THE BLOG
04/28/2014 09:29 pm ET | Updated Jun 28, 2014

5 Things You Must Know About Branding Your Small Business

Years of experience helping small businesses develop and market engaging brands have taught me some valuable lessons about which strategies are most successful. Below I've gathered the top five tips you can use right now to make your small business brand distinct.

1. Know Your Audience

Marketing has evolved into a pull economy and brands must be more than a logo or a design. They have to build meaningful relationships with their customers. To do this you must know your audience, their needs and desires, and their struggles and challenges to progress. You must understand how and why they purchase, and the channels they use to interact with businesses like yours.

Within your wider audience is your niche -- those prospects who benefit the most from the services you offer. Tailor your brand and your marketing primarily to this niche rather than trying to appeal to everyone at once. As you expand into new markets you will add niches and craft targeted marketing for each. When you market with niches you can design value propositions with each target market in mind, addressing their distinct needs and triggers.

2. Know Yourself

Just how do you craft a brand that compels your audience? The answer to that lies in discovering and articulating your brand values -- that is, the passion and purpose behind your company. What inspired you to create the business? What value do you offer your customers?

Avoid superficial values or vague statements about profit and revenue. Your brand values should be earnest and enthusiastic declarations that reflect the winning qualities of a memorable brand. You might hold authenticity above all else, or strive to be the simplest solution to a common problem. Whatever business you're in you have something vital to offer your prospects. Focus on that as your reason for being and customers will take notice.

While some brands find their identity in fighting against something, avoid comparisons to the competition. Keep the conversation positive and focus on your brand values and your product's benefits, not what the competition doesn't do.

3. Communicate Effectively

First impressions set the standard for every future interaction. Start with authority and clarity and follow through with responsibility and superb customer service. How effectively you communicate about your product can have more impact on your success than the product itself. Even when a customer has a negative experience, with open and honest communication you have the opportunity to turn that person into a brand evangelist.

Treat all stakeholders with honesty and respect and the word will spread that you're a company to be trusted. Brands who invest time and energy into effective communication foster long term relationships with customers and generate immeasurable goodwill.

4. Design to Impress

Compelling brands are instantly recognizable. They have a style and design that is unique, that evokes emotion, and that is relevant to their niche market. Quality graphic design should be a part of every one of your marketing materials. Your website, logo, brochures, and emails should all be designed for maximum aesthetic appeal. Beauty and elegance exude professionalism and trigger feelings of comfort and reassurance which reinforces the value of your brand in the customer's mind.

Impressive design doesn't always mean graphics and animation. Typography, page layout, UX design, and design for readability are all important factors in an engaging and effective brand image. What's most important is to design to impress your niche.

5. Be Consistent

Chances are you know what a Pepsi tastes like. You can visualize an iPod, taste a Twinkie, recall the smell of your partner's favorite perfume or cologne.

One of the inherent values to a small business brand is that it's familiar. Without consistency businesses never have the opportunity to evolve into sustainable brands. Consistency builds trust, it breeds recognition, and in the long-term, consistency drives greater profits. Capitalize on your brand values, your impressive design, and your intimate understanding of your audience by delivering a consistently enjoyable brand experience. You will become known for more than just a product or service, but for invoking a particular feeling in your customers.

Every communication about your brand should articulate what is best and most compelling about you. By uniting research, design, and message consistency you can develop long-lasting and profitable relationships with your ideal prospects.

Your website is often the primary presentation of your product or service and one of the most important communication channels of your business. To learn more about how the principles of branding can interact with the essential components to your website, check out this article: "The 11 Essentials of a Successful Small Business Web Design."