Pragmatic Branding – Small Business, Big Image

By Wendi Brophy

Branding Impacts Your Success

All businesses, great and small, start with an idea. From huge multinational conglomerates to your neighborhood pastry shop, somebody thought “Hey, This could actually work!”

Unfortunately, an idea is not enough to start a business. From investment to management know-how, there are thousands of ways a business can find success – or failure. One thing nearly all companies have in common is that they need to assert control about how the public perceives them.

This public perception can be swayed, directed, nourished, and influenced by your branding strategy. And your branding strategy can be used to help your business thrive by creating a professional image and growing with it.

Small Business, Big Image

It’s easy to think of branding as what large organizations need to actively develop. The truth is quite to the contrary – small businesses can make great use of branding. In fact, small businesses need to focus on creating and managing their image just as much as large corporations.

Creating a professional image doesn’t need to be complicated, it doesn’t need to cost a fortune, and you don’t need to own an about-to-go-public company. No matter what the size of your company, creating a professional image will instill customer confidence in your business.

Would you buy a service from a web site that didn’t appear to be professional? The answer is probably no. So, how can you create a professional image for your small company? How can you be pragmatic in your branding strategy, if, for example, you can’t afford to host focus groups, advertise in print publications or sponsor community events? You can be resourceful, both budget-wise and creatively.

Visual Branding Makes a Impact

Start off by developing a logo and slogan for your business that succinctly represents what you offer. Its purpose is to visually, quickly and memorably telegraph how your business is different from others, including the competition.

The look and feel of your logo, your visual representation, should reflect the qualities you want the public to associate with your organization and how it is positioned uniquely from other companies. Does your company appeal to a young, party-going market segment? Choose bold, bright colors and funky message. Trying to attract established business? Stay with corporate colors and a benefit message.
Creating a big image isn’t just about the graphics you choose, a slogan or tag line can repeatably send your message. Think of tag lines that convey what you want people to associate with your firm: “The name you can trust,” or “Your #1 Source.” Use a descriptive or emotional phrase that may not use these specific words, but communicates a sense of expertise, loyalty, benefit or trust.
To make your business stand out from others, first brainstorm about what your company represents or what people will experience while using your products or services. Craft a slogan that uniquely differentiates what your business offers.
Marketing Tip: Create a really compelling and useful combination by balancing the logo and tag line – make one emotionally appealing and the other more descriptive of your product or service.
Maintain continuity as you carry your theme into your web site, collateral and signage as well as in the new media marketing tools like an internet video commercial or webinar slide presentation. Innovative and effective tools are a way growing your brand image that others will see as integral to your corporate image.

Act The Part

You have created your logo, defined your slogan – what is next? To develop a brand, you need to follow through with good practices so your customer’s experience is aligned with your brand. From ensuring that work is done to the customer’s expectations every time, to making sure your employees maintain your standards, you will brand the company from within and it will reflect outwards.

All companies start small. Creating a brand now allows your company to evolve with it as you grow. As your company changes, your brand will adapt, but today’s core elements, such as commitments to product quality or customer satisfaction, will likely remain the same.

Mary W. Brophy is a writer, serial entrepreneur and creative force behind a new handbag trend – personalized logo bags. Her company, Bizz Bag, Inc., gives business people a fashionable way to flaunt their logos on handbags and shoulder bags. To see a savvy and innovative promotional product that creates brand staying power,