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The importance of branding for small businesses

When we speak about brands or branding, the temptation is always to think very big. To think that brand focus is a practice reserved for globally recognised entities. The Coca-Cola Brand, Brand Beckham, Apple branded products. The very term can conjure up visions of unattainable recognition and grandeur. This may be the reason why many small business owners do not see the importance branding, and do not invest their time and efforts into getting it right.

However, this should not be the case. Effective branding is absolutely crucial for businesses at every level of the pyramid. From the aforementioned global powerhouses to the smallest of sole traders.

A brand is what identifies your business to consumers and distinguishes you from your competition. This includes visual elements such as the colours and logo. However, brand is so much more. Your brand can guide all of your business’s activities.

Once translated into one dynamic package, branding speaks to your audience and communicates exactly what you represent as an organisation. But why is branding so important, even for those smaller businesses without a large audience?

 Trust

Having strong branding with clear and consistent messaging is the first step towards gaining the trust of the consumer. If consumers can easily understand your offering and feel like you are being honest with them, this drastically increases the likelihood of them conducting business with you.

Your branding will typically be visible at the first point of contact with consumers and, wrongly or rightly, used as an indicator for trustworthiness and quality. How many times have you visited a business’s website, full of optimism, only to immediately back out when it looks like an early 2000s junk page?

Due to our lack of knowledge about smaller businesses’ offerings, we use the little information we have available to us to make a consumer decision. Therefore, it is critical to have strong branding in order to establish a level of trust in your business from the get-go.

Trust in your branding works two-fold. Not only does a trustworthy brand put first-time customers at ease, also, consumers who go on to have a positive experience with your brand will be far more likely to repeat business and become regular customers. A brand is effectively a promise to customers that they can know what to expect every time.

 

Being Memorable

Customers enjoying a positive experience with your product or service is great, but this has to be married with recognisable branding. If your branding does not effectively differentiate your business from the competition, highlights what makes your business amazing and capture the minds of the audience, then your hard work delivering an experience can be undone. You need to be memorable. And for all the right reasons!

A customer bought your product, loved it, but can’t recall the brand name or what the packaging looked like. Right then, we’re in trouble.

Recognisable brands help breed familiarity, leverage existing trust in the business from previous good experiences, and allows customers to form longer-lasting emotional connections with the brand. This will increase your brand awareness and can create a following of more emotionally invested, loyal customers.

Word of Mouth

As a small business you can only dream of having the vast marketing resources of a large corporation. It’s just not a reality. In fact, many small businesses allocate as little as 2% of their annual budget towards marketing. Well below the recommended 9-12% for B2C organisations. This is where effective branding is vital.

Having a strong brand builds consumer trust and allows them to really believe in your business. Customers who believe in your brand and are emotionally invested are far more likely to recommend your business.

According to Nielsen, a British data & information measurement firm, 92% of people trust suggestions from their friends and family over any advertising. Word of mouth can be an excellent, cost-effective marketing tool for small businesses.

Customers will only be able to engage in word of mouth if your branding is clear, strong and memorable to accompany their great experiences. This also can be supplemented with an effective word of mouth marketing strategy to generate a real buzz about your business.

 

Culture and Building Teams

Strong branding is key for small businesses when building and growing a culture. A clear and consistent brand allows a workforce to understand just what it means to represent that organisation. It creates a focal point for emotional investment and something staff can really get behind and believe in.

You hear stories from Apple employees who declare their unconditional love for the company. They would do anything for the brand. Clocking in 18-hour days and sleeping at the office without a second thought. Whilst this cult like devotion is somewhat extreme, it certainly shows the motivational power behind brand, and how influential it can be. Organisational culture is an extension of the brand which has been created.

When constructing a brand strategy, we will set out a list of brand values which best represent their business and what they aspire to be like. These are guiding principles which direct all of an organisation’s activities. From effecting external communications to who you employ.

Branding lays the foundations to establish your culture and build a team who all pull in the same direction. They are emotionally invested in the brand, able to believe in the organisation’s values and thoroughly want to play a part in its success. As we’ve said earlier, brand is more than just a nice logo.

 

Consistency Across the Board and Effective Marketing

Brand influences every action taken by an organisation. No matter the size or scale of the business.

A strong brand has to be consistent. This goes back to the “promise” and “trust” we mentioned earlier. Consistent brands are far more trustworthy to consumers. If a brand is inconsistent with its messaging then this will confuse the audience, leaving them uncertain of your offering.

So, when putting together a marketing campaign you must ask yourself, “Does this convey what we want to represent as a brand?”

Giving time and attention to maintaining your business’s brand will allow you to connect with your audience and promote your brand message, helping to achieve marketing goals. Crucial for a small business. Without a strong and consistent brand, it is highly likely that your marketing will fail.

To find out more about the challenges and benefits of keeping a consistent brand click here to read a previous blog of ours.

 

Brand Guidelines are an excellent tool for maintaining consistency across your communications. Here is a snippet from the guidelines we produced for Oxbridge, one of the UK’s top distance learning platforms. Discover how we created a brand to match Oxbridge’s ambitions for the future after experiencing rapid growth.

 

Profitability

If I was to walk into my local supermarket, and head for pharmaceuticals section, I would see that a standard pack of 200mg Nurofen would cost roughly £2, whereas the basic home brand equivalent Ibuprofen would come in at around the 40p mark.

This is to be expected though, Nurofen is far more effective than your bog-standard Ibuprofen, it targets your pain directly, gets to work faster and lasts for longer… Nope. In tablet form, Nurofen is chemically identical to its Ibuprofen counterpart. There is no difference between the two, in all likelihood they are probably made in the same factory!

So why is it that Nurofen are able to charge over 400% more than standard home brands? Quite simply, this is the power of branding.

Due to consumers trust in the Nurofen brand, which has been carefully nurtured over the years, customers automatically perceive their goods to be of a higher quality than the competition. Whilst all our previous points one way or another link back to profitability, this showcases the relationship between branding and profitability in its most direct form.

If a small business can establish and grow a brand that customers believe in, then this increased trust and loyalty can be reflected in pricing.

Strong branding can add a huge amount of value to your product or service. This should provide the motivation to focus on branding, get it right and maintain consistency.

 

Summary

Branding is extremely important for businesses of any size. It helps to build trust in what you are offering. Brand is the source of emotional investment for both your customers and employees.

Your brand represents all that you stand for as a business, it makes a promise to the consumer, celebrating what makes you different from and better than your competition.

Brand influences all actions carried out by your business, it guides your activities and ensures that a consistent message is conveyed to all audiences.

It can add a huge amount of value to your product or service which vastly effects profitability. So, any small business owner concerned about their bottom line (which in reality is probably everyone) should without a doubt be thinking about investing in their brand. As investing in your brand is investing in your future. Thank you for reading.

And remember… Brand is boss!

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