When Court Justice Potter Stewart (of my great state of Ohio) was asked to define pornography he struggled only notoriously (and oddly confidently) proclaiming "I know it when I see it!". I learned of this in my school-aged days and always thought it was awfully silly. Then one day someone asked me to describe branding and like the final piece sliding smoothly into the waiting prongs of a jigsaw puzzle, I finally knew what it must have felt like to be that stern-faced, mid-western judge!
Branding is like porn. Branding is one of those things you know when you see it. It is also one of those things you REALLY notice when it isn't there. (I mean I guess that's also true of porn but one more use of the p-word and I risk ranking for it so... that's enough of that!)
Branding is the face, the personality, and the voice of your business. Branding is your business in abstract and branding is quite literally essential to the long-term growth and success of your business!
Don't believe me? Stick around! Today I'll be breaking down all the basics of small business branding and even how to get started on some of your own branding TODAY!*
*with or without our help!
Why Branding Matters, even for small businesses
Before we get into the basics of branding it would behoove me to convince you of its worthiness of your already limited time! Luckily as a (woman) marketer, I've become very good at explaining these things. Branding is going to help you in four significant and unique ways!
First, branding helps your business get recognized. Your content may be fantastic but without branding to link it to your business it won't do your reputation much good, will it?
Second (and somewhat to that point) branding helps protect your business by claiming your content as yours. Great content is ripped off EVERY SINGLE DAY - branding won't prevent this entirely but it certainly makes it a bit harder to rip off. (Imagine trying to reuse this comic in your business's marketing?!)
Third, branding helps your business build trust in the community. Consistent branded content helps customers know what to expect from new businesses. When customers know to expect and trust the quality of your brand (even if only via social media content) it makes them much more likely to buy from you!
And finally, branding helps your business look like they have their proverbial shit together! That's what closes deals babycakes!
The Basic Components of Branding
Branding is a lot of things but I know my audience so I'm going to keep this very basic and just touch on the big 5!
Branding Component #1: Logo
Logos are in a class all their own and are often the first thing people think of when they think of branding. Your logo is the pinnacle of your visual branding and oftentimes contains several elements of your branding kit within it.
Logos can be purchased from professional designers like us! We offer logo packages for as low as $500, by the way. Or you can design something yourself on a platform like Wix or Canva. The point is you need something to stamp on everything you put out there to help build that reputation.
Branding Component #2: Colors
Most of the time your brand colors can come from your logo. Of course, if you have certain colors in mind you can use these to inspire the logo but the concept is the same. These are YOUR colors.
You see those headers? Those are my brand colors! Have you visited our Instagram? If so you're going to see those same colors! Click around on the site? Same colors. Colors help people start to associate certain colors with your brand. Association is recognition and recognition is good! We want recognition.
Branding Component #3: Fonts
Fonts are an overlooked aspect of your branding but VERY VERY important. Why? Well, for the same reasons we use all branding to help the audience know what to expect. Fonts can tell customers a lot about a brand.
Also, it is a good rule of thumb to use the same font across the board on your site (maybe with an alternate for headers) to make your site easier on the eyes.
If you're acquiring your branding via a designer it will typically come with fonts. If not though it's not too difficult to handle DIY style. Simply hop into your website builder, or Canva or pull up a list of free fonts on Google and make a list of some favorites.
I chose Helvetica based on a Wix recommendation and I have a custom font in the logo that we use for special occasions. Neither cost me a cent.
Branding Component #4: Voice
What is a brand voice? The personality and the tone of the brand. For example, The Clever Catalyst is a casual, approachable, and educational brand. Our voice reflects that. There are dangling participles in sentences and incomplete clauses and run-on sentences and I use small, easily digestible words to explain less than digestible topics.
If you are a solopreneur the brand voice is typically your own. If you own a larger company it will likely be reflected in your culture already but hammering it down can be very helpful!
Branding Component #5: The Space You Take Up
This is my favorite component of branding but it can be a bit too abstract for the #hustlebros out there and that is the space that you take up. I once worked with this amazing pet business client for YEARS and she was like a (beautiful and insightful) broken record when we kept repeating how important it was to be selective about where you show up! And I could NOT agree with her more.
It is really easy in the beginning to create all the platforms and put your business in all the places. I get it. I have a dead LinkedIn page and a never-used Yelp page to prove I earned that badge! But as my dear friend Rachel still to this day happily repeats - this is counter-productive.
You only have so much time and so many resources and for a small business, those figures (fair or not) are significantly lower than the average business. There simply will not be the time or money in the beginning or even ever really to devote to carving your own chair to sit at a table you aren't sure you even need to be at.
Part of your branding should always include considering what teams you want to be on and why. This should be based on both what you want for your business and where your target audience is already.
For us given we had such tiny business clients and really never offered any Linkedin services so continuing to pour into marketing on that platform. Our dead page still exists there and as a marketer know I am better off taking it down because it confuses my messaging, it's out of date and it is not the best representation of us.
But I'm also an SEO expert I kinda like the extra page 1 real estate it takes up. So ... the everyday struggle is REAL!
Branding can be overwhelming. There is a lot to it, but it is not an insurmountable challenge. Start out small, whether on your own or with a professional and take the time to pause and reflect on each step. Branding like P.O.R.N. is one of those things that when you finally see it you just know, like my fellow Buckeye Justice Stewart!
If you're in need of a quick and FREE clever consult - this is your firm and friendly reminder that you are the ONLY one that can schedule that for you!