Developing a strong brand identity for your business is an extremely important factor in its success. Effective branding can help build your reputation, make you stand out from your competition and project your values to attract your ideal client.
What is a brand identity?
Your brand identity is about the impression you make, what is special about your business and how you connect with your target audience. It is comprised of your company name, what customers say about your business when asked and what it is like to do business with you.
Although your visual brand identity is important, your brand includes more than your logo. A strong brand identity:
- Is everything you are, the value you deliver and the total client experience. Every image you project needs to consistently reflect the personality of your business.
- Reflects your business’s promise, message and values and creates trust and loyalty from those who do business with you. Your identity should be consistent with, and reinforce, your purpose and your core message to your customers.
- Conveys the expectations and promises that you extend to your clients in terms of quality, service, reliability and trustworthiness, shaping their perception of you and your business.
- Helps the audience differentiate you from your competitors, positively influencing their decision to hire you.
A good brand communicates clearly, artistically and creates credibility. It enables you to provide customers with an image that can evoke feelings about your business. This has a powerful impact on whether someone wants to do business with you.
But there are several myths and misconceptions that small business owners believe that get in their way of developing a strong brand identity.
We can design our brand ourselves
We have all experienced the effects of a do-it-yourself brand.
- What do you think when you are handed a self-printed, black and white business card?
- What happens when you get to a website that looks home made?
People will judge your ability to provide the solution they are seeking based on their first impressions of your business, both online and off. Don’t risk turning away potential clients with an unprofessional brand.
We can’t afford to have a professional brand developed
Having your company brand professionally designed costs money. But not having a high-quality, visual identity may cost your business more. The visual representation of your identity is something that takes a skilled resource.
A logo that is not aligned with your vision, values, target audience and positioning could cause confusion in the market. For example, if you provide quality services with attention to detail, your lack of attention to detail in your brand will send a conflicting message to your prospects.
We don’t need a brand
Because more people search for products and services online, you need a quality visual identity for your web presence. You can’t properly represent your business online without one.
And whether you have developed a professional brand or not, your business has a brand. Your company name, how you deliver on your promises and what your customers say about you when asked creates an impression of what it is like to do business with you. And that, my friend, is your brand. You can let it be developed for you through online customer reviews or your competition, or you can take control and manage it to your advantage. Your choice.
Benefits of having a strong brand
Makes your company look bigger
When prospects see a professional brand consistently used on your business cards, website or social media profiles, they get the image of a company that deserves their business.
Prospects look for a company that has the resources to help them succeed. They will also expect to pay more for a more established company. If you don’t project a strong brand identity in any way, they will think you are small and not worthy of their business. They also may not pay you the fees that you deserve.
Creates an identity that is bigger than you
Many independent professionals that offer consulting or coaching services end up building a brand around themselves rather than the business. If your goal is to become a public figure, that may be fine. But if you want to separate the business from you for future growth or sale, develop a brand for the company. A unique brand will be one of the assets that come into play during the sale or acquisition.
Builds loyalty and trust
A unique brand that differentiates you in the marketplace can separate your business from the competition. A strong brand that conveys your values builds an emotional connection with customers. This will attract them to your business if they share the same values. This type of connection makes it easier for you to develop a long-term relationship with those customers. This leads to greater customer loyalty.
You may be the best, most experienced person in your field, but no brand or a self-created brand conveys an impression that the company won’t last. A brand helps you develop an image for your business that says “I’m here to stay”. A well-defined brand identity projects a long term feel to those who see it regularly. Eliminate any question about your viability by having a crisp image and clear messages.
Makes your business memorable
Developing a brand identity and using it consistently helps customers remember who you are. The more your prospects see your brand, the more likely they will contact your business for information. Every time you get to interact with your prospect, you have a chance to make a connection and create a memorable brand experience.
Shows commitment and personal pride
Investing in a unique brand identity shows that you take pride in your business and are committed to success. Customers will believe you are more likely to deliver on your promises to them because a business that invests in its success will under promise and over deliver, creating more brand loyalty and trust with every customer interaction.
How to determine your brand identity
If you have never thought about your brand and just let it happen, it’s time to be proactive with your brand. Determine what your brand projects and whether it is consistent with your values. Ask customers the first words or images that come to their mind when your business is mentioned.
- If they consistently respond with adjectives that fit your business such as reliable, committed to excellence or delivers quality on time and within budget, then your brand has been developed and you can now take it to the next level.
- When responses are inconsistent, ambiguous, or refer to attributes such as cost, it is an indicator of a weak brand image.
If you have a weak brand, determine what it should be and focus on marketing efforts that help build awareness around your brand.
Remember that your brand is developed through an entire customer experience and needs to be reinforced consistently through your website, social media profiles, sales tools, promotional items, customer service, messages and other aspects of doing business with you.
Evolving your brand
If you have developed a good brand, it can evolve with your business. As your business matures, so should your brand. Keeping it fresh helps your business continue to be relevant to your customers. If you have had the same logo for several years, a designer could update its look without changing the overall image it projects.
You may need to completely update your brand if it is:
- Associated with a negative feeling
- Weak, poor quality or non-existent
- Out of sync with your identity
- Showing signs of age or looks dated
- Not differentiating your business from the competition
Create a visual identity that aligns with your vision and projects the company your target audience wants to work with. Review your web presence and work to build a strong online presence to drive more qualified traffic to your business.
- Update your social media profiles. Brand consistency across all platforms builds credibility and trust. Inconsistent profiles, messages and images leads to confusion and weakens your brand.
- Obtain social proof. Encourage online reviews from happy customers to help project the quality and value you deliver. No reviews or testimonials raises questions about your ability to deliver.
- Engage with your target customer through content. Customers are researching solutions long before contacting vendors. Providing highly-informative content will increase the expertise associated with your brand.
Your brand is an important asset of your business. Spend time and money on creating a brand that can carry your business into the future. Doing it right from the beginning is the best option. But if your brand is not making the emotional connections with your customers, then it is time for a change. A subtle facelift can get people to notice that something is different and may energize their interest in what you have to offer.
Take control of your brand identity
Remember, if you have a business, you have a brand. What you do with it is up to you. Small businesses should take advantage of developing a brand identity that creates visibility and trust, especially when trying to attract new customers via online marketing activities.
- Monitor your online reputation so there are no surprises.
- Deliver the experience your clients expect every interaction they have with you. Your website, customer service interactions, phone conversations and emails sent should reflect the same brand. Treat customers how you want to be treated if you were a customer.
- Network and expand your visibility in your community and on social networks. Building relationships is important to brand building. The best way to do so is to help people in ways that set you apart.
Small businesses are under the microscope due to all the exposure that can be easily achieved by effective online marketing. Build a strong brand identity by ensuring you always under promise and over deliver. Then you can achieve those positive reviews that can propel your business to enormous success.
Want to see some great examples of brands that work for the business? Check out 25 Powerful Examples of Corporate Branding from Leading Startups.