9 Branding Tips For Small Businesses

Think branding is only for large multi-national corporations? Think again. Here are 9 easy tips you can use to grow your brand with your customers.

  1. The design of your logo really doesn’t matter. Would you choose MSN as your search engine over Google because of their logo? No, having a nice professional logo is great, but it very rarely increases sales. I’m all for a professional logo, but don’t think you need to spend a fortune on it. It’s more important to include your logo on every piece of communication. Put it on business cards, letterhead, envelopes, invoices, yellow page ads, building signage, newsletters, etc…

  2. Have a professional website. It’s not just good enough to just have a website, you must reflect your brand image. If your known as a top notch photographer, the last thing you want is a website designed 10 years ago. It doesn’t reflect well on you. Everyone, yes everyone, uses the web today to check references. If someone recommends your service, you can almost guarantee that they will go online to look for you. Your website design should be updated at least every two years to stay current.

  3. Blogs are good. Blogs help your business on multiple levels. First off, valuable content on a consistent basis will make you look like an expert. People are looking for experts, not apprentices. The software that powers blogs has multiple advantages. It’s very easy to publish. It’s a database driven environment where style is separate from content so you will not need to go back to your web design agency for every little change. And use of tags and sitemaps make basic search engine optimization easy. But the real reason blogs are great is that they enable conversation. Two-way dialog is much more valuable than a company that just dumps messaging and collateral on their customers.

  4. Blogs are good, but they’re just one tool. A blog should not be your sole marketing strategy. You should have a comprehensive multi-touch marketing plan to get your value proposition in front of your target audience. This can take many forms. You can launch a direct mail campaign, email campaign, host a webinar, sponsor a local event, attend a trade show, attend networking events, cold call prospects, win awards, etc… There are a thousand different ways for you to be noticed. You have to find the best combination of methods for your strategic goals. Data shows that people need to be exposed to a brand at least seven times before they buy. If you simply do one touch and stop, you’re wasting valuable budget dollars and probably wondering why your efforts are not successful.

  5. Prepare a one page corporate overview. This one pager will be vital as a leave behind when you meet a prospect. Use short sentences in short paragraphs – people like to read quickly. Also make it very conversational; it’s not a white paper. Your one page overview should include your value proposition, target audience benefits, previous audience experience and a mini-case study – and don’t forget your contact information.

  6. Participate in local business events. And by participate, I mean be on a committee. Just showing up at events is great, but you’re just a face in the crowd. Ask to be on one of the committees. Believe it or not, it’s as simple as just asking most of time. Groups are looking for volunteer help and it’s a great way to elevate your status and visibility among the entire organization.

  7. Do what you say you’re going to do. I know it may sound like common sense, but one of the primary drivers of brand loyalty is a consistent experience. If you say you’re going to have the photographs ready on a set day, be sure they are ready. Nothing leaves a bad taste in someone’s mouth like missed expectations. Positive experiences lead to good feelings which lead to telling their friends. But don’t forget that bad experiences spread much faster and are harder to overcome – if you get a chance at all.

  8. Stand for something. People latch on to something they can understand and appreciate. If you’re trying to be everything to everybody, chances are you’ll attract no one. If you think it’s too controversial to choose a niche, remember the power of being seen as an expert. Experts are not good at everything, they’re awesome at one thing. This allows you to better position yourself and charge more for your services. People seek out experts, not generalists.

  9. Realize that you’re not in control of your brand. That’s right, you only set the direction for your brand. Your actual brand image is determined by your audience. You can use these tips to ensure alignment between your desired brand image and your actual brand image in the minds of your customers. Branding isn’t a one shot deal, it’s an on-going juggling act of marketing, research and conversation. If you’re not tapping into those conversations with your audience, how do you know what their real impression of you is? How will you know how to address it? Brand growth comes from alignment. You have to ensure that your actions, stationary, website and marketing efforts put out the right image. But you cannot stop there; Those are pre-sales activities that get you noticed and hopefully bought. You also have to ensure that all actions and engagements during the sale and post-sale are positive and in line with your desired brand image. If your audience has a different view of you than you’d like, then you need help. And it’s probably best to bring in an outside perspective.
  10. BONUS TIP #10: Branding is as much about your people as anything else. Never forget that the best interactions come from one-on-one conversations between executives, employees, suppliers, and customers. Employees that want to help and do the best job possible go a long way.

Proper branding is critical to your long term success. A lot of people think of branding as logo development. But in reality, branding is managing the thoughts and feelings of your customers to ensure that you are what they desire. If your desired brand image isn’t what’s in the minds of your target audience, you’ve got to figure out where the gaps are and how to address them. And fixing those issues is hard work because the old adage still rings true – the customer is always right.

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Author: Nick Rice (19 Articles)

Nick Rice is a visionary accomplished marketing coach that works with successful service business owners who yearn to take their business to the next level yet struggle to attract more clients.Nick is the co-author of "The Age of Conversation", an Expert Blogger for Fast Company magazine, and authors an AdAge Power150 blog on the topic of marketing and branding.Download his free report, "7 Principles of Attracting More Clients," at www.nick-rice.com


  1. i do feel that small firms do need to get used to the idea of branding, because with the internet as something of a leveler, they would be passing up a great opportunity, if they didn’t seek to promote themselves using what current technology allows.

  2. Hi,

    “Do what you say you’re going to do.”

    IMO no truer words have ever been spoken. This will literally make or break your business. If you don’t follow up on your promises, forget about customer loyalty, repeat business, and referrals.

    Once you start taking your customers for granted and failing to follow through on promises, you will quickly lose credibility. It’s hard to recover from that.

    Keep in mind that customers simply want respect. Treat them well, and you’re golden.


  3. lee newham says:

    Your logo isn’t as important as your brand. Your logo is one element within your brand.

    Your brand is the interface with the consumer. How you business feels, is like to use, sounds, how your personel act, what you sell or the service you provide.

    Your brand is important.

    Even small businesses need to consider their branding as a whole and that includes your logo. Companies like logoworks.com create illustrations, not really logo’s. It’s vitally important that your designer/s concider how your visual identity is implemented. So consitant use of colour palettes, typefaces, layouts and a whole brand armoury are important. Your idenity should be more than just you logo stuck on everything!

    Your logo is often the first point of contact anyone will have with your company. If you want people to remember you, you want your promotions and advertising to be effective, if you want your products to get listings in supermarkets, if you want people to notice you then you HAVE to invest in design. It’s not expensive either.

    This is a quick check list for your identity.

    1. Is my logo/symbol distinctive and memorable. Ideally you can quickly draw it or is it easily describable?
    2. Is it emotive? Does it FEEL like my business. You don’t want something that looks cheap for a business selling expensive watches!
    3. Is it adaptable? Does my identity still look and feel like my identity when it’s large, small, B&W etc?
    4. How do all the other elements work? Ideally all the elements that visually represent your brand should feel like they are from the same family. From uniforms to signs to logo’s to business cards to the typeface you use on your brochure or website, the colours you use, shapes and the tone of voice for the language you use. Check out http://www.innocent.co.uk for a good example of this.

  4. I would strongly agree with these 10 steps. I would say the biggest step when starting up a small business is having a good looking logo, something that will catch the eye. One huge way to be able to put your logo out there is using pop up displays and Banners.

  5. LOL that 1st one is the reason why i hate marketing ppl — just kidding — okay maybe i’m a little serious about it

  6. Joanna Spilioti says:

    “Blogs are good, but they’re just one tool” I completely agree with you. Because I have to write blog everyday for my company, and I think only this way is not enough for our business.

  7. I enjoyed reading your post. However, I will say I think the logo is important. It doesn’t have to be a great logo, but it should be memorable..something easily recognizable and relevant to the business. I agree it doesn’t have to cost a lot.

    I completely agree with Tip #9 and your bonus Tip #10.

  8. Great tips for the small business owner, when branding feels BIG and overwhelming. Creating a business brand smartly is important.

  9. Great tips! I’m starting my own business as well. Branding is extremely important but it is much easier said than done. Finding the right branding tools, i.e. logo, taglines, etc takes alot of brainstorming to get right. However, once perfected, they become the foundation of the business and can help your business take-off!

  10. I Followed reading material an clause away snick Sir Tim Rice concluded at microscopic business sector stigmatization. He experiences a mailing list of 9 tips that constitute a circle of horse sense. We while business organization proprietors are not exclusively fashionable control of how we are branded….

  11. This is an excellent list. Consistent branding is critical to an organization’s success and can speak volumes. Thanks for posting!

  12. I know it’s an older post Nick, but it’s extremely relevant still today. We realized that the most important driving force out there is .. people.. as you outlined in your last tip. I was working with a company, and we went so far as to change our motto to “People First.” just because of that aspect. Great post. I’d say you should update it, but there isn’t much to add besides social media aspects.

  13. nurdianto says:

    Nice post,i like this..

  14. Learned a lot of new things from Smallbusinessbranding.com. The bonus tip #10 was really an incentive, realizing how important one-on-one conversation is! Liked it a lot, its been tweeted!

  15. Interesting article. I’ve always thought that the main thing was having a logo, but you’re right. It’s best to put your logo on print material and not so much on Websites (or at least don’t spend too much worrying about getting an expensive logo on your site like you mentioned)

  16. Branding is more than a logo or symbol. It’s as important on your website as it is on your business card. And it’s not ‘expensive’. That suggests it’s a luxury. It’s not. It’s an investment.

    Good branding (and there isn’t much of it out there being honest overall), is emotive, it’s recognizable and is the first point many have that communicates the values of your brand.

    Make sure you use a proper designer.
    Make sure you brief the designers properly.
    Make sure it focuses on what you want to communicate and make sure you don’t try to communicate too much.

    In short. KEEP IT SIMPLE.

    We have been trying to get the message across regarding design for shopfronts via the What If Project: whatifsydenham.wordpress.com

    It’s not easy. People think design is about pulling the wool over people eyes. It shouldn’t be. It should be about truth.

  17. Great, to the point article. Very well done compared to all the fluff out there.