I’m a small business – why do I need a brand?
If you are a small firm or a sole trader, you could be forgiven for thinking that branding is not for you. “Big names spend money on branding, small companies just get on with the job” is a typical response when small businesses are asked about their brand activities. But this perception is wrong, as Rachel Miller writes
Even if you do “believe in branding”, it may come low on your to-do list after vital day-to-day tasks that keep your customers happy and keep revenue coming in. That’s understandable.
Why do small firms need a brand?
So how can I convince you that branding matters – whether you are a window cleaner, a solicitor or run a restaurant?
Perhaps the first thing to do is to tackle the wording. If you were to replace the word “branding” with “reputation” I might get your attention. You care about your reputation, right?
Well branding is all about the impression you make. If you want to succeed, that impression should do two jobs – it should convey what is special about your business and it should show you in a positive light.
Of course, many small businesses make a good impression most of the time without ever giving a thought to their brand. But think how much more successful you would be if you gave a good impression all of the time.
What I am advocating is that you think about the impression you want to make – your brand – and actively take steps to manage it.
There are two parts to this process. Firstly, you have to decide what you stand for – what your USPs are, who you are aiming at and how you want to position yourself. Then you need to make sure that all aspects of your business are in line with this.
It’s about applying your values to everything you do, clearly and consistently.
There are many small firms that have seen real financial benefits as a result of improving their brand. Fiona Humberstone, managing director of Flourish Studios, has worked with many one-man-bands and small businesses. “For instance, we’ve just worked with a plumber on his logo,” reveals Fiona. “He used it on some new business cards which he distributed in his area and immediately got three new jobs. We’ve also helped a management consultant with her branding. We redesigned her proposal document as well as providing a new logo and website. As a result, every proposal that she has made this year has been accepted – a 100% success rate.”
Mark McCulloch, founder of Brand Promise says, “You have a brand whether you like it or not. It’s best to embrace that and find the best way to connect your brand with your target audience.”
Mark worked with a company called Exhilaration some years ago that sold experience days out and was run by a husband and wife team that loved sky-diving. The business came to a crossroads when it had to develop its online presence.
“It was a tiny company with a tiny marketing spend,” says Mark. “The name was good – Exhilaration summed up what they did – but their communications were very dry and didn’t convey the excitement of what they were selling at all.”
Mark transformed the company’s literature and their website and injected the excitement that was missing. “Personality was everything, so we gave all the communications a new tone of voice,” he says. Not only did customers respond but suppliers and investors also sat up and took notice. The result? “Their turnover rose from £1 million to £3.5 million and they became second in the market,” Mark reveals. Exhilaration went on to be bought by Lastminute.com.
Creating the right impression
But if you don’t think branding is for you, you are not alone.
“Many small business owners I meet think that brands are something that only large companies need or can afford,” says Bryony Thomas of Clear Thought Consulting. “But your company name, the way you answer the phone, what your customers say when they’re asked about you – these things all build to create an impression of your company and what it’s like to do business with you – and that is your brand. So, you can either just let whatever impression you give happen haphazardly, or you can take control and manage it to your advantage.”
One small firm that has benefited by developing its brand is Gradwell, the Bath-based small business ISP. “I tended to pick marketing up on the rainy days, and then drop it again. I’d never really given it much focus,” reveals managing director, Peter Gradwell. “We had grown organically among tech enthusiasts, but knew that for major growth we’d need to appeal much more widely.”
Clear Thought undertook market research and discovered that Gradwell’s existing image was off-putting to less tech-savvy small business owners. A new brand identity addressed this.
“It was a really tough decision to spend money on something that wouldn’t directly generate leads. It was about building the foundations,” says Peter. “But, I’m absolutely sure that it was the right thing to do. It has had huge benefits across everything we do. To give a tangible example, we were approached by Hewlett-Packard to appear as a pretty high profile case study, and I’m sure they wouldn’t have shared a stage with us if we hadn’t looked as polished as we now do.”
It goes to show that your brand may be just as important to your relationships with partners and suppliers as it is to your customers. Take Best Years, a supplier of knitted toys to independent and high street retailers. ” Brand is extremely important to us,” says commercial director, Gaynor Humphrey. “We have worked hard to put a distance between ourselves and our price-driven competitors. A strong brand boosts traffic to our website. And if our brand values chime with the values of retailers they are more inclined to buy from us. Our foot is halfway through the door before they have even met us!”
Dee Blick, author of Powerful Marketing on a Shoestring Budget for Small Businesses, has worked with many small businesses on their branding. “Branding doesn’t take shed-loads of money. It takes passion and time and thought,” she says. But you neglect your brand at your peril, she warns. “Businesses don’t own their own brand, they are custodians of it. Perceptions can alter quickly. Brands are constantly evolving and they need a lot of tending.”
The message is clear. If you’ve got a business, then you’ve got a brand. What you do with it is up to you.these aspects, the smoother the design process will be.
Sidney Meet Up/Peninsula Chamber of Commerce – branding workshop series
Branding Workshop Series Proposal
Series for presentation to the members of Sidney MeetUP and the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.
Holy Cow is an award-winning, full-service communications agency providing brand strategy, communications planning, graphic design, marketing, web development and social media & digital expertise.
Holy Cow has partnered with many of our region’s most recognized and loved brands — including Island Farms, the Saanich Peninsula Hospital Foundation, Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre, the Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia, PenYoga, Knickerbocker’s, Mayfair Shopping Centre, Columbia Fuels, the Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility, and the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia.
Today, Holy Cow has grown to a staff of eight and offers services from a relaxed, friendly and professional oceanfront office.
Holy Cow Communication Design Inc.
301 – 2537 Beacon Avenue, Sidney BC V8L 1Y3
250 655 6597
Sidney Meet Up/Peninsula Chamber of Commerce – branding workshop series
Delivery and facilitation of a 4-part workshop series on branding. The objective of the series is to increase participants’ knowledge of branding and to empower business owners to develop branding
The goal is to deliver a workshop series in which participants gain the greatest benefit from attending all four sessions, with each session building on the last.
The sessions would also be designed to be accessible and valuable to participants who only attend once or twice.
Participants who attend all four sessions will be entered to win a FREE 2 hour, one-on-one brand strategy consulting session with Erin Brocklebank, Communications Strategist for Holy Cow Communication Design (value $250).
• 4 x 1.5hr sessions (February, April, June, September)
• Beverage and light snack will be served
Session 1, 2, & 3 (see below for full session outlines) will consist of a 45min presentation, followed by a 30min interactive exercise.
1. Branding: The Basics
Find out what branding is and why it’s important for your business to have a strong, recognizable and coherent brand. We’ll talk about how to create a consistent brand identity, expand brand experience and increase brand loyalty.
2. Your Brand I – From Reflection to Action Learn how to determine a baseline of what’s currently working and what’s not for your brand. Reflect on the challenges your own brand has faced and identify realistic room for growth. Each participant will leave with a completed brand mini-audit.
3. Your Brand II – Values, Promise and PersonalityIn this fun and interactive session, you’ll learn how to identify your business’s brand values, promise & attributes and leave with a map for your brand’s personality. Find out how to use compelling communications to tell your brand’s story.
4. Sharing Your Brand Story In this final session, participants are invited to share their brand story (outcomes of the work we’ve done together in our sessions and the 2 months since) and provide feedback to one another. We’ll end the series by discussing further ways to integrate the brand into overall business objectives.The last 15mins will be a discussion of the session with a focus on peer learning.
The final session will be 1hr 15mins of Closing remarks In this final session, participants are invited to share their brand story (outcomes of the work we’ve done together in our sessions and the 2 months since) and provide feedback to one another.
We’ll end the series by discussing further ways to integrate the brand into overall business objectives.
We are looking for 4 sponsors . Your logo and contact information will appear on all marketing material for all 4 sessions Cost $250.00
All 4 workshops $200.00 up front
Individual workshops $75.00 each
Location Catalina Grill, Sidney Industrial Park
Date Feb 26th 5:30