Many small business owners that I speak to think that branding is only for large corporations and Fortune 500 companies.  While it is true that a huge investment into a branding campaign does not make sense for most small businesses, branding absolutely must considered as part of the marketing strategy for every small business.  Branding is a concept that is often misunderstood, so today I am going to clear up some misconceptions and give you some suggestions to help you build an effective brand.

The most common misconception when it comes to branding is that a company brand basically equals its logo.  Your logo is not your brand.  Your marketing materials are not your brand.  Your website is not your brand.  Your brand is not tangible.  Put simply, your brand is the feeling that your audience experiences when they think about your company.  And those feelings are usually quite simple—“cool,” “sophisticated,” and “trendy,” for example.  Less favorable feelings could include “overpriced,” “unpleasant,” and “obsolete.”  Rather than a tangible object, your brand is the impression that you leave on the rest of the world.

So how do you build your brand?  The first step is to define it.  What do you want your company to be known for?  What feelings do you want to evoke in your audience?  For an accounting firm, words like “knowledge,” “experience,” and “trustworthy” may be appropriate.  For a technology firm, words like “trendy,” “sleek,” and “futuristic” might work.  Once you have defined your brand, the next step is creating your visual identity.  You will want to choose a logo and company colors that are consistent with the brand you are trying to build.  Generally you will want to work with a professional during this process.

Once you have created the visual identity of your brand, the next step is weaving the fabric of the brand throughout every interaction you have with the outside of the world.  That includes your website, your marketing materials, your email signature, the way your staff answers the phone, and any invoices or statements you send to your customers.  At its core, branding is about repetition.  Every interaction your business has with your audience will either reinforce or weaken the brand you are trying to build—so once you have figured out your brand, the key is simply to stay consistent.  At first your logo might not mean much to a customer—but after years of business together, it will represent the sum total of his interaction with your business.  Stay focused on the brand you are trying to build, stay consistent… and before too long you will have a brand that represents the spirit of your business.

How has your small business approached branding? Share your thoughts below!