Think a brand is just for big businesses? Think again. Branding is critical for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Your brand is what the outside world thinks of you. That’s it. Although you can influence your brand through well-designed logos, hilarious ad campaigns, carefully crafted press releases, or super-friendly service, ultimately, your brand is what the outside world says it is.
Why bother? Because strong brands are the key to customer loyalty and higher sales. The Economist recently reported, “Brands are the most valuable assets many companies possess. But no one agrees on how much they are worth or why.” Strong brands inspire loyalty, and we can’t always put our finger on exactly how they do it.
SEE ALSO The Definitive Guide to Building a Brand
Branding can be a daunting task for small businesses and it’s easy to think brands are reserved for the Nikes and Coca-Colas of the world. But branding is even more important if you’re a small business.
Four reasons to brand your small business:
A brand makes you look bigger
If you scream “small-time vendor,” or “mom working in her bathrobe,” that is how your customers will want to compensate you. Branding will help elevate your business. Research other businesses—who do you look up to? Find an example of what you want to look like.
A brand builds credibility
If you want people to trust that you can deliver, you need to look the part. A well-designed brand is as important as brushing your teeth before the first date. Think about what you stand for and communicate that to your customers in everything you do, from the colors you choose to the words you use.
A brand makes you memorableStand out from the crowd, in the right way. Your customers have to remember you to find you. If your potential customer Googled your service, what would they find? Identify elements of your business that are different from your competitors, and showcase them in unique ways.
A brand attracts customers
When customers understand who you are and what you offer, they think about doing business with you. When they trust you and begin to love you, they tell their friends. Once your brand is solid, word of mouth is the best way to grow your base. Ask your customers for reviews and referrals. Make sure they know you appreciate the business. Build on great reviews by showcasing your happy customers. Grow your business further with well-planned and brand-consistent marketing campaigns, using the same colors, fonts, and personality.
SEE ALSOCustomer Focus and Consistency: Keys to Strong Brand Building
Case Study: Dermatology Associates of SW Washington
When Dr. Elizabeth Dawson joined Dermatology Associates of SW Washington, she knew she needed to change the “face” of the practice in order to stand out in an increasingly competitive medical marketplace.
But the practice couldn’t afford to go to a branding agency, where prices started at $50,000. Dr. Dawson tried working with a graphic designer, but after five fruitless rounds of logo designs and thousands of dollars spent, she still didn’t find the brand that she was looking for.
So, she changed her approach. Dr. Dawson needed an affordable, easy solution and started with the Brand Genie, an automated tool to define your brand identity. She worked through this process with her team to figure out what they really stood for, what they wanted their patients to remember about them and tell their friends.
Dermatology Associates defined a brand that felt right to them. We call it “elegant simplicity.” The core brand attributes are professional, caring, intelligent, honest, and respected. The benchmark brands are Apple, Nordstrom, and Trader Joe’s.
Those words sound great, but what does that look like? What is the color for “professional and caring”? How can fonts—not just words—convey “honest and respected”? What images demonstrate “elegant simplicity”?
Each of these details were addressed. The brand quickly came to life as the design system was created. Dermatology Associates chose a beautiful palette of colors, fonts, and images—all designed to work together and consistently convey their brand attributes.
Take a look at the before and after:
Before: Not sure what we stand for, but we know we’re located in the Pacific Northwest.
After: Elegant Simplicity!
This small business instantly looks bigger and more professional. It builds credibility with its customers as it conveys the attributes that are important to them—caring, intelligent, honest, and respected. This small business also becomes much more memorable as the system starts to work, with all customer touch points conveying similar messages.
And finally, it attracts customers. Who would you rather see?
With its new brand in place, Dermatology Associates is positioned to generate more patient traffic, strengthen the loyalty of existing patients, and solidify relationships with referring physicians. In other words, the practice is now ready to do business.
“Our new brand greatly improves our image and the face of our practice. It helps us convey that we’re current and modern, yet still warm and welcoming.”
– Dr. Elizabeth Dawson, Dermatology Associates of SW Washington
SEE ALSO 4 Ways to Turn Your Website into a Marketing Heavyweight
Did you work hard to brand your business before you opened, or did you work on branding after the fact? How has your personal brand affected how you do business?
Sara Conte is a frequent contributor to online discussions about strategy, branding and entrepreneurship.