Clever branding tips for SMEs

John Cradden outlines 8 ways an SME can build up its brand.

John Cradden outlines 8 ways an SME business can invest in its brand.

When thinking about budgets, SMEs can overlook the importance of investing in brand-building. Branding is just as important for small businesses as it is for larger firms, if not more. A powerful brand will help reinforce your relationship with your customers and will keep your products or services in their minds, winning their loyalty.

“It’s the art of differentiating your business to connect emotionally with your target audience so that they become more loyal over time”

Here are eight tips to successfully build your small business brand.

1 Understand branding

Many business owners know they need branding but may not quite understand how branding works or how it differs from marketing. Some might think brand-building is irrelevant for a their business, while for others, it can seem like a woolly concept, not grounded in solid commercials or hard measures.

Some people think of logos, slogans or other recognisable symbols when they think about branding, but that’s more to do with promoting your business, which is the job of marketing.

But it’s true that branding is an intangible concept, but it’s one that helps people identify a company or product. It aims to shape how your business is perceived in the unconscious mind of the potential customer or client.

In the words of SME marketing expert Síodhna McGowan: “Branding is about creating a shorthand or code for consumers and prospects so they don’t need to read the small print. It’s the art of differentiating your business to connect emotionally with your target audience so that they become more loyal over time.”

A successful brand will prompt customers think about you when they need a product or service, and also recommend you to others.

2 Define your brand

One of the first steps in building a successful brand is to define what exactly your product or service is offering to potential customers. 

Clearly define your offering and the demand for it in the marketplace.  Identify what exactly sets your business apart from others and look at what differentiates you in the market. 

3 Identify and get to know your ideal customer

It’s understandable that a business, particularly in its early stages, might indiscriminately focus on any customer that comes their way. But identifying your ideal customer is crucial to your business because it will allow you to direct your brand-building resources more precisely and avoid wasting them on unprofitable customers.

Part of this effort could include building customer personas based on the information you have on customers that you can see are a good fit for your business.

4 Shout about your closer connection to customers

Many large businesses will spend a lot of money on initiatives aimed at listening to their target customers and finding out more about them and what they need. But small businesses are often much closer to their customers, so they don’t need the same level of investment to nurture that proximity. Your brand should represent this at every single point of interaction with your customers. Indeed, brand positioning for SMEs can be achieved much more through the interactions with your customers than a clever tag-line or a recent ad campaign – and on a much smaller budget. From the way your phone is answered, how goods are delivered, how you speak to and treat your customers, or how complaints are handled. Even how invoices are paid. Branding can be the sum of all the contacts with your business.

5 Train employees about your brand

You’ve a small business and probably a small team but it’s vital that they too embody some of the feelings that you have for the business. Make sure everyone on your team understands what your brand represents and train them to interact with your customers in a way that promotes and protects that brand.

6 Create and tell your brand ‘story’

Smaller brands often have great stories about how and why they came into existence, what they’re passionate about or the company culture, and this is something you can work into your branding strategy.  It’s a great way to humanise your business, give it some personality and build an emotional connection to your customers, harnessing their interest in the long-term.

7 Build brand advocates

If you have happy customers, they can be your most willing advocates. Word of mouth has always been the most powerful way to advertise your business, but you can also help them spread the word through social media by making it easy for them to find you and building a strong profile.

8 Build brand consistency

One of the things you might notice about large brands is that they appear consistent over time and across all media, communicating the same key elements. The rationale for this is that it builds trust with customers. It can be easier to keep a brand consistent for an SME. Make sure that everything from your logo to letterhead to website, videos, messaging, language and imagery used follows the same brand guidelines you’ve set for your business.

John Cradden
John Cradden is an experienced business and personal finance journalist and financial wellbeing content designer.