For small business owners, few things are as challenging as first defining their company’s brand, and then following through and using those essential branding principles consistently for the business. Many struggle to understand what a brand is in the first place, much less how that applies to their small business.

Really, a brand is nothing more than how your customers perceive your business. It’s essentially a summation of how your company is seen, built through a customer’s experience with your products or services, your customer service reps, your website, social media messaging, logo, values and more.

Branding is vital for small business success. You must create the ideal persona in order to stand out from the crowd, but how do you do that?

The following 10 Essential Branding Principles will help.

1. You Must Know Your Audience

One of the most crucial considerations for any small business owner is to know your audience. To whom are you marketing? Who is your target audience? What are their needs and goals? What are their pain points? Build a brand that resonates with your ideal customer.

2. You Must Know Your Company

Your company itself is another important element of branding. What do you stand for? What are your values? What social causes do you support and champion? What matters to your business beyond turning a profit? Know yourself and use that knowledge to build your brand.

3. You Must Know Your Competition

Every small business has competition. No one operates in a vacuum. What are your competitors doing? How are they branding themselves? How will that affect your own branding efforts? Will it make you ‘just another’ business in the industry? How can you transcend that and stand out on your own?

4. Think of Your Brand as an Individual

One of the most useful branding principles for small business needs is to think of your business as an individual. Once you define the “character” of your business, you can then put thought into how that individual would act.

5. It’s More Than Your Logo

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your brand is nothing more than your logo. Nike is more than their swoosh. Apple is more than their iconic logo. Yes, your logo is an important part of brand identity, but your business is more than that. Remember the other avenues of customer interaction – customer service, social media interaction, product/service quality, and more.

6. Long-Term Customer Relationships

One cornerstone of a strong brand is the ability to create long-term relationships with your customers. You should strive to be more than just another business. You need more than one-time buyers. You need to form attachments with customers.

7. Consistency Counts

Another important branding principle is that of consistency. Use the same tone and voice in all of your customer-facing communications, whether that’s a Facebook post, an email, or a physical mailer. Consistency is vital to building and then maintaining your brand.

8. Don’t Be Something You’re Not

Every small business has a bigger competitor. Don’t try to position yourself as them. Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but in the business world, it comes off as dishonest. Be original. Be unique. Be yourself.

9. Infuse All Communications with Your Brand

A vital aspect of branding is to ensure that all communications are infused with your brand. That means more than just putting your logo on everything. What your company stands for should come through clearly in all communications, whether internal or external. If your company focuses on health and wellness, those very concepts should infuse the content of your communications. If you focus on tech and innovation, the same thing applies.

10. Build Trust and Deliver on Promises Made

Finally, no branding effort can be successful if you fail to build trust with your customers and deliver on the promises your brand makes. Apple delivers through precision-engineered electronics that offer a seamless user experience. Brooks delivers through outstanding quality running shoes that last. Starbucks delivers through delicious coffees and innovative creations. You must do the same thing with your small business.

Branding your business does not have to be an insurmountable challenge, but in order to do it effectively, you need to be strategic, and put a lot of thought into the branding process. Follow these 10 principles and you’ll find that the process is less daunting than you might have thought.

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