Define your brand identity
Branding is more than just a logo you slap on your website. Your branding is who you are as a company; it’s your values and your mission, it’s the way you treat your customers, it’s the look and feel of your visual assets. So, before you can move forward with the more tactical steps in your branding strategy (like designing your logo), you need to take the time to get really clear on who you are as a company—or, in other words, your brand identity.
Figure out who you are
The more clarity you get on who you are and what you’re about, the more you can infuse that identity into your branding—and the more your brand will stand out and grab customers’ attention as a result.
Figure out who your target customers are
It might sound obvious, but there are tons of small businesses who put so much focus on figuring out who they are and what kinds of products or services they want to deliver that they completely neglect figuring out who they’re trying to sell those products or services to—and their branding suffers as a result.
Take some time to define your ideal customer. Who are they? How old are they? What kind of income and education do they have? Are they predominantly one gender? What are they looking for in the companies they do business with? What matters to them? When would they use your product or service—and why would they need it?
When you know who your target market is, you can use it to guide your branding strategy—and the end result will be a brand that truly connects with the customers you want to work with most.
Establish your POD (or brand “special sauce”)…
No matter what your business does, chances are, there are already other companies doing the same thing. So, if you want your business to stand out, you need to figure out what makes it stand out.
The thing that makes your business different from your competitors is called your point of difference (or POD). Your POD is what makes you special; it’s what makes a customer choose your company to do business with over your competitors—and it should be infused into every part of your branding strategy.
Your POD doesn’t have to be something earth-shattering. Think of it this way: if your company is a Big Mac, your POD is your “special sauce;” it’s what makes your company uniquely you. Do you only use ethically sourced ingredients in your products? Do you have the best customer service in the biz? Has your family business been serving the community for multiple generations? Whatever it is, figure out what makes your business stand out—and build that POD directly into your brand identity.
But also get clear on what’s working in your industry
You want your branding to stand out and be different. But if you want to have the most effective branding strategy, you also need to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s working (and what’s not working) in your industry).
Take stock of your competitors and what they’re doing. Do you notice any trends? For example, let’s say you’re launching a new financial consulting company—and when you check out your competitors, you notice they all have neutral color palettes in their logo design or they all focus their marketing efforts on Facebook instead of Instagram. While you (obviously) don’t want to steal or rip off your competitors’ branding, taking stock of industry trends can give you a sense of what’s connecting with your ideal market (and, just as importantly, what’s not)—and you can build out your brand identity accordingly.
Get visual with your branding
Logo and brand identity design by Agi Amri
Once you’ve defined who you are, who your customers are, what makes you special, and what’s working in your industry, it’s time to start actually designing your brand. This step is just as crucial for branding your small business as it is for larger businesses.
- A brand style guide. Before you start designing, it’s important to figure out the details of your design strategy, like your brand color palette, fonts, and design do’s and dont’s. A brand style guide is a great way to organize your design details and make sure you, your designer, and anyone else working on your brand is on the same page with your brand’s direction.
- A logo. Your logo is like the face of your company; it’s the first thing most of your customers will see when they encounter your brand—and it’s the visual asset that will be most closely tied with your business. Your logo should be the first thing you design, as it will act as the jumping off point for all of your other visuals (like your website and your business cards).
- Business cards. If you’re in business, you need a business card—and the design should match your logo and your other design assets.
- A website. Your website is like your company’s piece of digital real estate—and when people visit your website, the look and feel should be consistent with the rest of your branding.
Depending on your business, you might need additional branding assets (like product packaging or corporate letterhead), but the most important thing to keep in mind? No matter where a customer encounters your brand—whether it’s by seeing your logo or visiting your website or checking out one of your products in store—the look, feel, and design should be consistent. If you’re not consistent when branding your business, you risk confusing your customers—and, if they’re confused, you could lose them to the competition.