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Making Your Mark: Five Essential Components of a Small Business Brand

Why care about branding? Having a trustworthy brand will help your business achieve a solid customer base and the profit margins that go with it. Your community and your competition make judgments about your company based solely on the power of your brand. Because branding is essential to the modern business, it’s important that you pay attention to the details even if you have a non-traditional way of marketing your business. Here are the five essential components of a great small business brand just as 5 ways of branding your website.

Logo. What’s in a logo? This one little graphic may have more impact on your success than any other aspect of your business. Your logo is the face of your business. It will be prominently displayed on the signs on your door as well as just about every piece of paper that leaves your office. Don’t sell yourself short by saddling your new business with a logo that holds you back instead of giving you a much needed boost in branding.

Scheme. Along with a logo, your small business will need a visual scheme that is both attractive and unique to your business. This includes a color scheme, a set of complimentary fonts, and any other special images that you plan to use as part of your business. Make sure these complement and go well with your logo, as both elements will be used together on a daily basis.

History. People love to buy products that have a story, and from businesses with an interesting history. In fact, they love it so much that they are willing to pay more. Build a personal business mythology that customers can identify with. This will make them want to support you, because it makes them part of your interesting, compelling story.

Community Presence. How involved are you in your community? In the beginning, most small business owners are forced to stick to low cost and no cost ways of being visible in the community, but as your business grows it is essential to be a visible and benevolent force in your field and in your neighborhood. Whether you are partially sponsoring a fun local event or allowing night poetry readings in your lobby, you must make sure your potential customers see you and your business as someone who cares.

People. This includes not just you, as the owner of the business, but also your employees and any virtual assistants. It’s essential that you and everyone that your customers interact with as part of your business be corresponding parts of your brand, from appearance to attitude. Decide on an image that complements your overall branding strategy and allow no variation from it. In the end, your personal interaction with the public will have a larger effect on your small business branding than any other aspect.

As you can see, it is not difficult to build a small business brand, and this process is essential from the very beginning of your business. Modern consumers don’t just buy products and services; they buy images and stories. No one can afford to be without branding, so give your small business a great start by paying attention to these details.

Although we tend to associate branding with large corporations, it can also be a very personal endeavor that is best suited to smaller businesses. In fact, in many cases, a small business owner can give their company a very successful brand by working on their own personal brands.

Personal branding is a topic that was once limited to celebrities, but more and more we are hearing about it in the business world. Microsoft is forever linked to former CEO Bill Gates, while nobody can see Richard Branson without thinking about Virgin. Even if you are not a rock star or socialite, your small business brand will be indelibly marked by your personal image, which is why no owner can afford to neglect their brand. Here are a few ways that you can give your small business that all important personal touch.

  • Be Authentic.

    Most people can smell a fake from miles away, so make sure your personal brand is completely and genuinely you. This doesn’t mean that you have to showcase every flaw, but merely that you should not try to be something that you aren’t. Ask friends, family, and people who know you well to honestly and openly tell you what makes you “you”. Take the most positive characteristics from this list and play them up as much as possible.

  • Maintain A Personal Online Presence.

    Most small business owners understand the importance of having a website, blog, and social networking accounts for their business. You can build a small business brand in much the same way. Keep a personal blog and build a social network of both friends and business contacts. Be present and accounted for on the World Wide Web.

  • Link Your Personal Brand To Your Small Business.

    If you want for your personal brand to enhance you small business one, you need to begin linking the two in people’s minds. This means linking them in every way possible. Make sure your personal blog, website, and social network link to your small business ones and vice versa. A word of caution: be very careful that you do not post overly personal information or things that will detract from your image. Your personal image needs the same careful management as your business image! Which brings us to the next tip…

  • Monitor Your Brand.

    For the most part, the best way you can monitor your personal brand is to post positive information about yourself on a regular basis and to respond immediately and proactively to negative feedback. This is done mainly through your own personal website, blog, and social networking accounts. However, negative information about your personal brand can appear almost anywhere, so you may want to use Google Alerts or even a paid service to notify you whenever you are discussed on the internet. The key to responding to negative feedback is to be positive, rather than getting in arguments with critics.

This may seem like a lot of work, but it is a labor of love that will pay off in the long run. If you have a strong and positive personal brand, almost anything you do in the business world will benefit from being associated with you.

A blog is not just a way of sharing your thoughts with the world; it is an important marketing and branding tool. Blogs invite potential customers to begin fans of your brand who check in with you on a regular basis. They can increase your search engine ranking because of the constant flow of fresh, keyword-rich content. In addition, they offer a platform for you to share information about your brand. However, many small business owners do without this important marketing tool because they simply don’t know how to begin. Here are five easy, time-effective tips for starting and maintaining a blog that will build your small business brand.

  1. Host your own blog. While there are many websites, like Blogger, that would be happy to let you improve their popularity, the best way to blog is on your own website. There are several programs that make this easy. You have probably heard of WordPress, which is one of the more popular and, with absolutely no cost to you, one of the cheapest as well. A good blogging program will make your blog easy to maintain and update while allowing you to personalize with podcasts, videos, and other media.
  2. Research keywords. It’s important to have an interesting, well-written blog, but it needs to be full of keywords in order to attract relevant traffic that will fuel your brand. There are several keyword tools that allow you to research which keywords in your field are hot right now. Pick one or two for each blog post and use them several times in the text and in the tag. You’ll almost immediately see your Page Rank go up. It’s really that easy.
  3. Be your brand. It’s important to use your logo design and other visual elements of your brand—but you probably already know that. However, you should think hard about what kind of language, images, and posts will work best with your brand as well. If you have any questions, talk to a branding consultant before you start your blog. This will keep you from making embarrassing and/or brand-breaking mistakes.
  4. Stay relevant and organic. There are two blogging crimes that we see all the time in small business blogs: keywords stuffing and off-topic posts. Don’t start cramming keywords into every nook and cranny of your blog; use them where they make sense and fill the rest of the space. Search engine crawlers are good at identifying this behavior and even better at penalizing it. At the other end of the spectrum is the owner who blogs about their favorite foods and where they are going on their next vacation. Make sure your posts are relevant to your small business brand and that all keyword usage is natural in sound and feeling.
  5. Link. Where should you link to? Anywhere relevant! Your blog should be linked to related pages of your website as well as your social networking pages and vice-versa. Creating this interconnected web of media will make it easier for customers to find you while possibly improving your search engine ranking. This also gives customers the opportunity to interact with your brand in a variety of ways, hopefully to become lifelong fans and customers.

Blogging For Your Brand

Many people think of blogging as a way of disseminating personal information and sharing cute pictures of your children. However, their many benefits for a small business as well. If you are looking for a way to build your business and get more exposure for your brand and logo design, blogging can be a great way to go. In fact, recent studies have found that a blog can increase traffic to your website by an average of thirty percent. Here are a few tips for starting a blog that will be an asset to your small business brand.

  1. Talk To A Professional.

    It is possible for even the most inexperienced computer user to start a blog, but the blog will not be the professional tool that you need. The first step to starting a business blog is to talk to a professional graphic designer. This person can help you set up a blog that will be linked to your website and be a good visual representation of your brand. Further, a professional can often make it easier for you to post and to organize past posts, creating a blog that is user-friendly for both you and your readers.

  2. Identify Your Audience.

    Before you begin to blog, you need to know who your target reader will be. This will determine the tone and language used in your blog as well as the type of subjects you will be blogging about. You will need to adjust your level of humor and the amount of advertising as well. In short, as in all other aspects of marketing, you must consider your audience at every juncture.

  3. Give Them A Reason To Read.

    No one is going to visit your blog if you don’t present interesting and informative information in every post. You need to have something important to say and a little bit of expert knowledge to share. Moreover, you should have a strong opinion on subjects that affect your industry. Don’t be afraid of stepping on toes; if you are civil and open-minded, most of your readers will respect you more for even a dissenting.

  4. Keep A Sense Of Fun.

    Why would anyone read a blog that is boring or tedious? They have no reason at all. If your readers want news, they can turn to one of the many newspapers on the internet or to news programs on television. If you want to capture the attention of your audience, you need to make reading your blog a fun, humorous, and entertaining event.

  5. Consider Hiring Out The Job.

    As with any other task, some people are good at writing while others simply aren’t. If you have a talented writer in your office, consider having them do the blogging for you. If you don’t have any natural writers on staff, consider hiring a consultant to manage your blog posts. The grammar, syntax, and sense of style you display on your blog will be a direct reflection of your company, so it pays to put your best foot forward.

5 Tips For Making Your Blog A Practical Business Tool

Did you know that small businesses with blogs get 55 percent more traffic than those that do without? A blog is a valuable way of generating traffic to your website and building your company brand. However, it is important to build your blog according to a few sacred rules of corporate blogging. Here are five corporate blogging essentials that will make your blog the best it can be.

  1. Stay True To Your Brand.

    The first part of building a blog is to decide on a theme, a blog name, a color scheme, and editorial guidelines. These basics will determine the overall look and tone of your blog. These should be an integral part of your brand and feel like a good fit with the rest of your business. However, branding is not limited to colors; you need to keep the language, topic choice, and other aspects in line with your brand as well.

  2. Offer More Than Marketing.

    Marketing certainly will be a part of your blog, but it is only a small part. You need to be an expert on your chosen topic, as this will make customers feel good about doing business with you. Most important, your blog needs to have a defined value for the people reading it. You should be offering information and solutions that they can use in their day to day lives. This will make them feel that you are both an expert and a persona that they can trust.

  3. Assign An Office Blogger.

    If you are running a one man show, this will be easy. However, if you have several employees it can be more difficult. Choose an employee with impeccable grammar and spelling who enjoys writing, as this will make it easy to turn out readable and pleasing blogs on a regular basis. Train them in the specific language and tone that you want presented on your site and give them a list of topics. From there, let them work their magic. If no employee fits this lofty description, consider having a group of employees work together.

  4. Link To Other Business Websites.

    Your blog should be linked to your company website and social networking pages (and vice-versa). It also should be linked to other blogs that post on similar but not competing topics and anything else that seems relevant. These links are usually the way that others will find your blog. Not only will they bring more traffic, they’ll make you a better-rounded member of the community, which readers tend to appreciate.

  5. Be A Person.

    Your blog is a chance to show your human side and attract customers that like a human touch. Show a little personality and, if appropriate, a sense of humor. Think of your readers and try to make a connection with them. Many small business owners neglect to include pictures, humorous anecdotes, and other personal touches that make personal blogs so much fun to read. If your blog is on topic but fun to read, you’ll be ahead of the game.

Can you brand your company through logo design? While a great logo alone won’t carry your company—usually—it certainly can give you the advantage you need. Here are a few things to ask yourself about your logo that will help you determine if it is as effective as it could be.

1. Does my logo make my brand more credible? A logo should make your business look credible and trustworthy in several different ways. First, it should be professional so the customer knows that they can count on you for a professional quality job. Second, the logo should be designed using colors, shapes, fonts, and images that make the customer feel more inclined to trust you. Logo design speaks on a subtle level that leaves a lasting impression.

2. Does my logo make my brand look professional? Having a professionally designed logo makes you appear to be more professional and helps you stand out in a crowd of imitators. No one wants to be branded as an amateur, but a less than perfect logo design does exactly that.

3. Does my logo have emotional impact? Customers should look at your logo and have an emotional reaction. If they don’t, there clearly is a problem. There are a variety of ways a logo can impact your audience. It can command them to act, calm and soothe, or even create warm and fuzzy feeling. Know exactly what emotions you want to invoke before beginning the design process.

4. Do my logo and my brand fit my current customer base? It is not at all unusual for your customer base to evolve over time, but you will have to change with it. If you realize one day that you are trying to sell a youth brand to people in the early thirties, it’s time to re-evaluate the way you have branded yourself. It’s okay to occasionally re-evaluate and ‘tweak’ a brand and a logo a little; in fact, it is one of the way the large international companies stay so relevant.

5. Does my logo help me make sakes? Ultimately, trust and credibility combined with a superior product add up to sales and profits. If you aren’t getting the sales you need, you can bet that the problem lies either with your product or your brand. Maybe it is an unprofessional logo that makes your customers question your quality and professionalism. Maybe it is a combination of color and shape that are communicating something other than what you want to say. Sometimes there is a disconnect between the brand presented by the company and the actual products and service. Your logo should help your bottom line, not hold you back.

Your logo should be an ambassador for your brand, telling your customers what to expect from your business and making a promise of quality and service. If your logo design isn’t living up to its job description, it’s time to have a professional logo designer create one that will go the distance.

Mash Bonigala

Mash B. is the Founder & Creative Director of Logo Design Works. Since 1998, Mash has helped thousands of businesses express their brand messages through creative and award winning logo designs.