your business beyond making a profit? In other words, do you have a brand story that will connect with your audience and help build a relationship?


Identify your differentiator 

In order to stand out in a crowded field, you’ll want to focus on your business’s USP (Unique Selling Proposition). What separates your business from its competitors? Is it a product or a service? Is it quality? Price? Does it work better or look better than your competitors’ offerings? Does it make people’s lives better? What does your company believe in? Without displaying your differentiator, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of similar customer choices. Analyse the strengths of your business, then work from there.


Choose a brand name

When it comes to choosing a brand name, there are a number of different ways to find your perfect moniker.

  • Choose something distinctive, memorable, inspiring, easy to search for, future-proof and protectable. 

  • Choose something personally meaningful. For instance, Adobe was named after a favoured creek that ran behind founder John Warnock’s home.

  • Choose something mysterious that piques interest. For example, Häagen-Dazs rings of European tradition, but it’s a nonsensical term made up by a US company.

  • Something that does what it says on the tin. Sometimes the best brand names are the simplest ones: think Vitamin Water, Whole Foods, or the film Snakes on a Plane.


Decide on your design and aesthetic

Once you’ve chosen your name, you can build your design aesthetic around it. Try experimenting with logos, colour palettes, typography, graphics and photos, and see what aligns with your brand image. Are you a serious thought-leader? Are you quirky and fun? Your design aesthetic should correspond with your market positioning and tone of voice.


Craft your brand message: communicate that information

Along with your design and visual identity, you’ll also want to focus on locking in your brand voice. Does the messaging of your business and products reflect your company’s beliefs? Is it aspirational? Is it relatable? Does it do some of the hard selling for you? Ensure you’re your brand has a  consistent of voice on all touchpoints (social media, email, website, etc). You’ll also want to decide on the best mediums for your particular message. For example, a roofing company probably wouldn’t do a podcast, but a film distributor might.


Perfect your brand management

Once your brand is up and running, you’ll need to maintain it and optimise your messaging. Here are a few best practices:

  • Look for new market opportunities.

  • Monitor brand assets and tweak where necessary.

  • Create a community of brand advocates and get the word out.

  • Listen in on social media and take stock of what people are saying. Look at your own brand’s social media - does it reflect your voice? Is each platform being leveraged to its full advantage?

  • Look at your tech. Do you have customer-centric technologies like CRM systems in place? Have you created apps that could help take your brand to the next level?


Create a website that captures the spirit of your brand – then launch off!


Ensure that your website captures your branding, is easy to navigate, and offers an experience that will attract customers and build loyalty. Consider leveraging tools for connecting with the customer and managing processes, like Lightning Developer, Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Einstein and Experience Cloud.


See if things like chat bots and self-service options can help improve the experience of your site, and ensure that you have analytics to track user behaviour and see what’s connecting and what’s not.


Good brand management unlocks big benefits


Once the brand is established, you’ll want to be a good caretaker of your image. Good brand management offers a range of long-lasting benefits. Some of these include -

  • Lower marketing spend due to pre-existing awareness.

  • Increased customer retention.

  • Increased flexibility. Having a designed ‘master brand’ means that SMEs don’t have worry as much about branding each individual product.

  • Increased brand equity.

  • Level the playing field with bigger competitors through better branding, which can be cost-effective.

If you’re ready to start building and managing your brand, then download our eBook, CRM – A Recipe for Success, to see how CRM tools can help build better relationships.

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