Developing your brand is a critical part of establishing and growing your small business presence. Branding is the voice, the identity, of your organization. It is how your business is perceived in the eyes of the world. It is how you convey your values and personality to engage your audience and spread awareness of your business. Having a strong brand is part of what ensures your business becomes a local institution instead of fading into obscurity.
However, many small business owners are under the impression that brand development is expensive. That it requires hiring marketing consultants, graphic designers, and website developers to get your brand off the ground.
But this isn’t necessarily the case.
These days there are numerous resources, tools, and platforms available to help you bootstrap the process. With time and creativity, you can effectively brand your business without spending a ton of money.
So, let’s dive into five ways for building your brand on a budget.
Start With Market Research
The key to creating a strong brand is knowing your audience — their needs, goals, interests, and behaviors. Understanding what motivates your audience allows you to develop a compelling, effective brand that will resonate with the right people.
Large companies often hire branding consultants to do market research for them. But you can eliminate this expense by doing your own homework using tools from across the web. For example:
- Census Business Builder (CBB) offers a suite of services that provides tailored demographic and economic data to help understand the business landscape in your locality or region.
- Sites like Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Google Trends are great for social listening.
- You can also use platforms like SurveyMonkey and KeySurvey to gain consumer-driven insights and test your ideas.
- Meanwhile, tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or Keywords Everywhere can help you pin down what your target audience is searching for online.
Use this information to construct buyer personas — semi-fictional representations outlining the values, challenges, and characteristics of your ideal customer. You’ll also want to include what types of content they consume and where they “live” online (such as Facebook, Nextdoor, YouTube, etc). Combined, this will help you understand how you can relate to potential customers and create a brand that fits into their lives.
Choose Your Business Name Carefully
When choosing your business name, it must be something memorable and distinctive. However, as any business owner can tell you, this is easier said than done.
As you brainstorm names, think of words that will mean something to your customers and convey a sense of what you do. From a branding perspective, you also want something that will stand out in visual formats — on signs, as social thumbnails, etc. The goal is to find something that will help people remember who you are (both auditory and visually) and reflects your business vision.
You will also need to check that your potential business name isn’t already taken. A quick way to do this is doing a Google Search of the name, plus the state (for example “Surefire Local Virginia”) or using a tool like National Corporation Directory. However, just because a name doesn’t show up on a search, doesn’t guarantee that it is available. Once you have a short list of prospective names, make sure to confirm their availability with your state and local governments.
Most of the time, small businesses don’t need to register with the federal government, but if you want to trademark your business, brand, or product name, you’ll also need to file with the United States Patent and Trademark office.
Develop a Strong Brand Foundation
There are three major components of your brand: brand identity, brand image, and brand voice.
- Brand identity is the collection of visual elements that makes your business instantly recognizable to your customers.
- Brand image is the mix of beliefs, ideas, and impressions that people associate with your business.
- Brand voice is the tone you use in your content and when communicating with people (i.e. formal, informal, optimistic, soothing, direct, encouraging, etc).
You need to have a strong foundation (often called a brand strategy) to build a successful brand identity, image, and voice. In many ways, building a brand foundation is similar to building a good customer persona — but instead of answering questions about your customers, you’re answering questions about yourself. For instance:
- What is your mission?
- What beliefs and values drive your company?
- If your brand was a person, what kind of personality would they have?
- How do you differentiate yourself from the competition?
- How do you want people to talk about you?
- If your brand was a person, how would they communicate?
Without taking the time to build a strong foundation, your branding efforts will fall flat. For example, you’ll have a hard time gaining traction or will attract the wrong type of customers.
Build a Consistent Visual Identity
Color plays a strong role in capturing people’s attention on an emotional level and rests at the heart of successful branding. Your brand color palette will be featured everywhere — on your website, social media, logo, business cards, uniforms, etc.
Selecting your brand’s color palette is more than picking colors you personally like. Rather, your color palette should reflect your brand’s personality and the feeling you are trying to create. Namely, are you serious, playful, timeless, innovative, wholesome, traditional, etc?
Don’t go overboard when picking colors — too many come across as disjointed and are more difficult (and expensive) to print. Rather, you want to create a consistent, streamlined palette of two to four colors that can be reproduced across print and web assets. You can use a free tool like coolers.co, which automatically generates coordinating palettes, to experiment with different ideas.
You will also need to select your brand fonts. Same as brand colors, these fonts will be used in all of your client-facing content — logos, business cards, your website, etc — so they should be appropriate for your audience and reflect your brand’s personality. To keep things visually consistent, you don’t want to use more than three different typefaces. An excellent free resource is Google Fonts. Just make sure that the fonts you choose are readable in both print and web formats.
Finally, your logo — the image, text, shape (or combination of all three) that represents the name and purpose of your business. It is what does most of the heavy lifting on brand identity.
Going to a branding agency for a logo is generally not economically feasible for a small business that is just getting started. Fortunately, that is not your only option. For instance, if you have any skills in graphic design, there are numerous free/low-cost programs you can use to bootstrap your logo design. For example, Vectr, Inkscape, or Canva.
Hiring a freelancer can be another affordable option for designing a professional logo on a budget. If you go this route, make sure to provide a thorough creative brief (i.e. a summary of your brand strategy, color palette, fonts, and aesthetic influences) and be in regular communication with the artist. When placing an order, make sure to require the following deliverables:
- A horizontal version of your logo for your website header.
- A square version for your social media profiles.
- A version of your logo with a transparent background.
- A full-color CMYK version for printing things like business cards, car decals, and signs.
- A single-color version for creating things like overlays, uniform embroidery/screen-printed shirts, and stamps.
Once you’ve developed your brand, you need to implement it everywhere. For example, your website and social media profiles should utilize your brand colors, graphics, and images. Your content, such as newsletters, website copy, and videos, should reflect your brand tone. The same goes for print materials like signage, brochures, and business cards. Also, don’t forget more subtle things like your email signature, invoices, or service vehicles. Essentially, any means of communication that a potential customer could see should feature your brand in some way. The goal is that you create a consistent experience, no matter where people encounter your brand on and offline.
Helping Small Businesses Succeed in Marketing
Building your brand on a budget is possible with time and attention. However, it does require keeping track of a lot of different assets. You also need a way to ensure your team can access the approved fonts, logos, images, etc, whenever they produce new content. This is where the Surefire Local Marketing Platform can help. Our industry-leading solutions help you effectively find, share, and organize all of your content and digital assets. You will be able to streamline the branding process and oversee all the content that is being produced for your business to ensure quality. Contact us today to book your free demo!