Many small business owners don’t think branding is essential to their success. They think of branding as something big companies do. They assume that their customers know who they are based on what they sell or the services they provide. That is, until a prospect, who has never heard of them, shows up and asks the question the business owner is not prepared to answer.
“What’s your brand about?” The business owner is thrown off, for they expected to be asked “What do you sell?” or “What service do you provide?” They’ve rehearsed those answers. But “What’s your brand about?” is different, as it gets to a desire to know more about not only the business but the people behind it, the reason for being, and what sets you apart.
Like it or not, you have a brand. But if you don’t define it, your customers will have to guess what it is. That’s bad news for you. The good news is that branding is not hard, especially for a small business.
What is branding?
Branding your small business means creating a one-of-a-kind identity that not only sets it apart from the competition but also highlights a unique value proposition to the audience you hope to attract. This also increases your visibility and the associated loyalty from prospects and customers while also enhancing the potential to generate revenue due to the appeal of having a vivid, resonant, consistent image of your business on display across different channels, including content marketing, email, social media, and organic search.
One of the best and most succinct descriptions for branding your small business comes from Hubspot:
“A brand is the identity and story of a company that makes it stand out from competitors that sell similar products or services. The goal of branding is to earn space in the minds of the target audience and become their preferred option for doing business.”
I like this example because it plants a mental flag in your mind’s eye, making clear that branding incorporates all of the elements that go into what prospects and customers see, feel, and experience online and offline.
Why branding is important for your customers
Most companies are great at highlighting what their product or service does and how much better than the competition said products and services are. Neither of these matter all that much to customers, however—at least not at first. What most folks desire to know before making a purchasing decision is how your product or service is different from the competition, a fact that many small businesses have been slow to grasp.
Also, customers care less about tangibles when it comes to making a choice between competing products. What matters most is the space you occupy in the mind of the consumer (i.e., how your product or service is perceived). For example, the folks who visit Starbucks each day care less about the quality of the company’s coffee, lattes and danishes than they do about the fast service and the convenience of having a location on seemingly every corner.
So when a coffee shop opens up around the corner and promises better coffee, cheaper prices, and more seating space, Starbucks is unfazed, owing to the competition having missed the point regarding what matters most to their core customers. How does this happen? Most companies know what they do. They don’t, however, have a firm grasp of who they are, what space they occupy, in the mind of the consumer. Don’t let your business fall into this trap.
In upcoming blog posts, I’ll be sharing ideas that’ll help you successfully answer each of the questions raised in this post. If you’re already there, good for you. But, if not, there’s a good chance you don’t have a solid handle on what space your business occupies in the marketplace, which veritably guarantees that your customers and potential customers are equally as befuddled.