One of the most important components of a successful small business is an effective small business branding strategy. Yet, precious few small business owners consider it at the outset. Maybe that's why so many startups fail within the first three years.
Why is branding so important? Because it gives you a significant edge in an increasingly competitive business environment. Look, level playing fields are fine in football and baseball; but to succeed in business, you need to perch yourself on top of a hill where you'll always be visible to your market, and that no one else can climb. That's what branding can help you create.
Your business' brand consists of all that you promise your customers. It can either be a positive promise, or a negative one. Whichever it is depends entirely on how your customers and potential customers see you - not on how you choose to see yourself. An old maxim broadly attributed to retailer Marshall Field says:
"The customer is always right."
When it comes to branding and how your customers see you, that old saying is absolutely true.
Of course, your brand begins with a unique logo and other outward signs of your business like your website, promotional materials, product packaging, etc. These are must haves right from the beginning. But these outward signs can't create the impression your customers have of you. They simply act as triggers that recreate whatever impression the customer has of you, positive or negative. The real business branding begins with the interaction you have with customers and prospective customers.
Will you project an image of the bold innovator in your field? Or will you market yourself as the experienced, reliable source for an established product or service? You can't do both. Do you offer an expensive, high-quality product? Or is yours a low-cost option? You can't do both. The point is, clearly identify your niche, then create a customer experience that will make you the absolute best choice within that niche. How you create that experience for your customers will depend on your specific business and chosen market segment.
As you work to create and maintain your business brand, approach it as though your long-term success depends on it - because it very well may.