Do startups and small businesses really need branding?
I've spoken about the biggest misconceptions in branding in my blog before but one that seems to linger especially among startups and small businesses is that branding is only a luxury of those with wider recognition and massive budgets.
This is however very ironic, as it’s exactly the small and starting businesses that desperately need good branding to actually stand out and build a loyal audience.
After all, branding isn't just about your visual look. It's a way to give your business a voice that people want to listen to, and share a story and vision your ideal audience can relate to and want to be a part of. Branding is also about highlighting what is unique about you and giving a reason for people to buy specifically from you.
So why aren’t startups and small businesses obsessed about branding from day one if it can make such an impact?
I’d say it comes down to two reasons. the return on investment isn’t necessarily easily measurable so it's hard to put an exact numeric value to how much it's worth, and the word branding isn’t very clear either. Perhaps instead of branding, we should talk about building a reputation.
In today's world, our reputation is more important than ever before as we're no longer just competing against the local shop next door. With the advanced technologies and online resources available the entire world is nowadays our marketplace whether we like it or not and to stand out in it requires some effort.
I’d therefore argue that if you're a small or a starting business trying to get noticed, branding is the smartest thing you can focus on to make that happen.
I bet you've actually already done branding at least to a certain level whether you realise it or not, as branding relates to everything you do in your business.
Let me explain.
Your brand is the perception your customers have about you; what they feel and experience when they interact with your business and that image or perception can be impacted by anything. It could be formed based on your social media presence, how you answered the phone, what your marketing message sounds like or how you treat your customers. So whether you consciously call it branding or not, all the actions you take in your business contribute towards the perception others have about you – your brand.
And that's why consciously putting effort into your branding is so important especially as a small business so that you're not leaving that perception to chance and potentially hindering your chances of getting noticed and becoming the memorable and recognisable business you deserve to be.
But of course, your branding isn't about making false promises about what you can deliver or pretending to be something you're not, as this will only result in a bad reputation. Whatever you intend to deliver through your business and your brand, you should back it up with appropriate action.
If your product isn't as good quality as what was promised or the experience customers had didn't meet the expectations you made them assume then something's clearly off and your branding doesn't result in its desired underlying outcome: trust.
And branding doesn't end just to the perception before someone buys from you. It's about the entire experience from the first impression to the buying process and the actual delivery of your service or product and how you look after your customers beyond that point.
Good branding makes your audience see you as the credible and dependable business you are who addresses their needs and problems (hopefully better than anyone else), and motivates them to buy or take the next step.
If you do your part successfully, you have a great chance of creating a loyal customer base that looks forward to hearing about you and has trust in you delivering on your promise.
It's however important to remember that as much as you love your business and your brand, most people don't have the time or equal amount of interest in figuring out what you're about and why they should care about your brand specifically so this is on you.
You need to give your customers good enough reason why they should care about your business and this happens by building an emotional connection with your audience. They need to feel that you care (because you do) and understand what you can do for them so that they can become actively involved in your business and part of its success. It is backed by an endless amount of research that emotions drive the purchase decisions of most buyers, not logic.
As Seth Godin has said: people don't buy goods and services, they buy relations, stories, and magic.
But in order for people to notice your business in the first place, it needs to be recognisable and memorable.
This is where the face of your business, your brand identity, becomes key. It’s the most effective way to spread awareness about your brand and stay in the minds of your customers and it’s also an important part of engaging and delighting them at every point of the journey in order to eventually earn their trust.
When the face of your business aligns also with your beliefs, who you are, and the emotions you want to convey, you’ve really built an asset that can help you make an emotional statement every time your customers stumble across your business and something that reminds them about it.
This kind of emotional bridge to your business becomes even more important in times like these when we all have just a few seconds to emotionally engage with our audience before they move on.
If you're at the starting line of your branding efforts and could use some help, I warmly recommend you to go through my free Brand Kickstarter mini-course that'll help you understand where to get started and what you should focus on to make your brand stand out and attract the right audience. To find out more, simply click the image below: