The best time to start work on establishing your brand is while preparing your business plan. It takes considerable time to evolve so don’t let a tight budget be a reason to put off laying the foundations for building a strong brand in your small business. There are some very simple and inexpensive things you can do to build your image and reputation.
1. Align your brand to your Strategy
The first step is to articulate exactly what you want your image and reputation to be in your business plan. Establish your business’s vision, mission and values and determine what your unique selling proposition (USP) should be. This will give you some clear signals as to what your brand and image needs to be.
Once you have determined these aspects, you need to align all of your image and branding decisions around your business strategy. This ensures your marketing efforts have a unifying effect. This helps you to build your brand more efficiently and more effectively.
2. Prepare a brief
Write a brief outlining exactly what it is you want your image and reputation to be. Include branding, vision, mission and value statements, as well as your unique selling proposition. Do some homework on your competitors. Include their branding images as background information. This gives some context to your brand in relation to the rest of the market.
3. Get a professional Graphic Designer on your team
“But I am on a tight budget”, I can hear you cry. A graphic designer is not an expense. It is an investment in your business. If your hire an inexperienced graphic designer, there is every chance your branding may not be as effective as it could be. An experienced and professional graphic designer will be able to take your brief and create a logo that encapsulates the message you want to send to your customers which will assist in developing customer recognition.
4. Colour selection
There is a whole science behind colour selection. Typically you can go two ways. You can go with the norm or you can choose to stand out in the crowd by being totally different. For example, ING Direct uses Orange as their colour of choice to quickly differentiate themselves from their competitors in the Australian Financial sector, who typically present in varying shades of blue.
I suggest you research your competitors and see what they are using. My advice is to make a colour choice that makes you stand out from the crowd. Selecting a colour combination that reflects those is the market already, you disappear In a sea of sameness. You just become an also-ran competing for attention.
If you should choose to stand out, however, you still need to ensure your choice marries to the branding image you want to convey.
5. Consistent Message Delivery
Once you have a suitable logo and colour theme, you need to carry this selection through your entire marketing arsenal. Attempt to use your logo on absolutely everything within your business and then attempt to find opportunities for building your brand outside your business.
In relation to your marketing collateral you should use your brand image on your business cards, uniforms, brochures, websites, e-mail signatures, office space, retail space, vehicles, signage, etc, advertising, recruitment documents, and forms just to name a few.
And when you build your momentum (and a bigger budget) aim to further expand your horizons on things like your local sports club, sponsorships, T-shirt sponsorship, charity functions and industry events.
6. Pre-ordain your reputation
Determine what your stand for and then make that stand when required. If you are trying to build up a reputation for honesty, don’t tell lies. If your reputation is for 100% money-back guarantee, then make sure you give your client back 100% of their money – no questions asked.
7. Be the Brand
Determine up-front, exactly what you want your image and reputation to be and, with every thing you say and everything you do, be the brand. For example, Virgin Blue in Australia has a reputation for being a fun and friendly airline. Their ground staff and cabin crew do everything they can to breath life into that image, further building the brand and their reputation.
As you can see branding does not have to be a complicated and expensive process. You can build the foundations of a strong image and reputation quickly and easily, if you follow these simple steps.
Karen L. Paiyo is an Australian Small Business Counsellor, supporting and nurturing the spirit of entrepreneurship in the Asia Pacific Region. Karen empowers small business owners by transferring to them the skills and expertise needed to help them take their business ideas from creative concept to profitable reality, faster and with less risk.