Top 5 Small Business Branding Mistakes
Branding. You’ve probably 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: 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 not 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 spot up your product or service in sea of competitors and say, “I love what this brand stands for, I love what it means to me. How could I choose anything else?”
It’s great that more and more companies are 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 thoughtlessly or inauthentically.
But don’t worry! If you can relate to any of these 5 common branding mistakes, you’re not doomed. Awareness is half the battle.
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, maybe their marketing strategy… But they’re not thinking about branding.
And yet, for better or worse, they have a brand.
Just like other people are always forming opinions about you, whether you like it or not, potential customers are always forming opinions about your brand. You develop a reputation whether or not you’re trying to develop a reputation, and people form opinions of your brand whether or not you’re aware of it.
You can’t stop people from talking about your brand, 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 we’ve 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. A great way to do this is to create Target Customer Profiles.
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? A Customer Journey Map captures the important moments of interaction with your business.
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.
The best way to make sure you’re consistent is to have brand guidelines 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. A Language Guide (sometimes known as a “content style guide” or “editorial guidelines”) is a document that helps your brand be consistent in its words and tone.
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. 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! A major 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!
It can be downright joyful to get in tune with who you are—what matters to you, where you came from, what your vision is. It’s no different with your brand. When you take time to be introspective and reflective about your brand identity, 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’ 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.