When it comes to small businesses, brand identity is an oft-overlooked element of success.
Defining your brand as something your audience can relate to is important to get it seen.
But many small business owners put it off, falsely believing it won’t matter until they’re bigger.
However, as I’ve defined in the past, building your brand image from the start can change your entire business.
Your brand image will connect you to your audience in an emotional way.
A strong brand image helps build trust and loyalty.
Handling it at the beginning allows you to build those feelings early and develop a strong following of brand advocates.
Conversely, putting it off can confuse your target audience.
Marketing without a brand image leaves your message unfocused and doesn’t connect as it should.
That’s why it’s important to develop your brand image as early as possible.
Doing so is a simple process, even though it requires in-depth work.
The results are worth the work.
To do it well, you need to know how to get it done.
An Unclear Brand Identity Causes Unnecessary Confusion
You may have excellent marketing tactics that allow your message to get through to your audience.
They see your product, understand it’s benefits, and know where to buy it.
But the same can be said for all your competitors who also use great marketing strategies.
So, what separates you?
Without cohesive brand identity, the answer is “Not much.”
Additionally, not developing a brand identity quietly creates long-term problems that will eventually show themselves.
Here are some questions to consider:
- Are you getting more questions than sales?
- Does your audience know what your brand stands for?
- Do you often hear “I already bought from…” on a follow-up call?
These are all signs of the problems you created by not building your brand identity.
You’re lacking the necessary emotional connection to your audience, which hurts your ability to compete.
Brand identity is composed of the way your brand looks, feels, and speaks to customers.
Therefore, it shifts your customer experience and influences your credibility.
And it can make an amazing difference for your brand growth.
Unfortunately, so many small business owners believe in common branding myths that get in the way.
Let’s tackle those quickly before we move on.
“Brand Identity Is Only Important Once I’m Growing.”
Your brand is a huge asset for your company, and you shouldn’t underestimate it.
Some estimates pin the value of your brand at between 30% and 50% of your company’s total value.
While that number is harder to pin down it’s worth noting that some brands are the standard for an industry.
Think about what happens when you want a cola at your favorite restaurant.
Do you ask for a “large cola”, or a “large Coke”?
Chances are you’re upset if they ask if a Pepsi is ok.
That doesn’t happen if you don’t focus on building a solid brand identity.
The earlier you focus on building that identity, the earlier you can reap the benefits.You ask for a Coke instead of cola because of Coca Cola’s powerful brand identity. And you probably don’t like it when they ask if a Pepsi is OK instead. Click To Tweet
It’s critical at every stage of your business, too.
To gain your target audience’s attention you need to make sure your brand is relatable.
You must communicate your brand’s value and solution if you want your target audience to come to you.
Otherwise, your audience will create their perception of your business based on what they see.
This takes your brand out of your hands and allows the market to shape it.
Allowing the market to shape your brand might sound tempting if you truly believe in your product.
However, it also makes coming back from mistakes much more problematic.
Instead, take your brand identity into your hands from day one.
“I Can’t Afford To Build My Brand Identity!”
After what I just went over, you must understand by now that a brand is an asset.
Investing in it makes total sense when you view it from that perspective.
Often a solid brand is worth more than any other asset you have.
Equity from a brand identity includes consumer awareness, loyalty, and reputation.
These may be intangible, but you understand the value of them.
And you know they aren’t something you can buy.
The only way to gain these assets is to build on your brand’s story.You can’t buy a reputation or client loyalty unless you buy a brand that’s earned them. Click To Tweet
So, how much should you invest in this asset?
That depends on how much you want to make this year.
Using what I call The 15% Rule, you’ll set your branding budget as 15% of your target gross revenue this year.
That’s plenty to pay for a brand strategist, graphic designer, web developer, marketing expert, and any other necessary resources.
Yeah, it feels like a lot of money, but if you can earn more opportunities and more sales, it’s worth it.
“Spending Time On Our Brand Identity Would Complicate Things.”
Forming your brand identity might seem like a complicated task.
As you’ll soon learn, it’s not.
However, failing to invest in building your brand is likely to make things more complicated.
Especially if you decide later that you need to build a solid brand identity.
Even if you have a “simple” business and business model, invest in your brand identity.Make the process of selling your brand more streamlined by developing a strong brand identity. Click To Tweet
It can’t hurt to get organized and identify the story that resonates with your audience.
You get the chance to make your story easy to understand, follow, and repeat.
That helps make future decisions based on existing guidelines rather than having to start over with every campaign.
Simplification works in every business, no matter the model.
Any time you can make necessary processes easier to do and save time and money it’s a victory.
Building your brand identity helps you do that well.
Learn What It Takes To Build A Brand Identity And Connect With Your Audience
To build a strong brand identity and connect with your target market, you need to know what it takes.
No, it won’t be a fast process, but it won’t be a complicated one either.
Brand-building is time-consuming and takes research.
There’s a lot to understand if you want to reach your audience emotionally and create loyalty.
However, the process is something that any small business owner can handle.
Provided they’re willing to put in the time.
You’re about to learn what it takes.
I’ve shared the value of a clearly defined brand identity.
The only decision left will be whether to outsource or handle it in-house.
Here’s how to build a solid brand identity.
Deep Dive Into Who Your Target Audience Is
A brand identity has to resonate with the audience you want to reach.
So, before you can develop it, you need to figure out who your core audience is.
This is one of those cases where buyer personas come in handy.
And, as I’ve said before, if you haven’t created them, you might want to.
You need to understand who you’re trying to take your message to, so you know how to take it to them.
If your company targets single college students, you won’t reach them sounding like a company for old married couples.
Those two demographics don’t have a shared viewpoint that helps them receive the same message the same way.
When the brand identity doesn’t fit with the target client base, there’s a problem.
But what if you target multiple demographics?
Situations like this can get tricky, especially if you attempt to target too many different demographics.
Simplifying it is the best solution.
Target a core demographic, leaving the secondary groups as later marketing targets.
Once you’ve defined your brand identity clearly, it’s easier to decide how to communicate with those secondary groups.
Starting with a narrow focus will help you clarify your brand image and cement yourself into your target audience’s minds.
Examine Your Position In The Market
Once you know who you’re trying to target, you need to know where you sit within the market.
Finding out your unique selling proposition gives you a foundation to build your brand identity.
You need to know what makes your brand what it is.
But you also need to understand how your competition affects that uniqueness.
Completing a SWOT Analysis is a great way to help do that.
The characteristics that the SWOT Analysis uncovers will be useful to highlight with your brand identity.
SWOT stands for:
These are the things about your brand that give you a strong advantage in the market.
This is the stuff that hurts your odds of success and needs to be shored up.
Areas and trends within your industry that open a chance to grow faster.
Sometimes there are areas within the environment or industry that make things difficult for your business.
A thorough SWOT Analysis will reveal tons of information you’ll find useful for developing your brand identity.
Develop Your Brand’s Mission, Personality, And Story
Now that you have information, it’s time to form it into your brand.
As a foundation for your brand identity, you can think of your brand as your company personified.
Just like your identity reflects on who you are, your brand identity will do the same for your brand.
Who is your brand, metaphorically speaking?
It’s time to put together the key ideas that help personify your brand so you can mold an identity for them.
Your Brand Identity Needs A Mission
Lots of small business owners understand why they went into business, besides the desire to make money.
They also know why they chose the product or service they did.
However, one thing they tend to struggle with is succinctly articulating those ideas.
Can you, in a short sentence or two, share why your brand exists?
Every brand has a mission, whether its owner knows how to articulate it or not.
A mission statement, which is the clear and concise definition of that reason for existence, is necessary.
It’s a summary of the values that your brand represents.
Your ability to communicate those through your brand identity is critical for the emotional connection you’re looking for.
Develop a crystal-clear mission statement so you know where your brand’s driving force lies.
Use it to inform every decision about your brand identity and the direction of your company.
There’s no way to create a personality for your business without knowing what drives it.
A Great Brand Identity Has A Personality
Speaking of your brand’s personality, you need to develop that next.
Treating your company as an individual and creating a personality for it allows your brand to be personable.
A brand’s personality helps shape the brand image by creating an attitude within communication.
It helps define the ways you’ll send your message to your audience.
And it helps connect with them better, as it should reflect their personality.
If you were to shape your brand into a person, it should look and feel like it belongs to your target audience.
In other words, it’s personality should match.
Make sure your brand can fit in and feel natural among the audience you want to reach.
Share Your Brand Identity Through Its Story
To finalize your brand identity, you’ll need a compelling story to tell.
This isn’t only about the origin of your company, but also covers the direction it’s taking.
Yes, it will include components of its origin, but it must also clarify the reason it exists.
Your brand’s story has to convey something that your audience can relate to.
Think about how your brand story will answer the following questions:
- What are your brand’s core beliefs?
- Which areas of your audience’s life do you make better?
- How do you address those areas?
- Why did you decide to target those areas?
- Where does the path your business is on lead?
A brand story is more than a simple elevator pitch.
It should draw your audience in and help them see the place your brand has in their lives.
Create Visual Assets That Reflect Your Brand Identity
Visual assets are probably the element of your brand identity that most people think of immediately.
Branding, for most small business owners, suggests logos, letterheads, and business cards.
However, as you can tell so far, relegating it to only those elements makes you miss the big picture.
But they are important.
And when you get this far in the process, visual assets become a lot of fun to develop.
To use another personification, these are like the wardrobe for your brand.
They help visually represent your brand identity, so your audience gets a feel for it immediately.
Some of the biggest visual brand assets include:
- Your logo
- Color palettes
- Font choice
- Images, graphics, and icons
- A style guide that explains how to create visual media for your brand
These assets help drive your brand image home for your audience.
Developing them requires you to focus on a few key ideas, though.
You need to make sure that your brand assets are clear, consistent, and committed.
What does that mean?
Brand assets should communicate your message to your audience clearly, not leave it open for interpretation.
They should also be consistent, fulfilling the sense of expectation your audience has of who your brand is.
Consistency creates confidence in your audience that you’ll always be who you promise you will.
If you commit to your brand, you won’t abandon it too soon.
Building a strong brand identity takes time, and you’ll only succeed at it if you commit to it.
Select The Right Channels For Your Brand
Certain people don’t vibe well with certain content platforms.
For example, as someone who needs a little organization to my content, I’m not a huge fan of the way Twitter works.
It’s acceptable for your brand identity to reflect similar partiality.
The right content platforms have to vibe well with your brand and your audience to be used successfully.
Deciphering which ones make the most sense for your brand can be tough.
Especially when you consider that, without a dedicated content team, you can’t be effective everywhere.
Learn which platforms your ideal market spends time on.
Chances are you’ll find that they’re most frequently on 3 or 4 different content platforms.
Even if they visit more, these core platforms are the most valuable for your brand.
From there, decide if you’re capable of sending an effective message on them.
You may find that you can only be effective on 1 or 2.
Those content channels are the ones you’ll be able to communicate authentically on.
Thus, your brand image will feel most natural there.
Remember that we’re talking about all content channels.
Social media, blogs, emails, podcasts, and videos are all forms of content that take place on multiple channels.
Consider them all before you commit to your plan.
Then you’ll have a better grasp on where your brand can most effectively live up to its identity.
Identify The Message You Want To Send
Your brand identity isn’t just comprised of your products and services.
It’s also a reflection of the message you send to your audience.
Consumers, made up of mostly millennials, want to work with companies that reflect what they believe in.
So, as you develop your message, think about the core values your brand holds, then wrap them into your messages.
Let your audience know what your brand stands for.
Remember that brand identity is about creating that emotional connection to your audience.
Emotions drive customer loyalty to your brand.
By focusing on sharing your brand’s core values you help associate deep, passionate emotions with your brand identity.
Those emotional connections also help shape your audience’s decision-making process.
You can build hype around a new product or service, or you can ease their mind about calling you.
Provided you stay consistent in communicating your values you can maintain a steady connection with your audience.
Make Sure You’re Consistently Coming Across Correctly
Now that your entire brand identity is planned, you can begin to communicate.
Trying to get your overall message to your audience is the only way to know for sure if you’ve been successful at developing your brand image.
You’ll either reflect the right message, beliefs, and personality to them, or you won’t.
Thankfully, it won’t be a mystery.
It’s all information you can track, utilizing tons of available tools to listen to what your audience is saying.
Google Analytics, social listening tools, content engagement, and surveys all serve as beautiful sources of feedback.
Use them to monitor what’s going on with your audience and how they perceive your brand.
Take that information and use it to improve.
Remember, when it comes down to it, your brand is what people say about you when you’re not around.
Continue to make changes until they’re saying the things you want them to.
Develop A Brand Identity That People Love
Your target audience needs what you have to offer.
However, they won’t take it if they don’t connect with you.
It’s your brand image that facilitates that connection.
Developing a strong one that your audience can relate to is imperative to your small business.
Growth is impossible if your audience doesn’t love you.
Learn who they are and what they want, then become the brand they can get it from.