Top 5 Small Business Branding Mistakes

Branding. You’ve been hearing that word a lot lately. Strong brand. Weak brand. Personal brand. Do you even need a brand?

Yeah, you do. Because of one word: differentiation.

One of the reasons why branding is becoming such a buzzword now is that it is becoming harder and harder to differentiate between companies with similar products. Think about your local grocery store. As Bianca mentioned in the first episode of our new podcast, Sunbird Brand Bites, there are entire isles dedicated to one or two types of products. With so many companies out there making the same kinds of products, we become overwhelmed with choices. Quality and price are no longer enough to help customers make decisions. 

Customers crave an emotional connection; they want to feel like they’re doing something good by buying from you. You need someone to pick up your product in sea of competitors and say, “I like what this brand stands for, so I choose them.” This is where branding comes in. You need a strong brand with a clear message that resonates with consumers.

It’s great that companies are now realizing that they need to create powerful brands in order to attract customers. But with this surge in branding comes a whole bunch of businesses doing branding wrong. And doing branding poorly is almost worse than not focusing on branding at all.

Here are 5 common ways you might be doing branding wrong:

1. You don’t realize that you already have a brand.

Most first-time entrepreneurs are overwhelmed with the fact that they have to wear a lot of hats. They’re thinking about their finances, tech tools, all the legal aspects surrounding their business, etc. They’re not thinking about branding.

And yet, they still have a brand.

As Mara and Bianca explain in the podcast, the best way to think of your brand is as a person. People are always going to form opinions about you, whether you like it or not. That’s why you develop a reputation whether or not you’re trying to develop a reputation. In the same way, people form opinions of your brand all the time, whether or not you’re aware of it.

You can’t stop people from talking about your brand (and why would you want to?) , but you can affect how they talk about. That’s what branding is all about. Branding is your opportunity to consciously give people a reason to love and respect your business. 

Not thinking about your business’ reputation from early on is one of the biggest mistakes Mara and Bianca have seen among small business owners. 

2. You don’t put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

For both business and branding strategy, it’s extremely important to know who your customers are—how they think, what they want, what their backgrounds are. The best way to do this is to create Ideal Client profiles for your business. These are general profiles you keep (and continuously update) on your “perfect” customer. We explained the importance of Ideal Client profiles (and how to create your own!) in a previous blog post.

If you already know who your customers are, do you know exactly how they feel about every interaction with your business? It’s important to regularly take a step back and try to truly understand their perspective. Are they frustrated by your website? Do they respond well to your emails? What happens when they call you? 

What your customers most value is a good experience with your business. In fact, 86% of buyers would pay more for a better customer experience. Customer satisfaction creates repeat customers, which increases brand loyalty. Know how your customers would interact with your product, service, and business, so you can create a brand that gives them the best possible experience.

3. You are inconsistent in your message.

We Sunbirds are constantly preaching the importance of consistency! The more consistent you can be in the look you have, the language you use, and the promises you make, the more attractive your audience will find you. But when you don’t present your message consistently, you risk looking unprofessional and untrustworthy to your audience. 

As far as visual consistency goes, the best way to make sure you’re always at the top of your game is to have a Style Guide for your business. A Style Guide is a document that tells you, and anyone else in your company, how to present your brand to the world's eyes. We broke down everything you need to know about Style Guides in a previous blog post

What’s important to keep consistent and what’s less important? A good rule of thumb is to make sure you’re always practicing what you preach. Don’t contradict yourself. Make sure you keep your promises. Don’t say you hate cats on Twitter, and then post selfies of you cuddling up with your adorable kitty on Instagram. If you want your potential customers to trust your business, avoid confusing them at all costs.

4. You try to be like everyone else.

Blending in defeats the purpose of branding in the first place! The whole reason branding has become so popular recently is because of the need for differentiation. If you become a copycat of your competitor, you are doing the opposite of differentiating yourself.

We’ve all heard that famous quote by Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

The best brand is a genuine brand. People respond when you’re authentic, so your story and how you tell it needs to be your own.

5. You forget that building a brand is fun!

In the first podcast episode, Bianca expresses how fun it can be to get in tune with your identity. When you start to be introspective and reflective about who you are, you can actually be energized by the results!

There’s a lot of relief in clarity. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of saying with confidence, “I know exactly who we are as a business and what we stand for.” Once you understand your business’s brand identity, it also helps you understand the decisions you make regarding your business. Now you can ensure that your actions flow from your identity, which can make you feel secure and in control. 

Bottom Line: Give branding the attention it deserves within your business. Avoid the 5 most common mistakes small business owners make. Acknowledge the fact that you already have a brand. Try to see things from your customer’s point of view. Be consistent in your message across all platforms. Don’t be a copycat; create your own unique and genuine brand. And have fun creating your brand—when you do it right, you get to bask in the clarity it brings you.


Any questions or thoughts? Leave a comment below! We love to hear from you.


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