Small business branding: how to stand out in your industry
- An established brand can help your company stay top of mind and build familiarity with your target audience
- Effective small business branding focuses on three core areas: brand strategy, brand identity, and brand marketing
- Small business branding can help you create a company that’s trusted, memorable, and known as a leader in your industry
Everyone has felt the power of branding—whether you’re on a road trip and scanning for the golden arches or swooning over the latest Nike commercial during the Olympics. When customers are drawn to these successful companies, it’s not only because they believe their products or services are superior—it’s because they evoke an emotional connection. That’s the power of branding at work.
Small businesses can implement similar strategies to establish a recognizable brand that draws in consumers. While a devoted branding budget helps, many free or inexpensive strategies can solidify your small business branding strategy and help you stand out from your competitors.
Use this guide to learn how to create a memorable brand, capture consumer attention, and communicate your message.
What is small business branding?
Small business branding is the process of creating a comprehensive message and identity for your company. Branding helps create the perception you want consumers to have about your company and differentiates your company from competitors.
Branding is much more than a logo, color palette, and catchy slogan, however. It also communicates your company’s mission and values, helping customers trust and relate to your company.
Basic elements of small business branding
Creating a brand for your small business requires planning and strategy. When building your brand, focus on three key factors: brand strategy, brand identity, and brand marketing. Together, these elements will help establish loyalty and trust for years to come.
1. Brand strategy
Effective branding should be built with intention and strategy: Where do you want to take your company? What do you stand for? How do you want customers to perceive your brand?
The goal is to lay out what makes your company different and how you can solve your target customer‘s pain points. A solid brand strategy will be the blueprint for the future of your company and how you approach the tactical side of branding, like choosing the visual elements of your brand and how you’ll communicate them to your target audience.
Start by conducting market research within your industry on who your customers are, their likes and dislikes, and what they value. This information will help you determine your target audiences. From there, you can build customer personas, which are fictional representations of your ideal customers.
For example, a lawn care company’s customer persona might be a homeowner who wants to set up service without meeting in person. You could cater to this type of clientele by providing low-cost services and communicating with your clients remotely, using email updates and an online payment system.
You should also examine the behaviors of your competitors: How do they approach branding? Which branding elements—from logos to advertisements—do they use? Determine what they’re doing effectively and identify areas you can improve on.
For instance, a plumber might notice that successful competitors incorporate funny themes or eco-friendly practices in their marketing. They can apply some of these elements to their branding while staying true to their own strategy.
2. Brand identity
Now that you’ve done your research, it’s time to implement the narrative and visual components of small business branding. There are two areas to consider when building your brand identity: your brand story and accompanying creative assets.
Your brand story consists of what you believe in, the customer problems you want to address, and how you plan to solve them. It’s a mix of facts and feelings that elicits an emotional response.
For example, let’s say you own a heating and cooling company that focuses on energy efficiency and helping customers go green. These environmentally conscious values are a big part of your brand story, and you can use this narrative to guide how you design your branding elements, such as your logo, slogan, and tone of voice in your promotional materials.
The second step is creating those creative assets which will serve as the face of your business. They include these elements:
- Color palette
- Slogan or tagline
You’ll want to build a cohesive image that can be used across all marketing materials and channels, from your business cards to your website. With simple graphic design skills, you can design branding elements on your own. Or consider hiring freelance graphic designers who specialize in logo design and brand building from sites such as 99designs, Fiverr, or Upwork.
As you solidify your creative assets, build a brand style guide to help maintain consistency for your company. This is a document that establishes rules and best practices for your brand, such as when to include your logo, which colors represent your brand, and which typography to use on marketing materials. Your employees can refer to these brand guidelines to determine how to present your brand to consumers.
3. Brand marketing
Once you determine your branding strategy and identity, it’s important to communicate these elements to your target consumers. As you distribute your messaging to potential customers, keep the three C’s in mind: clarity, consistency, and commitment.
Make sure your message is clear. Your brand should tell consumers what you stand for, the product or service you offer, and how it can benefit them.
For instance, a local cafe that specializes in organic coffee and baked goods should highlight these offerings in its marketing, whether it’s through a social media post or a neighborhood flier. Including messaging about the social and environmental benefits of organic coffee aims to attract customers with similar values.
Maintaining a consistent message, look, and feel is a necessity for small business branding. In fact, the more consumers recognize your image across platforms, the more likely they’ll be to make a purchase: Research shows that maintaining brand consistency across marketing channels can increase your revenue by up to 23%.
Use the same design elements across all marketing channels, including a consistent color palette, typography, and graphics. For instance, your website design should have the same look and feel as your email marketing and your social networks.
Wesley The Keeper of Akron Honey shared the importance and impact of brand consistency: “We designed the packaging to stand out, but part of the reason why a lot of people buy the little jars is because they’re so cute,” Wesley said. “It looks as good as it tastes. So what that tells me is, okay, we’ve got this template for our brand. It’s clean, it’s cute, it’s easy to read. Let’s keep that going with whatever we do. The jars should look like the website, the website should look like our social.”
Strong branding doesn’t happen overnight. It takes discipline and commitment to build trust among your consumer base and drive your message home.
For example, what if you run ads in print or online and they don’t produce positive results? Don’t scrap everything and opt for a redesign. It’s okay to make small tweaks to your messaging, but your brand’s success will come from playing the long game: maintaining brand consistency and building recognition over time.
3 branding tips for small business owners
As you build your brand, consider the following tips to hone your strategy.
1. Invest in your brand identity
As a small business owner, you probably want to keep marketing costs low. However, your brand will be with you for years to come. Investing in the creation of a brand that impresses and retains consumers can be worth it in the long run.
After you invest time and money in building a new brand, it’s important to also invest in the ways you communicate your branding with your target audience. Consider promoting your brand via online advertising, such as with Yelp Ads. This is a great way to get in front of customers with high intent to buy: You can even geo-target your ad to be displayed a specified number of miles away from your business, allowing you to better target your audience.
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2. Be memorable and timeless
Your brand identity represents your business, so it should be memorable, professional, and representative of your brand values.
Just as important, it should be timeless. Avoid using trendy design elements and create something that will stand the test of time. To start, skip the free logo generators—which often produce generic logos—and brainstorm design elements that are truly relevant to your brand, product or service, and customer base.
3. Refine and evolve your brand identity
Instead of making drastic changes to your brand, revisit and evolve your branding as you see fit. If customers aren’t resonating with your branding or your target audience has changed, try making small changes to improve your overall brand.
You can monitor how consumers are responding to your brand by reading social media posts and online customer reviews. For example, customer review sites like Yelp provide an incredibly useful way to see what customers like—or don’t like—about your business. Claim your Yelp Business Page to read through customer reviews that can give you feedback that’ll help you make any necessary adjustments to your branding and messaging.
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Start building a successful brand
A strong brand helps your business build trust and attract new customers. It can also set you apart from competitors, showing consumers you’re their best choice.
To hone your small business branding, identify your brand identity and branding elements. Then, use these elements consistently across all marketing channels to solidify your place as a trusted leader in your industry.
As you fine-tune your branding and overall marketing strategy, check out these tips for how to attract more customers.
The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.