THE BRAND AGE: #TenTopTips

This article was written for an industry publication, and so has been adapted, and can be applied to anybody with a small business.

Stamp your mark with existing and potential clients by branding your business…

We live in an age where it’s not just the huge companies that need to think about branding. If you work for yourself, or you are planning to take the plunge into self-employment, then it’s time you too thought about stamping your mark on the industry, so here are ten top tips to help you brand your business…

1 Mission Possible: If you write a mission statement you are expressing to yourself and to the universe what it is you are all about. What is your business ethos? What do you believe in? How do you want your business to be viewed? By answering questions like these you will soon have your perfect mission statement, and you can refer to it whenever you need to refocus your business direction. Many businesses use their mission statement as a basis for a tagline too. Ultimately, to know your business’s identity is the key to establishing your brand.

2 Aim and Target: Who is your business aimed at? Have you identified your target audience? Just like we act differently depending on whom we are speaking to, or dress according to different occasions, we must brand our business according to our target market. You can get an idea of what your target audience is by looking at your current client base: What percentage are male? Or female?  What age groups do they fit into? Are they employed? Students? Parents? What are their interests? You can even ask your existing customers to answer a feedback form, asking key questions that could help you with your business branding. Getting your target audience right means that you can aim your branding and business activity directly at them, which is truly valuable in any business. So always brand your business with your target market in mind… If your audience alters, then it may be a sign for you to alter your branding accordingly too.

3 Shady Business: Don’t underestimate the power of colour! Colour carries meaning, for example, red is synonymous with passion, anger, seduction, but it also symbolises strength, power, ambition and success, and remember there isn’t only one shade of red.  When it comes to your logo, online and offline branding, try choosing a colour you like, what does this colour say about your business? Does it reflect your mission statement? Would your audience like it? Garish bright shades can be off-putting in some industries, but you can still be bold and vibrant. Perhaps add a touch of brightness to a more sober overall palette. It is fun to experiment with colours, but ensure you don’t print business cards or brand your website unless you are 100% certain it is right for your business. It may seem like an obvious thing to advise – but it is a mistake I made myself in the past, and  I had a pack of unused business cards, which shortly after printing took a visit to the recycle trash. Write a list of words that will help you choose colours, and again, this is where your mission statement and target audience will help, think about the world of work or industry and your mind will soon be awash with colourful ideas to help brand your business: Perhaps: fresh, natural, whole, peace, balance, warmth, dynamic, strong, go-getting, and so on.

4 Make a stand: You must stand out from your competition, but only in a good way. If your brand is strong and true to your business ethos it will speak volumes. Try to avoid going over the top just because you think it will get you noticed. Remember to keep your audience in mind at all times. Be different by having a Unique Selling Point (USP), for example, maybe you are a massage therapist specialising in mother and baby massage in the holistic industry, so cater your branding to this audience and around your USP: your logo, website language, colours and marketing will all be catered towards mothers of babies or toddlers, and so you’ll instantly stand out from over massage practitioners, and for the right reasons. So what is it that you do differently from your direct competition? Find the difference and use it to help you brand your business, whatever the industry, and use this difference to shine amongst the crowd.

5 Be consistent: Consistency is so important with branding, so once you are sure about your colours, logos, overall message and ethos, then carry these through on your website, business cards, décor, attire, social networking and pretty much everything that is related to your business. Clients and customers like consistency, it makes them feel safe and that they can rely on your brand. By having your brand consistent and visible, your message is being reinforced to your clients and potential clients, and so it is also free advertising.

6 Choice logo: Whilst it is important to have a professional logo, don’t worry about spending a fortune on one. There are plenty of creative businesses that could design the logo of your dreams, make sure you use a company that has been personally recommended and one you know will not over charge you. Maybe you are a budding artist yourself, and want to design one by hand? Or perhaps you are skilled at using design programmes on the computer? If you have a friend, current client or colleague who is experienced or qualified in logo design, they may just help you out. Logos are very effective; some brands no longer need to write their names as their logos speak for themselves. The sports brand Nike is a great example of this with the curve tick.  This also shows that a logo does not have to be intricate to be effective. And if you like, your logo can be the name of your business, this works well if the name has a ring to it. You don’t need to have a logo, but ensure that if you do that you use it consistently, and if you don’t have a logo then don’t confuse your customers by using one only sometimes.

7 Commit online: This is vital nowadays and you’ll find we talk about websites and social networking a lot – it is because it is the way forward for marketing and is a great overall business tool – at little, or no expense. A website is the perfect platform to commit to your branding, so with that same thing in mind you must be sure that you are happy with it. If somebody has visited your shop, salon,place of work or used your services or bought your product, and shares or mentions it, then it is highly likely that people will check out your website at some point, and as far as branding goes this is the place to ensure it matches your ethos, aims at your target market, and follows through with your choice of logos and colours. You want any visitors to your website to instantly associate you and your overall business with what they see and read. Remember to be consistent!

8 Be Social: Told you… this little gem would come up again. Free online social networking is the perfect platform for you to extend your visual branding as well as your business ethos, so ensure you customise your pages with your logo, or in the colours of your branding, add your web address, and if you have a tag line or mission statement then share that too.

9 It’s a sign: This is an easy, instant and regular reminder to everybody that you send an email to, that you have strong consistent branding that you are committed to. Add your contact details, your web address and even your logo to the signature of your emails. Your email signature can be set up in the preferences on your web/email programme. This not only stamps your branding but it is another way to advertise or market yourself for free, so take advantage of it. BUT, avoid adding huge amounts of content that distracts from your web link and body of your email, and ensure that any atached j-pegs are small in size in order to avoid delays in sending and receiving large messages.

10 Join Forces: This is a good advertising, PR and marketing strategy, but it is also very good for your branding, as if you collaborate or affiliate with brands that have a similar ethos than you are strengthening your own brand and really stamping your place in your industry… Think about how you can join forces with like-minded brands, maybe you already have somebody in mind. You can run events together; promotional offers; appear on marketing material; or simply exchange links on web pages. A positive, feel-good way to affiliate your brand is to support a local charity.

This list is far from exhausted, but if you simply implement one to ten it will step you and your business into the brand age.

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