Your brand defines who you are. Done well, it also helps you stand out from your competition. But how do you create a brand?
Branding is your chance to decide what feelings your business will generate in others. Will you wow them with your confidence? Reassure them with your reliability? Or impress them with your bold ideas?
Your logo (just one element of your brand) will usually be the first thing prospects see, and it can leave a lasting impression. A bland, forgettable icon isn’t going to do anything for you. But a well thought-out brand, with a logo that pulls everything together and makes a powerful impact, could excite and inspire potential clients.
But aside from proclaiming your business identity, a good brand will also give you professional credibility. Clients tend to gravitate towards polished visuals, assuming they’re a reflection of the service quality. Why not capitalise on this predilection?
Branding could also generate a ROI – a well-branded proposal will almost certainly have a higher acceptance rate than a poorly designed one.
So how do you get started?
Who’s your target audience?
Before any work starts on branding (or in fact any marketing) you will need to ask yourself “who is this for?”
The temptation to create something that speaks to you will be strong, but stop yourself. First, pinpoint your ideal client and don’t try to be everything to everybody.
Contrary to what you might think, it’s much easier to build a business if you have a niche that either offers specific services or targets a certain industry (or both). Work to become renowned as the experts in your field. That will be pretty much impossible if you decide your field is everything.
Key tip: Creating and growing a brand is easier if you offer a speciality service (like accountancy with business growth support) or target a specific industry (like hospitality or veterinary).
Repeatedly assess your competitors
Your competitors are successful businesses that you aspire to be better than. Learn from them and let them inspire you – there’s a lot of valuable information to be gleaned here if you pay a little attention.
Choose three or four competitors and regularly conduct some analysis, asking:
- What does their brand say about them?
- What services do they offer?
- Who are their clients?
- What are they charging?
- What marketing are they doing? (If it’s ongoing it’s probably working).
- What do they do well and what can you do better?
Key tip: Don’t just do competitor analysis once – make time to do your research at least once a quarter to keep up to speed with any changes.
Create a logo to represent you
A professional looking logo and visual branding will generate trust. If you don’t have any design experience, don’t try and create your logo yourself! This is one thing that’s definitely worth a little bit of investment and some expert advice.
Your focus instead should be on creating the brief. This will be the main reference for your designer as to who you are, what you stand for, who your business is, the nuances of your target audience, your services etc. So take your time to lay it all out clearly.
Once you’re happy with the logo, you’ll need the designer to create different file versions of it depending on different uses. Ask for a suite of editable branded template designs for any marketing collateral you might require like business cards, presentations, proposals and letterheads.
Key tip: Get designer recommendations from another similar-sized business whose branding you admire. Get a few quotes to compare and take a look at each of their portfolios.
A powerful mission statement
Your company mission statement, or tagline, should convey clearly what you do best, and what to expect from you. Don’t make it cryptic, and avoid using generic words like ‘quality’ or ‘good value’ – anyone could say this about any service, but what makes you stand out?
Key Tip: Listen to your gut instinct – a good tagline should feel right.
Craft your business voice
Your brand voice conveys your business values and its personality, so the first step is to decide on these first and write them down. Then you can think about the sorts of things your brand would and wouldn’t say; what words it should use; and what sort of topics you should be talking about.
Produce a set of guidelines that has all the details about your brand in it so that it’s available for employees and suppliers to reference. Guidelines and consistency will future-proof your brand as it grows but your brand should also evolve with your business.
Key tip: Somewhere between three and five brand values is the recommended number. Make them memorable and meaningful.
Branding isn’t just for large companies and it’s essential if you want to grow your reputation and your business. Do your research first and make some key decisions on how you want to be perceived in the marketplace. When you have your brand visuals and tone of voice in place, consistency is the key but let your brand develop and grow with you.
Further reading on marketing your business to get more clients;
- How to choose the right name for your business
- 10 copywriting tips to improve sales
- Run your small business without letting it run you
Sophie Cross is the Editor of Freelancer Magazine and a freelance writer and marketer at Thoughtfully.