Guide to Branding your Small Business
Branding your small business is often times the most misunderstood aspect of your business. This guide was created to help give you a better understanding of how to develop your unique brand and how to use it effectively in your small business.
What is Small Business Branding?
Before we look at what branding is let’s look at what branding is not:
Branding is not:
- just your logo
- just your website
- just your Facebook page or Instagram profile …….etc. etc. etc.
According to Businessdictionary.com branding is:
The process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumers’ mind, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers.
In other words, you create a brand identity for your business in order to dictate how your business is perceived by others. It encompasses all aspects. Why is branding not just a logo or website – it’s because branding is your logo, your website, your Facebook page, your Instagram profile, all your social media posts, your print advertising, you name it, it’s branding. It’s your business identity as a whole, not just a part.
Your Small Business Branding Checklist
Let’s talk about the first steps into creating your new brand for your small business, this is the branding checklist, a list of questions you will need to think about and answer in order to create the right brand identity for you. For me, as a designer, these are the questions that help lead me in the research I need to do to create your brand.
Determine who you are and what your brand is, and what you’re not. The rest of it is just a lot of noise.” – Geoffrey Zakarian
Your Small Business Branding Checklist Questions
- What is your product, service, or message? Think of your 30-second elevator pitch. What specifically do you want to be known for?
- What is the feel or tone of your company? What feeling do you want your brand to suggest?
- What look do you associate with your company? Think aesthetics, would you say your desired brand is sporty, classic, modern, all business, etc.
- What is your company’s current position in the marketplace and where would you like to see it go?
- What brands do you like or dislike and why?
- Who are your closest competitors and what makes you different from them?
- Who is your ideal customer? Who do you want your message to reach?
These questions are a great start to building your unique branding strategy. When I work with clients my questionnaire has more questions since it’s my job to really get into my client’s head. You know what’s in your head so using these simple questions as a guide will certainly help you in your research!
Yep, start pulling those skills from school and put them to good use.
You are going to want to research:
- Your competitors and take notes on their current branding strategy.
- Your ideal customer, taking notes on their needs, and the way your brand can help them.
- Company’s whose branding you like and really look at the aspects that appeal to you and make note of them.
With your new information in hand, start pulling keywords that you found being repeated in your research and checklist.
You can use these keywords to make a mind map or chart for your branding to help you tie things together. Since I like to work visually, I take these keywords and search for photos that convey each keyword on Pinterest or Google and tie them together in a mood board. Here are someone mood boards I’ve created over the years:
Little Owl Design
To help you get started with your brand for your small business, I took all the questions and created a version you can print out and complete. Look below to get your copy.
Mistakes to Avoid When Branding Your Small Business
We’ve looked at what branding is…
We’ve looked at the top questions to ask yourself as you get started…
Now let’s look at the 5 mistakes you will want to avoid when putting your brand strategy together for you small business.
5 Mistakes to Avoid When Creating Your Brand for your Small Business:
Not defining your perfect customer:
In part 2 of this guide, I introduced the Branding Checklist. On the checklist, question number 7 asks “Who is your ideal customer?”. This is a very important question because it helps you to get laser-focused on your branding. If your ideal customers are “new moms, in their 20’s and 30’s” you don’t want your branding to have a masculine feel right? I know this is an outrageous example, but you would be surprised at what I’ve seen over the years. Now does defining your ideal customer means you will only work with those customers – absolutely not. Research has shown that by defining your ideal customer you will actually increase your business not just in your target group but in other groups as well. If you are looking for more information on defining your target market check out this article titled How to Define Your Target Market: A Guide to Audience Research from Hootsuite.
Not investing in branding:
This is not a shameless plug that you should only use a designer for your branding. I will say that hiring a designer will alleviate the stress and overwhelm you probably are feeling as you are trying to create your branding on your own. In addition, when you hire a designer you have access to lots of branding wisdom. All that aside I’m actually thinking about the investment of your time. Please if you have decided to put together the branding strategy for your small business on your own really invest the time needed to make it successful. Take the time to research, create multiple ideas, and test them out with your target market, and use those results to narrow down your choices. Only by investing your time to get it right, will you succeed at getting it right.
Too many fonts
Of my goodness, as a font junkie, this one really gets to me. You may not realize it but the fonts you choose can really define the tone of your brand and choosing to use a lot of them will cause confusion and will make your branding look amateur. Also, avoid novelty fonts in your branding – using comic sans and papyrus are clear signs you created your branding on your own and you did not invest in a professional.
Once you have created your brand style guide (I’ll introduce that in part 6) – keep it and use it always. Make sure your website, logo, print advertising, social media profiles, and social media advertising are all created with your new branding guidelines in mind. Failing to do this will cause inconsistency in your branding which leads to confusion with those you want to reach.
Changing your brand frequently
Putting your branding into action and seeing the results will take time, so be patient. Very often, I’ve seen businesses not take the time to really work their branding and within a few months feel they need to change it up so they rush to create something else, then that doesn’t work and so on and so on. In the end, this will create a mixed message with your customers and you won’t succeed in creating any of the brand recognition you are striving for. You’ve invested the time (or money if you hire a designer) to create your branding – invested in the time it takes to use it effectively and give it time to resonate with your audience.
“A brand is a story that is always being told.”
Small Business Branding – Choosing the Right Font for Your Brand
I love fonts, I’m what you might call a font junky. While in college I wrote a paper titled “So You Want to Build a Letter.” It was an exploration
So as we look at fonts for your branding let’s first look at the three main font families that are out there:
These fonts have horizontal and vertical details at the beginning and end of the characters
Sans means without in French so a san serif font is a font without serifs.
Script fonts are those that appear to have been created by hand
Over the Rainbow
There are literally thousands of fonts out there that you can use, but be careful that you don’t get carried away. A good rule of thumb is to limit your branding to no more than 3 fonts. Any more and your branding will look chaotic, confusing, and inconsistent.
Think of a font for your headline – subheadline and body text. Your
Now choosing your font pairing is actually quite simple – choose your primary font (headline & subheadline font) and then choose your additional font from a different font family. For example a San Serif font for your headline and a serif font for your body text or a Script font for your headline and a san serif font for your body text. It’s really that simple. One important note to consider, when you are first thinking of the right font for your brand consider the mood and feel you want to convey. All fonts have a mood. You may really like a font but if it doesn’t fit the mood you want, avoid it.
To give you a bit of help I put together some of my favorite font
My Favorite Font Pairings
You ultimately want your customers and potential customers to know you, like you and trust you. Consistency is the cornerstone. If people can see your content and immediately know it is from you, even if your logo is missing you have successfully created and implemented your brand.
Source Serif Pro
Open Sans Pro
Julius Sans One
Now where to find fonts – If you are a member of the Adobe Creative Cloud you have to opportunity to check out a huge variety of fonts that can be downloaded. My other favorite places to find fonts are Google fonts and Creative Market (FYI – the creative market link is an affiliate link if you choose to purchase a font using this link I will receive a small compensation. )
Font pairing doesn’t need to be scary – just follow these simple rules and you will successfully find the right font for your branding and remember I’m always around to help
Small Business Branding – Choosing the Right Colors for Your Brand
Now let’s look at color pallets for your branding. Now don’t go crazy, I know there are millions of colors in the world but just look at picking 1-3 dominant colors, then find coordinating colors. Let’s set the rule at no more than 6 colors for your new brand, how does that sound.
When choosing your dominant colors, I want you to consider the mood and psychological meaning of your potential colors. Remember at the beginning of your branding process you answered the questions from the branding checklist. This will help you with determining the mood of your brand and choosing a color. Once you have one dominant color figured out, use color theory rules to help you find your other colors. My last blog series was devoted entirely to this subject. Take a moment to check them out, they will help you narrow down your choices. Follow the links to view each of the posts.
I like to collect color inspiration when I’m on Pinterest. You can check out my boards to help get you started.
There are also various tools to help you put together a color palette. Let’s say you find a picture that conveys the mood you want in your branding. You can use any of these color generator tools to pull the colors from your picture and create your new color palette.
My favorite is Adobe Capture – It’s a mobile app and is perfect for when I’m out and something catches my eye, I just take a photo and run it through the app and I also have the ability to save it to the Adobe Creative Cloud so I can use it in all my Adobe desktop programs when designing.
My final and absolute favorite resource for finding color pallets is the website Design Seeds.
I went though their website and found some beautiful palettes for branding. Here are some of my favorites.
“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”
The Final Product – Your Small Business Brand Style Guide
I’m sure you are now ready to start putting it all together. If you worked with a designer (like me) or created your brand identity yourself, you now have your entire brand pieced together in your Brand Style Guide but….
now, what do you do?
Below you will see a sample of a brand style board. This is the one I created for Little Owl Design nearly 5 years ago. Let me go through each of the pieces for you.
This is your standard logo design – the one you will use throughout most of your branded projects.
Alternate variations of your logo to use on elements where your full logo will no work.
This is your brand icon or symbol
This is your color palette. Stick with these colors and your branding will stay cohesive. When I began Little Owl I went with just purple and gray, over the last few years I’ve added light shades of purple.
Textures will help set your brand’s tone. They provide depth and dimension to your overall brand identity.
Use your fonts within every aspect of your branding – For Little Owl Design Century Gothic is the headline font for all my print media and Montserrat is the headline font for my website design because it’s a bit thicker. Raleway is the font I have chosen for all the paragraph texts.
A visual representation of your brand’s style
A written representation of your brand’s style – these words along with the mood board are the initial branding elements that help bring all your branding elements to life.
“When you look at a strong brand, you see a promise.”
Karri is the owner of Little Owl Design, a design firm located in Discovery Bay, CA. Little Owl Design specializes in graphic design (print and digital), logo design, branding, website design, and SEO management. To see a full list of services offered by Little Owl Design visit my services page.