All Things Branding (and Why You Desperately Need it): For the Startup, Small Biz, and Entrepreneur
Updated: Mar 25
I want to get real with you about branding.
So many digital marketers claim to be experts—and some certainly are. But branding is still a widely confused term, often associated with a business' graphics and online presence.
Which is why you may be surprised to learn that a brand is NOT:
a pretty website
an awesome logo
social media pages
While these are, of course, significant contributors to the success of any business, designing a logo is not branding. Former business executive Seth Godin says it best: “The brand is the sum of the promises we make, the stories we convey, and the expectations that we want customers to believe we will fulfill.”
Think of a website, logo, and Instagram page as characters in a story. But you, the service provider, are the narrator. You get to decide how these characters contribute to the story arc, the bigger picture—the core message.
What Branding Can Do for Your Business
Humanize your organization. We’re bombarded by ads on the daily—on our newsfeed, around the city, on TV. Do you, as a consumer, trust every product or service you come across in said ads? Naturally, you’ll connect with some more than others. My advice: Don’t blend in with the rest. Create your customer persona (their interests, age, profession, etc.), and speak to them like you would over coffee. The more down-to-business you appear, the more difficult it will be to connect with you; e.g., We are a trusted team of wedding photographers that won’t miss a beat vs. Carpe Diem—seize the day. Our thoughtful photographers will be there to capture them. Which one of these draws you in?
Help your company grow. Branding entails publishing helpful and informative content, and you’ve likely already guessed why. Articles, engaging posts, tips, tricks, life hacks—these are all communication strategies with one goal: to establish long-term relationships. And with whom, you ask? Your target audience; i.e., your potential buyers, who may later convert to actual customers. This falls into Conversion Rate Optimization techniques (CRO), but that’s a blog for another day. To learn more about how content can convert your visitors into buyers, get in touch!
Distinguish yourself from the competition. This is the fun part. Fun, but not so straightforward. There’s no formula here—it’s just you and your gut. Begin by deciding how you want to be perceived, and think carefully about what makes your product or service better than the competition: Does your brand cater to a narrowed audience? Do you package your products differently, i.e., in an eco-friendly way? Is your customer service team open 24/7? These are all sums of a larger part we call a brand.
Connect with the right people. Winning new customers doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to connect and engage. But it’s worth it when you do. If you’re a graphic designer with, perhaps, specialized training and out-of-this-world experience, but still can’t close clients due to your higher-than-average pricing, that’s okay. Don’t settle for less than what you’re worth. The extraordinary thing about branding is you get to decide who want to be, and with that, who you want to serve. And with a sharp, astutely thought-out online image, powered by quality content marketing, you will, eventually, attract your rightful clients.
Keep ’em coming back for more. Consumers have pride for the products they purchase. Aren’t you guilty for showing off your new iPhone at least once (or five times) before, or introducing your Google Home as the new member of your household? Everyone knows Apple sells quality and Google is always ahead of the tech game. They’ve built trust, and now, we love them—arguably too much. Lesson here: Amp up your customer service department, return policy, deals, promotions, contest, offerings, affiliations—anything that would make customers happy and proud to support you.
Support your ads. A strong brand means huge advertising potential. If you’ve got your branding down, meaning you know exactly who you are and what you stand for (there is no room for an identity crisis once you click 'publish'), then you can use that dynamic voice of yours to get people engaged.
So, What Are the First Steps Towards Branding?
Find your voice. Conversational? Authoritative? Serene? Pick one (or a medley) and stick to it.
Be comfortable in your own skin. Who are you, really? What do you stand for? Show that you’ve got a moral compass. Consumers now more than ever want to find authenticity in their purchases.
Show you care. Are you an advocate for gender equality, animals, or the environment? Then show it! For instance, perhaps you're partial to environmentally ethical businesses. The more positive the impact, the more we want to be involved. As a result, we're attracting like-minded clients. You can apply the same principle to your business.
Show you know. Want to be considered smart, savvy, and sophisticated? Blogs are tremendously effective in demonstrating your value. In fact, they the most effective method of building brand loyalty and generating organic web traffic.