Here's a fact that may surprise you: did you know that there are 31.7 million small businesses in the U.S., which make up 99.9% of the country?
That's why it can get complicated for small business owners to stay afloat in this saturated market.
And according to Guidant Financial, the main challenge for small businesses is a lack of cash flow.
But here's the good news: creating a powerful brand that can stand out in the crowded field without breaking the bank is possible.
This guide to branding for small businesses will give you the head start you need while considering your limited resources.
Table of Contents
Branding for Small Business: Why it Matters
A LendingTree analysis shows that about 20% of small businesses fail within their first year.
We live in the age of information overload—there's so much to see and hear that it can be difficult for companies to break through the noise.
One of the keys to standing out and thriving is having compelling branding in place.
Branding makes your business unique and helps customers recognize it as an authority in its niche. It can also help you get more customers by creating trust, loyalty, and engagement.
If you're a startup owner in an industry with stiff competition, having a solid brand identity can mean the difference between being successful and going out of business.
But branding is not just about your business; in reality, it's about your customers and how you want them to perceive you.
However, building brand awareness isn't easy– especially for small businesses that don't have the budget. Creating an effective brand takes time, effort, and money.
Luckily, it's not something that you have to do alone. Employing the help of a freelancer or an outsourcing agency is some of the best ways to expedite the process while still maintaining control over the final product.
Follow these tips to get the ball rolling.
Create a Visual Identity
If you're going to create an effective brand, you first need to create a visual identity. Visual identity refers to how your brand is represented visually, including your logo, colors, and fonts.
Successful brand identity will have a consistent look that's easy to recognize, which customers can associate with your products and services.
Here are some ways to come up with a great visual identity without spending much:
- Hire a Freelance Designer - If you're still looking to create a new logo or graphics package but don't want to spend too much, then hiring a freelancer is another excellent option. Sites such as Fiverr and Upwork offer tons of talented designers who can work with any budget and deliver outstanding results.
- Customize Stock Photos and Illustrations - Buying stock photos or illustrations is another option if you've got a little bit more cash. These pre-made images often provide more variety than people realize, which makes them a versatile tool in any designer's arsenal. They're also usually very inexpensive and can even be used commercially without worrying about copyright issues.
- Use Canva -It's a powerful yet simple way to quickly create amazing graphics and images. It lets users upload pictures and add text boxes, shapes, filters, etc. Canva is a fantastic resource for budget-conscious entrepreneurs and marketers because it's free, quick, and convenient.
Define Brand Story and Purpose
Take the time to define your brand story. A brand story is a narrative behind your brand. It’s a crucial part of your overall branding strategy, as it helps customers understand what your company is all about.
A few questions to consider while developing your brand strategy are:
- What is my goal?
- What makes me different?
- Who are my customers?
- What is their ultimate experience?
- Why will they choose me over competitors?
- What words would I use to describe my business in just one sentence?
- Why does my product/service exist in this world of unlimited options?
- What problems am I solving?
Develop Consistent Messaging
It's essential to develop consistent messaging across your marketing materials, including advertising, website copy, social media posts, and email marketing. Here are some tips to consider:
- Research competitors in your industry and get an idea of what words they use most often on their websites to describe themselves, their products, and their services. Use these words on your website to have a consistent message across your marketing materials.
- Develop a slogan or tagline. This is the same as writing out your elevator pitch, but with only one sentence. The shorter, the better.
- Make sure your brand colors are cohesive with one another. You can find colors that work together by using tools like Adobe Color. Choose colors that are easy to read on both light and dark backgrounds.
Establish Yourself as an Expert
Establishing yourself as an expert in your field can be done through various branding strategies, including:
- Creating a blog and sharing informative content - This strategy requires a lot of time and effort, but if you're willing to put in the time, it will make a real difference. One of the keys to creating a successful blog is giving people what they want. Focus on building original posts using research-backed advice or your own experience. Include plenty of visuals like charts, graphs, and infographics because people remember visuals better than text. The key is to be creative when presenting information so that readers feel engaged and inspired rather than bored or overwhelmed.
- Holding webinars - Webinars give participants a chance to ask you questions and get personalized answers right away. They allow you to become known as an expert who cares enough about their audience that they're willing to go live at any time of day. And since all communication during the webinar is done over video conference, making eye contact won't be hard for either party involved.
- Going out into the field and speaking at conferences - By doing these things outside of your comfort zone, you will not only grow personally but also become more recognizable in your industry and gain new connections along the way.
- Guest posting on popular blogs - There are many benefits of guest blogging, including getting exposure to a new audience, driving traffic back to your website, and getting links back to your site from the site you post on. A big bonus for guest bloggers is that many sites offer free hosting, so you don't need an extra monthly expense to post on someone else's site.
- Writing e-books - An easy way to stand out from competitors is to create an e-book based on your expertise. It might seem complicated, but nowadays, many accessible software programs help even novices create beautiful products without needing graphic design skills. Consider what makes you unique and why people would benefit from reading your book. Make sure you always write with a particular reader in mind, too.
- Being active on social media - Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ offer many opportunities to interact with experts in different industries and ask them questions online via forums or group discussions. Not only will these sites show others how active you are in your space, but they'll also provide countless online and offline networking opportunities.
Connect with Your Customers
Cultivate a personal connection with your customers by:
- Engaging customers with competitions - Another way to market your company without spending much money is to hold customer competitions. You could do this in many ways, such as asking people to submit photos of your product or giving away products in exchange for reviews. Getting people involved will build buzz around your company and attract people who may not have found you.
- Featuring customer testimonials on your website and social media accounts - Customer testimonials are a great way to show potential customers that your products and services are worth the money. You can publish testimonials on your website or share them on social media.
- Partnering with influential bloggers - A way to connect with your customers is by tapping influencers they follow. Try offering your products or services to influencers for free in exchange for a mention on their social media page. This can help you reach a more significant number of followers, meaning your message has a greater chance of getting to the people you want to connect with.
- Building momentum with unique content - Once you've connected with your audience, it's essential to keep them engaged. Your audience will continue following you because they're interested in what you have to say and enjoy interacting with you. Without paying for ads or hiring a PR agency, it's possible to maintain momentum by sharing unique content (like original stories or videos) that reflects your brand's personality. Take advantage of holidays, trends, and important days to post updates so that people see your posts in their feeds these days.
- Keeping your content relevant - Don't forget what got your followers interested in the first place. Whether trying to drive traffic back to your site or increase sales, it's always worth staying focused on what brought customers into the fold.
Branding for Small Business: Takeaways
The brand is the identity of your company. It's what people think about when they hear your company's name. And it dramatically impacts whether or not someone will buy from you.
How someone perceives your brand will also affect potential investors — if they think poorly of your brand, they won't want to work with you or support you financially.
A successful business needs a strong branding strategy so everyone understands where your business stands in the market and what makes it unique compared to other brands.
Let these budget-friendly branding tips help you start your own business on the right foot and build a brand that customers and potential investors will love. A professional branding agency can also help you with your small business needs.