Branding Tips for the Little Guy


Just because a multinational chain has the clout and budget to brand themselves through inescapable ad campaigns doesn’t mean that they hold the exclusive rights to good branding. On the contrary: paired with quality services and a good reputation, the small business owner can take control of their company’s identity, and craft an image that rivals even the most financially blessed competitor. Below are some tips to help you along the way.

1. Be consistent with your logo usage

Be consistent with your logo
You don’t need to have a six-figure communications budget in order to have a recognizable image — as long as you insist on high standards of consistency and professionalism. When launching or maintaining your company’s logo, no matter what it looks like, just make sure you use it consistently.

From business cards to billboards, your logo needs to remain uniform in its appearance, avoid accidental distortion or pixilation, and maintain the same colours. There’s more to it than that, of course, but the principle is this: your business can change shape, but your logo shouldn’t. The graphic designer who creates the logo for you will likely supply you with a helpful identity standards manual that will ensure that no matter where it goes, your logo remains a reliable ambassador.

2. Write well, and develop your company’s written voice

Write well
Good copy-writing and even better editing will save you from embarrassment, frustration, and tears. Beyond proper spelling and grammar (which should be givens), it’s vital to avoid using insider terminology and customer-unfriendly abbreviations when explaining your company’s services and products. Additionally, developing a voice and style for your company’s copy helps your customers understand what type of organization you are.

3. Teach your customers how to perceive you

Teach your customers how to perceive you
You’ve probably heard variations of the phrase, “You teach people how to treat you” — meaning that the way you behave teaches people what kind of respect you deserve (or don’t deserve.) Similarly, the visual identity of your company is giving people cues about how to perceive you.

What is your company’s look saying about your company right now? Is your website telling people you’re behind the times and disorganized? Is your fleet of decaled vehicles telling customers you’re efficient and coordinated? Are you seen as cheap and low-budget? Indulgent? Hiring a design studio to work with you on intentionally crafting your image is a helpful way to understand and control how you are being perceived.

4. You can’t always control perceptions

You can’t always control perceptions
Despite your best efforts to follow Rule Three, you can’t always control people’s perceptions of your business. In fact, it’s often a good thing to surrender control of your messaging to your customers, for two reasons: first of all, if a satisfied customer is doing the talking for you, it saves you time and money. Secondly, surrendering control saves you from experiencing “micro-manager’s meltdown” as you watch people misquote your message and misunderstand your brand.

When attempting to “control your perceptions” through your logo, website, ads, website and more, remember that you are merely making suggestions about your brand, not issuing decrees.

5. Communicate your image, not just your information

Not just information
Many small business owners are so focused on communicating “the facts” about their company and services, that they fail to pay attention to their delivery style. It might sound flaky to insist on placing priority on your image, but in reality, people won’t place much value on your message if your very essence appears sloppy and untrustworthy.

Any time you’re tempted to simply deliver a stream of facts, details and information about your company, consider taking a step back. It helps to consult with creative professionals to make sure you’re presenting the information in a way that is clear, easy to understand, and represents your business the best way possible.

Following these five simple, accessible tips on branding will help ensure that your company’s image remains a recognizable, respected presence in your community. As far as actually having a good business…well, that part’s in your hands.

  • Sahil Parikh

    Completely agree with you there. I would also like to add my two cents – . I think that ‘In creating a sustainable competitive differentiation, how you sell is more important than what you sell’. So i guess another formula could be Identify + Qualify + Propose + Close.

    From all my experience in business, i think its important for a company to find its ’sweet spot’ as well. To do all these things i also think that its very important to have certain processes in place.

    To do all this its important to MANAGE your business and marketing processes. i’ve been developing a solution to some of these problems related to processes – a project collaboration tool called Deskaway . A free version exists and an enterprise version is not too expensive either. The point is, if processes are in place then a company can easily focus on the finer aspects of one’s work (which is important for a small business to scale up).

    Project Collaboration tools such as Deskaway help not only for managing business processes but also marketing processes for small businesses and that’s primarily because (as you correctly pointed out) – one singular image has to be conveyed. By managing the communication that people send out in a more effective, collaborative manner, the business – at the end of the day emerges as the winner.