How to Build a Brand for Your Small Business

05/25/2015 09:15 am ET | Updated May 25, 2016

When it comes to your business, how do you figure out what your brand will be? Businesses should always know how people would recognize their business by developing a clear brand. Is it really just about your logo? No! Your brand is the first thing that someone thinks of when they hear the name of your company. It's your core values, your packaging, your specialty, even the person who answers the phone at your office. This article will help you decide how to build your brand for your small business.

Companies that often come to mind when you're thinking about successful branding include Coca Cola, Starbucks, Ford, and Nike. Each of these has strong visual colors and logos, and their products are easily identifiable to the consumer. Looking at these examples, you can start to think about how you want people to perceive your business.

Start Early in Your Planning:

You'll want to develop your brand at least seven months before you start your business. Keep in mind that building a brand is not simply creating a logo (although the logo is part of the process). Let's look at the fundamentals of defining your company's brand.

Think of Branding as Core Values:

Your brand includes your company, products, and services. It's helpful to think of branding as living with a set of consistent values. What does your business stand for? What are the values you hold? How do you want customers to think about your company? All of those values go into creating your brand or identity, and are then represented visually in your company materials.

What is Your Visual Brand:

You'll want to define the look of your company by picking the right colors that represent your ideals. Keep in mind that different colors cause varying physiological reactions, so make sure you know what emotions you want to invoke. Give some thought about how you will create a look for business cards, letterhead, envelopes, folders, signage, and other corporate branding materials. All of these should have a consistent logo and tag line.

Don't Be Afraid to Get Expert Advice:

When it comes to developing your brand identity, there are two schools of thought. You can hire a firm to help you name and brand yourself, or you can pull together your kitchen cabinet of advisors and few close friends willing to work for food, and have a good old brainstorming session.

Be Consistent Across All Platforms:

If your business will have a presence on various online platforms and social networks, it's important to have consistent branding across all of those channels. For example, you should have your logo on all your materials and sites, but you may need to resize that image or make some modifications between Facebook and Pinterest. At the same time, you'll want to tailor your message to fit the culture of each platform and how the people reading it will use it.

For example, a Facebook follower may read your social network postings for information for discounts and coupons; whereas an email subscriber might want to know about new products being released. So the messages should be tailored to the platform, but the tone and brand should be similar. 

Once you've defined your brand, start creating the marketing essentials and collateral that reinforce that message. These include your logo, social media platforms, stationery and envelopes, business cards, and website graphics. Consider working with a designer to help you create these looks.

Know Your Target Audience:

The ultimate goal of branding is getting your target market to see you as the only one that provides a solution to their problem. Just like you did when creating your marketing plan, developing a credible brand requires knowing your target audience, what they want, and what they will respond to when it comes to sales. This is not something that happens overnight. It takes time to win your customers' trust and time to communicate clearly to them the character of your business.

A key tip that you need to know is that anyone can go out and sell something or decide to start a new business, but it takes a special kind of person to set himself or herself apart and build a memorable brand. It's the people who take the time to build a brand who have the best chances for being successful in their small business.

This article was originally published under the title How to Define Your Small Business Brand at

Melinda F. Emerson, SmallBizLady  is America's #1 small business expert. She is an author, speaker and small business coach whose areas of expertise include small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. She writes a weekly column for the New York Times, publishes a resource blog, which is syndicated through The Huffington Post. She also hosts a weekly talk show on Twitter called #SmallBizChat for small business owners. As a brand, she reaches 1.5 million entrepreneurs a week on the internet. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. Forbes Magazine named Melinda Emerson one of the #1 Woman for Entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. Melinda has been featured on MSNBC, Fox News, NBC Nightly News and in Fortune, The Washington Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Black Enterprise. She is the bestselling author of "Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works," and the ebook How to Become a Social Media Ninja; 101 Ways to Dominate Your Competition Online.