Table of Contents
What is branding? Is it the name of your business? The logo? The perception or sentiment customers have when they hear of or interact with brand? Is it how your competitors think of your business? What is branding for business? Branding in business defines its entire identity. For MSMEs, branding for business can refer to customer support, communication, logo and every other interaction that your business has.
Branding is not only for large businesses, it is for businesses of all sizes. Let us take a look at the meaning of branding, the importance of building a strong brand for your small business, and the basics of how to build a brand strategy.
What is branding?
Let us first look at the meaning of what is branding in business.
A brand is the identity of a company/business. It refers to the perception a person has when they hear of its name, or the emotions it evokes. In short, it’s the experience of interacting with the company, how it stands out and emerges as the preferred option for doing business with. It can refer to the brand logo, the tone of business communication, colours and designs, the vision and mission, etc. and how it stands out from others in business.
A brand is also how competitors view the business. It is also your company’s personality. In short, branding involves multiple elements that evokes a certain emotion among customers and competitors.
What is branding in Marketing?
Branding is a key component in marketing. And communications play a key role here. Whether it is brand communications on social media posts, or emails, WhatsApp, website content or any other online and offline platform, customers expect consistency across all touchpoints. This means that the style of communication, colours used, size and placement of logo and other elements should remain the same across all channels to evoke familiarity and trust. For businesses, it is therefore recommended to keep all marketing plans and strategies aligned to the brand identity and voice.
Example of the importance of branding for small businesses:
Choosing a brand name for your business is one of the first things you will have to do. You will have to dabble with some business brand name ideas, and finalise the one most suitable and relevant to you.
Consider yourself a manufacturer of home and office furniture. You have been in business since 2018 and have focused on custom designing, competitive-pricing and prompt customer support. Though your profit margins are low you have a pool of loyal customers who have given you positive reviews online and refer your brand to others. You have minimal marketing spends and get new and repeat business throughout the year.
In this example, your brand is perceived by customers as a trustworthy, reliable and affordable brand. They have a positive experience interacting with and buying from your brand and hence recommend it to others (word-of-mouth) and even share online reviews. This is your brand identity and this is how you get more customers and grow your business.
Why is branding important for small businesses?
How important is branding for small business? It’s a competitive and often saturated market out there, and how your customers perceive of your brand and their inclination to buy from you will give you competitive edge and impact sales and revenue.
Moreover, with the multitude of eCommerce platforms, online stores and B2B marketplaces, there’s little scope for small businesses to stand out and build a long-standing relationship with their customers without strategic branding.
Branding is the only way to narrate a unique story and stay on top of customer’s minds even in cutthroat competition.
Listed below some of the reasons why branding in business is important (we will refer to our furniture business example to elaborate):
- Creates brand identity
In our previous example, furniture is the product, the experience it creates for the customers and the perception customers have of the product/brand is the identity. For a small business this is of paramount importance. Great customer service, affordability and quality that the brand offers builds customer loyalty and even advocacy.
- Backs marketing and sales initiatives
As mentioned, the business does not have to spend much on marketing and advertisement. It has a loyal and returning customer base that also brings them new business through positive online reviews and word of mouth. Now, if the business does decide to spend on marketing and advertisements, their brand identity will only back their marketing initiatives and drive more sales.
- Differentiates your business from competition
Furniture making is a competitive business. There are already many players in the market, large and small. As a small business, how do you stand out? This is where we must understand how branding can impact your business. While there are several other players in the market, your brand stands for quality, reliability and affordability. It builds trust in customers and strengthens their decision to buy from you instead of another business. Your brand name not only differentiates you from competition but also carves you the path for success.
- Narrates a story that customers can relate to
A good brand narrates a story that customers can relate to. It can be a simple and straightforward story, but one that connects with customers, e.g., designing custom furniture unique to every customer. This naturally appeals more than generic, mass designed furniture giving customers to choose your brand over others.
Furniture buying is a long-term investment (e.g., 5-7 years) and customers would want to buy from a brand that adds the extra touch.
How to build a brand strategy?
Whether you are a large or small scale business, you need to build a brand strategy. Business branding strategy enables a company to outline the roadmap to defining their brand.
Here are some of the common elements that goes into building a brand strategy for small businesses. (We will refer to our previous furniture manufacturer example):
|Identify target audience & market||Conduct research (markets, competition, customers)
Build customer personas (demography, buying habits, communication channels etc.)
Define measurable outcomes, goals and target metrics
Online and offline shoppers
Based regionally (offline) or in main cities (online)
Needs furniture that’s stylish, durable, affordable (needs EMI scheme)
|Define your vison, mission & value statement||Give personality to your brand
Explain how your brand will solve a key problem
Elaborate on the mission and value statement of your business
|Sample – Our mission is to make furniture stylish, ergonomically right, and reflective of your home and office personality.|
|Find your brand communication tone & assets||Identify the tone of your brand communications
List the colour palette, types of images to be used, font style, languages, logo etc.
Highlight the packaging, shipping, unboxing type
|Tone – Friendly, positive, casual, funny
Colours – Orange (friendliness) and yellow (youthful, happy, affordable)
Packaging – Stiffened cardboard, extra padding, foam for cushioning
|Position products/services||Write all details of products and services
Position it in the market (affordable, custom furniture)
|Elaborate on raw materials used, value-added services provided, product quality etc.|
|Manage your brand||Identify the channels and tools to be used for marketing and promotions
Short-term and long-term goals and metrics
|Website, social media, WhatsApp Business, newspaper ads etc.
Customer satisfaction, brand awareness, referral etc.
*This is for representation only.
Branding for business: The way ahead
So now that you understand how to build a brand for a small business, the question is – What to do next?
- If you have not yet prioritised branding for business and don’t have a voice for your brand, the first thing would be to get started with it. You can hire a brand consultant for small business to help you with the process or do it with a team of inhouse experts. Remember, you may not get it right the first time around and the process might require revisions.
- If you already have a brand guideline in place but realise it requires some fine tuning, get started on it. Focus on the sections that require fine-tuning instead of doing the entire thing from scratch. For instance, you may not have a brand communication style defined. To ensure consistency across all marketing collaterals, you may at this point need to define the tone, colours, languages used, typography, images etc. Only instead of working on the entire branding strategy.
- If you however want to ‘rebrand’ yourself, that is, modify your brand identity, ensure that you keep the goodwill and customer base you have built already. For instance, you may want to change your business brand name only – in which case, there rebranding exercise will require efforts more on taking the message to every customer and the public at large (e.g., change social media handles, WhatsApp images, website url etc.).
As we near MSME day in India, it’s a good time to relook at your brand strategy. Business branding is a complex process, and even top enterprises often struggle with it. How you present your brand directly impacts how your customers feel about it and in turn the bottom line of every business. Once you understand this, it will be easier for you to find effective branding solutions for your small business.