What is a brand and why does a small business need one?
Well the simple answer is that if you have a business, you already have a brand. Lots of people, particularly (but not exclusively) small business owners tend to think that it means your logo or visual identity, but that’s only half the story. Yes of course it does include your logo and visual identity but your brand is really your entire business, your product or service, your reputation, everything that your customers experience and associate with you.
I did mean everything.
Yep, everything; if you’re a copywriter it’s not just the copy you produce, it’s the service and efficiency with which you do it. If you’re running a café, it’s not just how hot your coffee is or how tasty your cakes are, it’s the friendliness of the staff and the state of the toilets. Seriously, it’s everything your customers experience when they interact with your business. That’s your brand.
So congratulations, you have a brand
The real question is, do you know what it currently stands for? Do you know what people think about your business? Do you know what your reputation is? If you don’t know what it is and you’re not in control of it, then it’s a bit of a loose cannon – not only can it not help you, it can seriously undermine your business.
However, if you’re in charge of your brand, you can control it, shape it, define it and use it to help you stand out from the competition in a crowded marketplace, based on what it is that makes you different and special.
When you create your brand authentically so it’s clear about what it genuinely does, for whom and how it benefits them – and, crucially, is true to your values, it will reward you with customer loyalty, a clear marketing strategy and the kind of business success that you dream of.
It’s something you can trust
A brand is kite-mark or a rubber-stamp of quality that you can trust, a guarantee of a certain kind of experience or level of service. In the same way that people go to the same restaurant chain or return to the same holiday company time after time, because they know what to expect and are sure they’ll like it, people trust brands because they know they’re guaranteed something that they have already experienced and benefited from.
So as long as you deliver what you promise and keep a consistently high standard, customers will be loyal – they will always come back for more and will recommend you to their friends and family. That’s what you call a result.
Stand out in all the right ways
Even better, new customers will find you, even in a crowded marketplace, because you’ll stand out from the competition in a way that resonates with them and builds a relationship based on your shared values and interests. What’s meaningful to you is meaningful to them, and that’s what builds the all-important emotional connection between customer and brand.
If a customer loves your brand, feels connected to it and identifies with it, they will stay loyal to you, even if your competitors promise to be better, cheaper or more convenient. All you have to do is deliver on your promises, and reward your customers’ loyalty with a commitment to them and their experience. It’s a two-way thing.
How a brand makes marketing easy
When it comes to marketing your business, a well defined brand saves you time, money and energy by keeping you on the straight and narrow, focused on the essentials – the things that are critical to your brand’s identity, values, and to your target clients. It stops you getting sidetracked or tempted by things that are interesting but ultimately don’t correlate with what’s key to your brand.
Instead of scattergun marketing to anyone and everyone, a great brand helps you clearly define who wants what you have, so you can market directly to them. It also enables you to do it in ways that will appeal to them and be consistent with your image and promise. No more wasted time or money spent on marketing campaigns that don’t target the right people or don’t really sing from the same hymn sheet as the rest of your brand.
You could be the next Hoover
Get it right and your brand could become a household name or a byword for excellence in your sector. Imagine what it would be like if the public used your business name as a generic term, in the way that we say ‘Hoover’ for vacuum or that ‘to Google’ has actually become a verb, meaning ‘to search for something on the internet’. That’s how powerful brands can be. Get it right and people will immediately recognise your identity (logo, colour, font) and know exactly what they’ll get when they buy. They know they can trust it – and people buy what they trust. Can you afford to take chances with your brand?