As a small business owner, you may be too busy to worry about branding day in and day out, but a strong brand could be the difference between loyal customers and customers who use your business once and turn to a competitor.
Brand loyalists can do a lot for a business:
- A customer who has made two purchases at your business has a 54 percent chance of making a third purchase
- Repeat customers have a 60-70 percent chance of converting
- Your most loyal 10 percent of customers spend three times more than those who aren’t loyal to your brand
How can you get customers to be loyal to your business? Start by building a brand they remember.
What is branding?
You can think of your brand as the message you put out into the world. Your brand is all-encompassing. It’s how you come across to customers and potential partners or employees.
It’s your logo, your signage, your mission statement, your website, your storefront, the consumer experience and so much more.
Why does branding matter?
Business branding is important because consumer perception and trust are necessary for your business to thrive today. With enough branding consistency, you can generate trust with consumers and become a name that locals remember when they are making purchase decisions.
Think of big brands we recognize like Coke, McDonald’s or Target. What do we remember about each of these brands?
With Coca-Cola, you probably remember that distinctive red font. For McDonald’s, it’s probably the golden arches and for Target, it’s the red bullseye. Because these companies have sustained a consistent brand (and offered a product consumers wanted), they are immediately recognizable.
Customers don’t just recognize these brands. They also trust them. Why is that? Well, you know what you’re getting when you open a bottle of Coke. You know exactly how it will smell and taste. This kind of consistency (along with the sugar addiction, probably) is what keeps customers coming back.
And think of it this way. People will pay more for a brand name product than a generic. It’s not because there’s such a huge difference between brand names and generics. It’s the brand and the brand’s promises. If you can deliver on your promises to consumers, they are going to be willing to go out of their way to choose your brand over others.
How can small businesses ensure brand consistency?
Consistency is important for consumers, so you should be giving customers consistent experiences with your business. Sixty percent of Millennials expect a consistent experience when interacting with a brand online, on the telephone or in person.
Consistent branding is so important that some companies spend millions of dollars to build a consistent brand that resonates with consumers. You might not be in control of multi-billion dollar corporation, but local businesses can still work on building a brand and ensuring brand consistency.
Since consumer perception is so important in branding, it might seem like you don’t have much control over your business’s branding. This couldn’t be further from the truth, though. Your brand’s message and image have a lot to do with your business’s values and mission statement.
What, exactly, does branding entail?
To start evaluating your brand, think about what consumers actually see when they look at your brand (logo, slogan, brand colors, font, etc). And keep in mind that your interpretation of your brand and your customers' interpretation could be drastically different. Close your eyes and think about your brand. What do you see? What feelings do you associate with it? Let's look at the visual aspect of your brand more closely.
What does your brand look like?
What imagery is associated with your brand? You probably have a logo, typeface and colors that are associated with your brand. These are branding elements that belong to your business. These are also the most dominant identifiers that your customers connect with.
If your business has a branding problem, it's likely caused by one of two reasons. First, your key brand elements are poorly executed. For example, your logo is too generic or your typeface doesn't match your brand's personality.
Secondly, and the one that's something that's more easily fixed, is inconsistent branding. Your key brand elements need to be consistent in form and function across all marketing channels and materials. As a local business owner, you should work to be aggressive with your consistency.
From a digital perspective, your website is the hub of your brand. However, it's important to remember that the majority of consumers will first interact with your brand through a secondary platform or listing (Google My Business, Facebook, etc.). This means it's vital to fully optimize your secondary digital listings to create a consistent consumer experience. Don't assume any detail or interaction is too small.
Some brands have slogans that are immediately recognizable. Can you name the brands associated with the slogans below?
- Just do it
- I’m lovin’ it
- The happiest place on earth
- Do the dew
The thing that makes these slogans so easily recognizable is that the brands repeat them enough to keep them in your mind. McDonald’s says “I’m lovin’ it” in commercials. The phrase is written on McDonald’s bags and boxes. They want you to remember the slogan, because you immediately associate the words with the brand any time you hear it.
If you don’t have a slogan, now may be the time to decide what yours should be. Don’t forget to communicate that slogan to customers, so that they will think of you anytime they hear the slogan.
Your brand voice is the personality of your business. And like everything else on this list, brand voice requires consistency. Customers don't want to deal with brands that have multiple personalities. Your brand’s voice involves careful communication. It’s how you communicate with customers in person or online.
How do you communicate in Facebook statuses or on the telephone to customers? How do your employees talk to customers?
All of this can be considered brand voice. If you haven’t trained employees on how to talk to customers or if customers feel their experiences with your business are all over the place, you might need to start thinking about creating a consistent brand voice.
Think about how you describe your brand. What does your website’s about page say? What about your Facebook profile? I’m guessing the two descriptions have a similar tone, and they are great indicators of your brand voice.
Whether they are humorous or straightforward, those descriptions are how you talk to consumers about your business. Decide what message they convey to consumers. However your brand comes across, you want to keep that voice consistent anywhere you communicate with your customers (as well as with potential customers).
And if you don’t like the way your brand comes across to consumers in any messaging, you might need to reevaluate and work on a new brand voice. If you’re not sure how you come across, ask a few people (customers or family members who won’t sugarcoat it) to read any messages you put out into the world (this could be anything from emails to about pages to conversations) and tell you how they think you come across.
And if you want to get right down to it, ask customers for feedback on your business. As we mentioned before, customer perception is key in branding. You can work hard to make your brand appear a certain way to the world, but if customers aren’t buying it, none of your branding efforts matter. Stay true to your business and yourself when working on branding.
How can small businesses work on their branding?
While you probably don’t have a huge branding budget, there are steps small businesses can take to work on branding.
And in case you’ve been waiting for some branding statistics, here you go:
What makes for a memorable brand experience?
- Forty percent say it’s the post-purchase experience with the brand
- Seventeen percent say it’s the online or in-store shopping experience
What makes customers loyal to a brand?
- Eighty-eight percent say quality
- Seventy-two percent say customer service
- Fifty percent say price
Company Mission and Values
A Harvard Business Review study found that shared values are extremely important. Sixty-four percent of respondents said shared values were the most important reason for being loyal to a brand.
Your mission and values are at the core of your business. You already know why you started your business and what kind of experience you want to give your customers. Integrate those ideas into your brand message and you will stay true to yourself. And when customers find out that they share some of your values, they’ll become repeat customers.
Benefits of Products and Services
What benefit does your business give consumers over your competitors’ businesses? How are you better than other companies like yours? Whatever the advantages of choosing your business, weave that into your brand message.
What qualities do you want people to associate with your company?
A lot of your brand image is how consumers perceive your business. So, what do you want consumers to associate with your brand? Is it superior product quality? Do you have excellent customer service?
Whatever it is, make sure the thing you want consumers to remember about your brand will live up to the standards you’re setting. If you want local consumers to think of you as a business with a great product, provide them with something that is superior to your competition and fix any issues with the product quickly.
Do's and Don'ts of Business Branding
Do let customers in on your brand secret:
Communicate your brand’s message to consumers. Make sure your logo is visible in-store as well as on your website, menus, brochures, emails or other communications you might have with consumers.
Do get your employees involved:
You don’t want to work so hard to build your brand only to find that your employees aren’t staying true to the brand. If you are humorous in person and on social media, you don’t want customers to come to your business and deal with grumpy employees.
So, make sure your employees are well-versed in your brand standards so that they too can communicate your brand to customers.
Don’t make it too complicated:
Keep branding simple. Do you already have a logo? Just make sure your logo goes where you go. Add it to your email signature and print it out on letterheads or pricing lists. You don’t need to create a new logo just so you have something that resonates with customers. Just make sure that you use your current logo enough in customer communications to keep your brand and your logo in customers’ minds.
Don’t break your own branding rules:
The point of this is to give your brand the image you want consumers to remember when they think about transactions with your business (or tell friends and family about you). The last thing you should do here is break your own rules.
If you want to be known for your stellar customer service, you need to respond to customer complaints quickly, both in person and online. Log into Facebook daily and respond to customer messages. Respond to reviews and try to handle negative reviews gracefully.
Don’t break your own customer service rules, though. If you’re good at it, be good at it all the time (or as often as possible).
Do monitor social sentiment of your brand:
Social listening and sentiment tracking are essential in maintaining your brand’s image. Keep track of what’s being said online about your business, because that’s what potential customers will see when they search for your brand. If you have a ton of bad reviews, that doesn’t look good.
Here comes the part where I tell you how we can help you do that:
We created a platform called Renown, which allows you to monitor mentions of your business online as well as monitor sentiment. Renown also helps you monitor and manage new customer reviews. Customer perception really is everything, and 92 percent of consumers will research online before making a purchase. If you want a consistent brand image across platforms, you need to be monitoring mentions of your brand and managing your reviews.