If there’s one thing I am sure of it is this: in the crowded market we all live in today, building a brand is the only way to grow a thriving business that earns consistent sales and lasts for years to come.
At one point, ‘brand’ was a word to describe the biggest players in the market – think Amazon and Sweaty Betty. But now it’s become the small business owner’s strongest weapon. Especially since society has shifted to up their role and opportunity in the market.
The societal shift.
Years ago, customer brand loyalty was strong. The big brands left nothing for small business owners and it was very tough to compete. People remained loyal and rarely changed their spending habits. But then the market changed.
Suddenly, people started becoming more aware of how they were living and questioned whether they were really getting the best value for their money and wanted to know about business values. Loyalties shifted and small business owners started coming into the spotlight.
From feeling doubtful about whether to invest in small companies, people became more open to having their minds changed and trying something new. They became more demanding. They wanted (and still want) an evermore personalised customer experience and are happy to shift their loyalties to get it. Now the small business owners, who set up with a few years behind them have a chance at attracting those who used to shop at established, international brands and winning.
Small business surge.
Now customers want to be involved in the business – they want to feel valued and that means showing them what goes on behind the scenes, coming out from behind your business, speaking with authenticity and asking and taking on client feedback.
What’s your story? Why do you care about your work? What are your values? These things all matter and actually give the small business owner the advantage over cold corporates.
It’s meant that there are real opportunities for small businesses to support each other and thrive. And as the wave grows, so more and more business owners are setting up and joining. According to the National Federation of Self Employed and Small Businesses, there were 5.5 million registered small businesses at the start of 2021 and SMEs account for three fifths of the employment and around half of the turnover in the UK private sector.
It means that the market is crowded, yes. But there is also huge opportunity. And building a brand is really going to help you to stand a head taller and build a business that lasts.
So, what is a brand?
Your brand is everything that your ideal clients believe about you. Based on the way that you share information, appear and speak to them, they will make a judgement about the kind of business you are and whether they do or do not want to invest in what you have to offer. If they are a client, they will also judge your brand based on their experience.
No brand can fully control the way their clients speak about them. However, you can greatly shape their thoughts and feelings by investing in your own branding – that doesn’t just mean your logo and colours. That means your copywriting and the way you behave online and offline too.
Why it’s better to build a brand than not have one at all.
There’s no doubt that, if you choose, you can set up a website with your products and services and launch straight away, without building a brand. In fact, I would say there is some value in doing this initially, to make sure that you’re happy with your target market.
However, pursuing a no-brand strategy for the long-term will be detrimental to your business growth.
When you don’t have a brand to expand your products and services into something more meaningful and supported by a story and values, they stand on their own – simply as products and services.
And they compete with all other similar brand-less products and services on the market. It’s a bit like the products on Amazon. Amazon sells commodities. The products themselves don’t really have a strong brand behind them and because of this, it’s all about the price. And cheapest usually wins.
In order to grow, you need to sell lots of your product cheaply, all the time.
But, if you build a brand, you’re building a promise. Your brand goes beyond your products and services – it's about your business and your relationship with your ideal clients. It’s about your story, why you want to help people and your values. There’s emotion in a brand and that emotion creates meaningful connections that are valuable when it comes to your bottom line.
Suddenly, that yoga mat isn’t a £19.99 commodity anymore, it’s a promise to help you get closer to living well while helping to save the planet. And that makes it worthy of more.
Commodities have a price, while brands have a value. And that’s the difference.
Brands can charge more in exchange for this promise. The evidence is shown in super-brands like Nike. Most people have Nike trainers and it’s not necessarily because they make the best trainers. Most of us don’t know what materials good trainers are made of. It’s because they promise you’ll be able to achieve more wearing them. And that’s the powerful feeling we all want when we’re working up a sweat in the gym.
More reasons brand is best.
The effect of building a brand takes time. It takes time to rank in the search engines and it takes time to build up your client work, your emails list and align your brand across channels.
But as you start to gain traction, you’ll see that your business growth increases.
When you build a brand, you become more consistent. You speak to the same groups of people again and again because you know the profile of your ideal clients to a T. You speak to them in the same way because you have an accurate brand voice. You appear the same every time you show up online or offline because you have your visual branding (colours and fonts) nailed. And you’re sharing the same messages again and again because you know your purpose inside-out, you live your values and you have a list of your three key messages pinned up on your wall.
You bring your brand to life. And the consistency creates brand recognition – people become more familiar with your brand, and they start to recognise your posts on social media before they’ve even seen your handle. This recognition builds trust. And trust will drive your sales. As you start to help your ideal clients, they might even tell their friends. And so, the cycle continues.
How to build a strong brand.
In order to build a strong brand you need to nail your BRAND MINING and BRAND MESSAGING.
While Brand Mining is all about digging deep into the essence of who you are and what you stand for as a business, Brand Messaging is all about expressing this in a way that attracts and engages your ideal clients.
It's important that your Brand Mining comes before your Brand Messaging as the latter will be informed by the former. The more connected and aligned your brand work, the tighter and more impactful your brand will be.
When to build your brand.
Building your brand is an investment and it is a huge piece of work, so it is a project that you need to take on when you are sure of your business ideas around what you want to achieve and why you want to set up. A brand consultant, like myself, will then help you to gain the clarity you need to move forwards.
That’s why, I always recommend that business owners do set up their business, create a quick website and get themselves out on the market to get the feel of it and make sure that what they have on paper really is what they want to pursue. For example, are your ideal clients really the people you want to work with or are you actually more interested in another group of people? Or, perhaps getting out there has helped you to realise you’re more interested in the service-side of your business than the product-side.
Once you’ve spent some time in the space and feel like you really are ready to make the push forward to start growing, then it’s time to contact someone who can help you build your own impactful brand.
Want regular copy and branding tips delivered straight to your inbox?