By Brad Shorr, Content and Social Media for Straight North, Director
The whole concept of branding is foreign to many small businesses. They view it as something that only matters in the ivory towers of global corporations.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Branding is all about making your business memorable, and it’s the small business rather than the big one that’s likely to get lost in the shuffle. Here are five core concepts that small business owners should know about branding.
1. Repetition and consistency are paramount. Any parent knows that when you say something once it seldom sinks in. And, parents who send mixed messages confuse the child … and perhaps themselves! The same dynamics apply to branding: the market needs to see the same imagery and the same message again and again and again.
2. Sales reps can undermine your consistency. Even in large organizations, sales reps tend to develop their own way of talking about the company they represent. However, if every rep tells a different story, your customer base will ultimately have many different impressions of what your business does. This may cause customers and prospects to overlook key products and services — and perhaps look for them elsewhere.
3. Branding is more than just a logo. Every business should have a logo, but just as important are a consistent color scheme for the website and brochures, a strong tagline, and a consistent set of talking points for sales and marketing communication. Branding should dive deeper into the details still, in terms of consistent font styles, product/service descriptions, item numbers, and any other data and imagery customers see.
4. Branding is far more than window dressing. Far from it: Effective branding reflects and projects the core values and key differentiators of your business. A strong brand tells customers what you stand for and why they should buy from you. Are you the cheapest? The best quality? The most reliable? The most innovative? Your imagery and messaging must get to the heart of what you do.
5. Branding must be focused. Continuing on the previous point, you must confine your branding to a few critical concepts. No amount of branding expertise can communicate that you’re the cheapest, best quality, most reliable AND the most innovative. The more you dilute your message, the harder it is to remember and the less important it sounds. This is counterintuitive for sales people and small business owners who feel compelled to tell the whole company story every time they have the floor.
Brad Shorr is Director of Content and Social Media for Straight North, a Chicago Internet marketing firm. They specialize in B2B marketing, with clients in industries such as merchant processing and fire protective clothing. Brad has been an avid blogger since 2005 and writes frequently on small business marketing topics