Small business branding. SME Branding. The whole concept of branding is a strange idea to many small businesses, as they tend to view it as something that only concerns global corporations and the bigger players. They consider it too costly, ineffective, and fall into the trap of assuming that “branding” means simply having a logo and a letterhead. “It won’t make any difference” as Newt said in the film ‘Aliens’.

Small business branding

Whatever your assumtions and beliefs, branding is mission critical for aspiring SMEs, because it’s all about making your business memorable in a competitive market It’s the small business, rather than the big one, that is likely to get lost in the noise – especially online.

SME branding

On the upside, the zeitgeist favours the brave underdog that challenges the bigger players – we are in the age of the disruptive business model. We have a luxurious freedom to attack the market, be more niche, faster moving and adaptive. Look at how many big corporations buy up smaller brands. Coca Cola buying Innocent Smoothies, being a good example.

Here are the six basic branding ingredients that small business owners should employ:

Repetition and consistency are paramount

Small business branding, parrot style. Any parent knows that when you say something once or twice, it seldom sinks in. “Brush your teeth”. Parents who send random messages confuse the child. The same dynamics apply to good branding: the market needs to see consistency, imagery and the same message again and again and again. It needs to be embedded, lasered and cast in the mind of your market, continously. The child or market needs to understand your ‘why’. “Brush your teeth, because if you don’t, they will fall out.”

Sales reps can undermine your brand, surprised?

Even in bigger organisations, sales representatives tend to develop their own default rhythm, process and way of talking about the company, the products and services they represent. But, if every business rep tells a different story, your market will undesirably have many different perceptions impressions of what your business does. This may cause your prospects to overlook your awesomeness, differentiation, key products and services and perhaps go elsewhere for the same products and services. Representatives need to be involved in the branding process to deliver one consistent voice, totally bought in, with genuine passion.

Branding is more than just a logo

Every business should have an identifier logo, icon or logotype, but just as important are a consistent colour palettes, a strong tagline, and a consistent key messaging framework for sales and marketing communication. Branding is more than just functional collateral.

Branding should dive further and deeper into the details whilst maintaining consistent font styles, product and service explanations, item numbers, and any other data and imagery that  customers see. Branding is more than just a consistent design identity; it’s WHY you do something, not just what you do. And that’s powerful stuff.

Branding is far more than pretty window dressing

Good SME branding reflects and projects the core values and key differentiators of your business – convincingly. A strong, well-engineered, genuine brand tells customers WHY you do what you do, what you stand for and why they should buy from you. The best quality? The most reliable? Are you the cheapest? The most innovative? Your imagery, design style, behavior and messaging must get to the heart of what you are and be genuine. But you must look at the competition and avoid being a clone. Do a quick Google search, see the brand clones for yourself. You need a uniqueness, a genuine competitive advantage. You need to find it, or begin to engineer it, in line with the zeitgeist for total competitive advantage.

Branding must be focused

Continuing the point above, you must critically define your branding proposition in a few strong concepts. No amount of branding expertise can communicate that you are the cheapest, best quality, most reliable and the most innovative, it’s a vague standard proposition and adds no differentiating or compelling value or desirability.

“Good marketing offers us a view of the world. Bad marketing offers us a product to buy.’

Simon Sinek

People don’t buy what you do; They buy why you do it.

The more you water down your message with default standard, the more difficult it is to remember and the less important it sounds. This can be strange for sales people and small business owners, who feel compelled to tell a boring standard story every time they have the floor.

Be wary; The brand agency that is not a brand agency

SME Branding. Who does the SME choose as a brand growth partner? There are hundreds of ‘design agencies’ and ‘web agencies’ professing to be brand specialists. How do you establish that the agency you choose is capable of a genuine brand development? Most agencies do not operate at a business and brand strategic level, yet they sell themselves under the branding guise. They are good at producing collateral and identities, and there is nothing wrong with that. But when you are ready to develop your businesses proposition without gaps, you need to look for something more comprehensive.

Small business branding. When selecting a brand development agency partner, you need to consider whether or not they have the ability and the expertise to grow your business. The future of your company depends on it and it’s one of the most business critical decisions you are going to make. What use is a brand new logo and website if your customer base is oblivious to it? What use is an invitation to the world’s greatest party, if it doesnt include a date, time or location?

Ask for KPI’s in the meeting.

Ask to see real case studies and testimonials.

Speak to their clients about business growth and delivered KPI increases.

That is where you will find the measurable value that can be added to your business.

Beautifully presented portfolios on a sexy iPads are nice but they don’t tell the full story.

Small business branding. If you are being offered an account manager, ask who you are going to be working with. Ask to see their CV and ALWAYS study relevant LinkedIn profiles. A dirty trick is to land your business by promising experienced seniors, only to find that you get inexperienced junior executives working with you when you’ve signed the contract.

Are they brand strategic? Can they support your business thinking and give guidance on approach? Are they offer constructive challenges based on genuine insight? Are they short term or long term? Do you get along? Can you see them as friends, colleagues and long-term partners in achieving your goals? Or are they just ‘yes men’ that panda for approval, in order to push your work through as quickly as possible?

We find ambitious SME’s are wonderful and exciting to work with.

 

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