We’ve all heard the stories about how successful branding propelled a humble startup to household name in no time at all. It’s true that some of the most successful brands started with little but ingenuity and a lot of determination. It’s also true that a good branding strategy will put any SME in a stronger position – it encourages loyalty and recognition from existing clients and prospective customers. With a record 5.7 million SMEs in the UK in 2017 it’s important to exploit every strategy to stay ahead.
What is branding?
A strong and consistent brand image is like a personality for your product or service. Branding is said to have come about through the ancient practice of branding livestock to differentiate their animals and deter theft. Modern day branding helps a business to stand out and distinguish itself from competitors. It also creates a lasting impression about your company. At a practical level, branding refers to your business’s identity, for example through visual markers used in communications (eg. logos, trademarks, etc.) but also the consistent messaging around your product or service – what you stand for.
The important effect of branding on consumer choice has long been known – it draws their attention and allows them to recognise and engage with brands. UK companies invest some £33 billion per year in creating and building brands (British Brands Group). Branding matters because advertising and marketing are just part of the promotional mix – they need to be underpinned by consistent, creative and memorable messages. Often these will be about the values and ambitions of your company. Marketing experts say that due to their size many SMEs know what they are about more clearly than larger companies. It should therefore be easier to encapsulate your aims and values in branding.
Tips on branding for SMEs:
- Identity – Consider your visual and textual identity across a range of channels, internal as well as external. Your brand communicates your values and ambitions so it helps your prospective customers to connect to you. Emphasise what is distinctive about your offer but avoid jargon and clichés.
- Research – research the branding of your main competitors e.g. what niche are they emphasising? Ask your current customers what they value in your product or service. Also ask your employees about the firm’s strengths and weaknesses; this will help focus your message and may throw up some elements you hadn’t thought of before.
- Consistency – consider the artwork used across your communications from your logo, website, social media (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram etc), mobile app design to stationery and signage. Use of colour can influence emotions too – businesses typically use two main colours with one accent colour. The same look should be used consistently to stamp your presence and evoke the association in the minds of potential customers.
- Brand promotion – once you’ve settled on a brand identity and design, use digital marketing to promote your brand to increase your presence. Online marketing gives SMEs the opportunity to compete with larger firms. Another important opportunity for SMEs to promote their brand which many already take advantage of, is via branding company vehicles. In heavy traffic areas vehicles may be viewed by over 3,000 potential customers, according to research, so this is a shrewd investment.
- Company culture – it should be easier for SMEs to maintain a culture which reflects their branding; ensure new recruits know what the company stands for and how to use this in communications, both internal and external.
The benefits of successful branding include:
- Increased and speedier recognition by prospective customers.
- Makes your business stand out from the others.
- Boosts the pride and loyalty of existing staff.
- Gives a professional image and attracts better new hires when you are recruiting.
Where SMEs are hard-pressed to find the budget or in-house expertise for a comprehensive branding programme, it’s possible to recruit a freelancer relatively inexpensively. Those who’ve invested in branding say that it has paid in financial dividends.
Stay competitive by ensuring you are on top of your staff mnagement. A good automated time and attendance system such as uAttend will take care of tracking your employees hours leaving you more time to promote your business and attract more customers!