Man using a laptop to perform brand marketing

The Ultimate Guide to Brand Marketing for Small Businesses

Brand marketing is an essential part of any small business’s marketing strategy. However, some small business owners doubt branding’s importance for growing their companies.

Isn’t it enough to have better products and services than your competitors? Why do you need some cutesy logo and colors, too?

But brand marketing is so much more than decoration. Strategic branding wins customer loyalty and attracts new customers in the best way possible.

Here’s a quick illustration to show you what we mean:

Imagine you’re speed dating and meet two potential mates. One has impressive credentials but a boring personality. The other has less impressive credentials but a personality you adore. Who are you most likely to choose?

If you’re like most people, you want someone with a winning personality. Similarly, brand marketing shows off a company’s winning personality to make customers fall in love with it and buy from it again and again.

Does this sound like something you want for your business? In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about marketing your brand for ongoing success.

This guide features the following sections:

  • What is Brand Marketing?
  • Why is Brand Marketing Important?
  • How to Create an Effective Brand Strategy
  • The Essential Elements of Brand Design
  • The Importance of Brand Management

What is Brand Marketing?

Brand marketing is the act of strategically communicating a company’s identity to a target audience. It involves determining what a business is or aspires to be and then creatively portraying it in a way that appeals to consumers.

A company conveys who it is with several different materials, which make up its brand identity. These materials include a company’s story, mission and vision statements, core values, logos, typography, colors and more.

As you can see, a great brand goes far beyond a logo. The logo is like the “face” of a business, but a company’s brand identity is the substance that a logo represents. Therefore, the branding you choose for your organization needs to go deeper than an impressive-looking logo. Instead, your logo needs to accurately reflect who you are and why your customers love you.

But creating impressive branding is only half the battle for a small business. You also need to have a plan for incorporating your brand identity into all your promotional materials. This is the marketing half of the brand marketing equation.

Effectively marketing a brand involves keeping your messaging consistent across all channels, including your website, print materials, blog, email newsletters and more. You can do this by creating a brand standards document and sharing it with your entire company. This way everyone can be on the same page about how to present your company to the public.

We’ll go over how to do all of this in the sections below.

Why is Brand Marketing Important?

Creating and marketing a brand identity requires a lot of work, but the many benefits are more than worth the effort. A carefully crafted brand not only impresses potential customers. It also wins their ongoing support and improves how a company operates.

Let’s break down what high-quality brand marketing will mean for your company in more detail. Here are just some of the many benefits you can expect to enjoy:

Increased Brand Awareness

People need to be aware of your company to buy from you. This may seem obvious. Nevertheless, many business owners don’t realize how much more aware people could be of their companies with better branding.

These days the difference between people becoming aware of your brand and remaining unaware is a brief first impression. It takes only seven seconds on average for a person to form an impression of a brand. If your brand doesn’t speak to them at that moment, then they likely won’t give you a second thought. This is especially true for web surfers and people scrolling through social media feeds because the Internet has shrunk our attention spans.

Therefore, it’s essential to carefully craft your brand so it not only looks striking but also speaks directly to your customer’s needs. In this way, you’ll hook them and leave a lasting impression as they start down the road to becoming customers.

Greater Customer Trust and Loyalty

Well-executed brand marketing makes people view your business as the most reliable option in your industry. It accomplishes this by associating your company with a narrative that resonates with your customers.

According to recent research, 81% of people need to trust a brand to do what is right before they purchase from it. A good brand tells your customers you do things the right way every time. They are more likely to buy from you and become recurring customers as a result.

A Leg Up on Your Competitors

An effective brand marketing strategy also sets your business apart as superior to your competitors. Your brand needs to be unique and speak more directly to your target customers’ situation than your competitors’ brands do. Brand marketers accomplish this by thoroughly researching the brand strategies of their competition and then crafting their brand to tell a different and more compelling story.

An orange figure stands out from a crowd of blue figures
Your brand will get you noticed by setting you apart from your competitors.

Customer Engagement and Evangelism

Do you wish your company could “go viral” as you’ve seen other businesses do? We’re talking about getting hundreds of comments and shares on social media posts and getting discovered by more people as a result. Businesses typically attract this kind of rabid fandom when they have compelling brand identities.

When people buy into the story your brand tells, they’re more likely to engage with the efforts you make to gain publicity. For example, they will be more excited when you release a new product because they believe in what you’re doing. They will also be more likely to “evangelize,” or recommend your company, to their friends. And people are especially likely to try a new company if it’s recommended to them by someone they trust.

Better Internal Company Culture

No one wants to work for a company whose values don’t align with their own. Fortunately, a good brand gives employees something to strive for. They’ll aim to uphold the brand’s values, personality and reputation because they believe in what you’re doing.

A small business brand that inspires employees also helps increase brand awareness. If your brand is known for having a good work environment, then the word will spread fast!

Improve Your Profit Margins

When memorable branding is combined with high-quality products or services it gains a company positive brand equity. Brand equity refers to the monetary value a company reaps from its brand marketing efforts. Put simply, when people recognize your brand as valuable and dependable, they’re more willing to pay higher prices for your products and services. Your company can have greater profit margins as a result.

Become a Force for Good in the World

Of course, money isn’t everything. Many small businesses also want to make a positive difference in their communities. Brand marketing can help make that happen!

What values do you wish were more popular in society? Why not make those values part of your company’s public-facing brand identity? This way your company can be the change you’d like to see in the world!

Of course, it’s one thing to brand your organization as virtuous, but your brand identity must go beyond virtue signaling. Make sure you live out the values you promote with your brand in the day-to-day operations of your company. Some ways to do this include making volunteering part of your company culture or donating a certain portion of your profits to charity. In these ways, your brand can be a force for good in the world.

How to Create an Effective Brand Strategy

You’re probably excited to create an amazing new brand identity for your company. However, it’s not a good idea to jump in and start choosing colors and imagery too quickly. The best brand marketing results from taking a step back and strategizing before creating any brand assets.

A brand strategy outlines what you want to accomplish with your brand and how you will do it. The best brand strategies take competitor and audience research into account and include a roadmap of how to promote the brand on various marketing channels.

Follow the steps below to start crafting your brand strategy.

Step 1: Do Competitor and Audience Research

You can’t bury your head in the sand and expect to have a successful brand. Rather, you need to know what your competitors are doing to ensure your brand stands out from theirs. You also need to have a good understanding of who your target customers are to make your brand appealing to them.

Therefore, performing competitor and audience research is an essential first step to forming a brand strategy.

How to Do Competitor Research

Competitor research involves picking a few of your top competitors and auditing their branded marketing materials, including their website, blog posts and social media pages. Answer the following questions for each competitor as you do:

  • What customer needs do they focus on?
  • What stories do they tell to appeal to their customers?
  • Which colors, imagery and fonts do they use?
  • How would you describe the brand’s personality?
  • Which marketing channels do they use (and not use) to promote their brand?

Answering questions like these will inform you of the space already occupied by your competition. Your task is to brainstorm ways to set your brand apart from your competitors. Think about what stories your competitors aren’t telling and the marketing opportunities they aren’t taking advantage of and then fill that void with your brand.

How to Do Audience Research

The goal of target audience research is to paint a detailed picture of the people you’re trying to appeal to with your brand. These details should include things like the demographics, locations, attitudes and interests of your target audience.

You can find the demographic and location data for your audience with website and social media analytics tools. For example, at Frontier Marketing, we often use Google Analytics to examine the gender, age and location data of the people visiting our website. We also use Facebook data to determine things like the average age and most common locations of our followers.

Beyond general demographic data, it’s essential to know your target audience’s psychographics. Psychographics are the attitudes, values, interests, lifestyle choices, behaviors, goals and challenges most often shared by your audience.

You can collect psychographic data in a couple of ways: 1) Interview your sales team and ask them what common traits they see your customers exhibiting. 2) Read the comments and reviews you and your top competitors receive on social media and note any common themes you notice.

Once you’ve spent some time researching your audience, make a short summary statement about who your target customer is. This statement should describe your customer using the most important demographic and psychographic traits that define him or her. It’s a lot easier to brand your company when you know who you’re branding it for.

Step 2: Create SMART Goals for Your Brand

What do you hope to accomplish with this brand redesign? You need to have specific goals you want to accomplish; otherwise, you will have a hard time discerning whether your brand strategy worked or not.

For this reason, we recommend writing SMART goals for what you’d like to accomplish with your new branding. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based. SMART goals provide detailed parameters for what success looks like.

Each SMART goal you write should contain the following sections:

  • Specific – Describe in detail what you will accomplish with your brand strategy.
  • Measurable – Define the metrics you will use to measure whether this goal is successful.
  • Achievable – Make sure your goal is realistic and you have the resources to achieve it.
  • Relevant – Explain why this brand redesign is essential for your company right now.
  • Time-Based – Set a realistic deadline for when you would like to achieve this goal.
  • Summary – Write a 2-3 sentence overview of your SMART goal.

Some examples of SMART goals you could set for your brand include increased website traffic, more positive online reviews or better customer retention. Whatever you’d like to improve, make sure you’re specific about it, so you’ll know if your brand strategy was successful.

A notepad with “Goals” written on top of it
Take time to write goals for your brand before you start designing it.

Step 3: Determine Which Marketing Channels You Will Use

Your brand identity needs to be consistent across all marketing channels. After all, most customers typically interact with a brand across multiple channels. So, if your brand identity on your website differs from your social media pages, then your customers may get frustrated and lose respect for your company.

Therefore, your brand strategy should include plans for how you will update all your marketing collateral. For example, you will likely need to redesign your website, update your email marketing templates and change the profile pictures and cover photos on your social media pages. So, make sure you take everything into account so that your brand redesign will be a unified effort for your company.

Step 4: Set a Timeline for Your Brand Redesign

Your brand strategy must also include a coordinated timeline for rolling out your new branding. The new brand should show up in all your marketing materials at the same time to maintain a positive public impression. Otherwise, a staggered rollout could alienate potential customers.

For example, let’s say you’re so excited about your new branding that you print a bunch of brochures and hand them out before your website redesign is complete. The brochures look great, but when people go to your website, they find your old stale branding still there. This disunity makes your company look unprofessional and costs you potential customers.

A coordinated timeline will ensure this doesn’t happen by accounting for everything you need to complete before publicizing your new brand.

The Essential Elements of Brand Design

Of course, the most important part of a brand strategy is the brand itself. So, let’s look at how to design a successful new brand identity for your business!

Your brand identity should have several components, including:

  • Company story
  • Mission and vision statements
  • Core values
  • Brand tone and voice guide
  • Professional logo
  • Standardized typography and colors

We’ll take a closer look at how to create each of these below.

Start with Your Company’s Story

Your brand needs to tell a compelling story to inspire people to buy from you. University research shows that stories are much more persuasive than facts and figures alone. Therefore, you need to root your company’s brand identity in a story that appeals to your target audience and distinguishes you from your competitors.

How do you craft a powerful brand story that will win you loyal customers? We recommend answering the following questions:

  • Why did you start your company?
  • Which problems in your industry did you hope to correct?
  • What problems do you help your customers overcome with your products and services?
  • What challenges has your company had to overcome since your founding, and how have you grown?
  • How are the solutions your company provides better than the solutions your customers could find anywhere else?

Take the answers to these questions and write a short story about why your company exists. Make your target customer the main character of this story and paint a clear picture of how you make your customers’ lives better. Keep the story short and memorable so that your whole team can memorize it and tell it to potential customers.

Craft Mission and Vision Statements

We also recommend creating mission and vision statements to go along with your brand story. These short statements tell potential customers what your brand is doing and where it’s going.

A mission statement describes what a company strives to do every day to improve the lives of its customers. A vision statement describes the end goals of an organization’s work—or what happens for your customers when you’re successful in your mission.

Try to keep your mission and vision statements concise (1-3 sentences at most) and avoid using complex jargon in them. And make sure they work in tandem with your brand story. Your story explains why your brand exists, and your mission and vision statements tell how you’re living out that story.

Determine Your Core Values

Based on your story, mission and vision, create a list of 3-4 core values that you see as central to who your brand is. Which principles are nonnegotiable for making your business the best it can be? How does your valuing of those traits make a positive difference in your customers’ lives? Write down your core values along with short explanations of each.

Writing your story, mission, vision and core values will give you a good idea of your company’s personality. Use the insights you gain from crafting these marketing materials to create the following outward-facing elements of your brand.

Stack of blocks with core values written on them
List the core values that will define your brand identity.

Create a Brand Tone and Voice Guide

How would a brand with your story, mission, vision and core values sound? That’s the central question to consider as you create a brand tone and voice guide. The purpose of this guide is to help you standardize the style of language your company uses in all its marketing materials.

The first step to creating a brand tone and voice guide is to brainstorm the characteristics that make the most sense for your brand. Should your brand be quiet and reserved or loud and bold? Will you be laid back and colloquial or buttoned up and professional? Work with your team to come up with a list of the 3-4 descriptors you want for your tone and voice.

Next, put together a chart explaining these characteristics and how you will use them in your marketing. You can learn more about how to make a brand tone and voice guide here.

Develop a Professional Logo Design

Your logo should accurately symbolize your company’s personality and purpose. Moreover, it needs to stand out from your competitors’ logos and appeal to the taste preferences of your customers. Therefore, it’s essential to let the insights from your research and the branded materials you’ve created so far inform your logo design.

Here are some other principles to keep in mind as you create your logo:

  • Keep your logo easily recognizable with imagery that reflects your industry.
  • Design your logo based on current trends and don’t be afraid to update it as trends change.
  • Keep your logo simple by using no more than three colors and remembering that less is more.

You can learn more about how to create a brand logo here.

Standardize Your Typography and Colors

The fonts and colors you use in your marketing materials also need to reflect your brand identity. Don’t let your team members use whatever colors and fonts they feel like on social graphics and email templates because this will make your company look unprofessional and sloppy. Instead, determine which fonts and colors you will use and stick to them.

The best way to choose the fonts for your brand is to look around at the fonts other companies use for inspiration. Limit the fonts you select to 2-3 at most because any more than that will make your brand look disorganized. Look for fonts that embody the characteristics of your company and mix and match fonts that contrast nicely with each other.

The brand colors you choose need to be appropriate for your industry and the products or services you sell. You can get a feel for this by researching the colors companies in your industry most often use. You don’t want to copy the color schemes of other companies so that you don’t stand out. But you want to avoid choosing colors that clash with your brand identity.

You should also keep the preferences of your target audience in mind when choosing colors. For example, studies show that men prefer bolder colors and women prefer softer colors. So, if your audience is predominantly one gender, then that should sway the hues you choose.

Make sure your entire team is on the same page about the typography and color schemes you choose by creating a brand standards document. This document should include the specific colors and fonts you will use when marketing your brand. Hand this document out to your whole team to ensure your brand will look the same across all marketing materials.

Document with colors and fonts for a brand
A brand standards document includes color and font information like this.

The Importance of Brand Management

One of the keys to excellent brand marketing is ongoing brand management. What’s brand management? It’s the act of regularly monitoring all your marketing channels to ensure you are accurately and consistently portraying your brand. Brand management is important because it’s easy for things to start slipping through the cracks if you’re not careful.

One crucial type of brand management is responding to all comments and reviews on channels like Google and Facebook. Replying to every customer message shows you care about your customers. It’s also a good opportunity to reinforce your brand identity by using your tone and voice guidelines to write your response. Remember to always be professional and courteous even when responding to a negative review because doing so reflects positively on your brand.

Another part of brand management is evaluating your brand and deciding when it needs a refresh. Do this by seeking feedback from your customers and team members about your brand. Survey your customers to see if they find your story, mission and vision compelling and if they like your logo and colors. Ask your sales team if they feel your brand is helping or hurting as they market your products and services.

Ultimately, trust your instincts about refreshing your brand. If you look around and your competitors’ brand identities impress you more than yours, then it’s time for a makeover!

Need Help from Expert Brand Designers?

We hope this guide has helped you understand the components of great brand marketing. Successfully branding a company requires thorough research, setting goals and careful planning. You then need to design a compelling brand story, voice and visuals to market your brand. This process requires a lot of work, but it’s worth it for the lasting benefits it yields.

Do you want an amazing new brand identity for your business but don’t have the time and resources to create it? Our branding agency is here to help! At Frontier Marketing, our team of professional brand designers develops custom brand marketing strategies for small businesses all the time. It would be our pleasure to create a brand identity that perfectly suits your company.

Want to learn more about our branding services? Please call (847) 254-0837 to schedule a free consultation or click below to learn about how our graphic designers create professional branding. Our company is in Fox Lake, IL, but serves companies throughout the Chicago region and beyond.

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