Building a strong brand is fundamental for any modern business, regardless of size. Your brand sets you apart from competitors and helps customers identify and connect with you! Unfortunately, many small businesses and freelancers overlook some vital aspects of branding, resulting in lost opportunities to stand out from the crowd and build familiarity with your audience.
This post is designed to serve as a “branding checklist” to ensure all of your branding “ducks” are in a row – and, more importantly, they look like they belong there!
Recognisable visual identity
Your visual identity is how people perceive your brand through your use of logos, colours, fonts, and imagery. These components should be consistent across all platforms (as much as possible) so that your customers instantly recognise and feel familiar with you, regardless of whether you reach them via your website, a downloadable resource, or social media channels.
Customisation is often limited on third-party platforms, but the clever use of logos and profile banners can go a long way to unifying your brand across the web.
While this might be the most “obvious” type of branding, its vast potential is usually unrealised as it can be applied to far more than just your website and business cards.
Here are some places to ensure your visual brand identity is on-point:
- Web design
- Lead magnets
- Email signatures
- Marketing emails
- Social media profile pictures and banner images
- Social media posts and advertisements
- Business cards and flyers
- Brochures and catalogues
- Invoices and proposals
- E-commerce emails
- Packaging and receipts
- Presentation portfolios (digital or print)
- Exhibition stands and banners
- Small gifts/freebies (such as notebooks and pens)
- Office/premises decoration and signage
- Uniforms and vehicles
Consistent brand tone
The language and phrases you use when communicating with clients (either in person, on the phone, or digitally) sets the tone for your business. Is it compassionate? Is it fun? Is it exciting? Is it accessible?
Like visual identity, your brand tone needs to be consistent – if your home page uses a corporate style, but your lead-capture page shouts, “So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get you signed up now!” it’s going to appear jarring, disingenuous, or at least confusing. The same is true if someone calls your business: the person answering the phone must reflect the marketing content they’ve seen.
While there are arguably better (or worse) ways to communicate with your customers, it must resonate with them – and with you. If you’re operating solo, this may be easier to manage as it’s likely to reflect your personality and values. Since you are your brand, the communication style should reflect you!
However, suppose you have staff (or are outsourcing). In this case, some guidelines should be available for everyone to follow and help to keep your team informed of the intended communication style of the business throughout the customer journey, from marketing and sales to delivery.
Important touchpoints for brand tone include:
- Website content
- Downloadable resources
- Blog posts/articles
- Podcasts and videos
- Social media content
- Email communications (including marketing emails)
- Printed marketing materials
- Messaging services (such as live chats and social media DMs)
- Phone systems (including voicemail messages and call menus)
- Inbound and outbound phone calls
- Presentations, seminars, webinars, and other events
- Proposals, invoices, reminders
- E-commerce (product descriptions, purchase journey, confirmation emails)
- Onboarding and offboarding processes, including questionnaires and feedback forms
- Product or service instructions and manuals
Another overlooked aspect of branding is the power of authenticity. Customers want to know that they’re dealing with a real person or a group of people who genuinely care about their needs and wants.
A huge benefit to being a small business owner is the perception that we’re more accessible, transparent, and friendly with our customers than bigger businesses. For the most part, this is true, but it does require getting a little comfortable with sharing your personality and experiences or (with permission) those of your team.
While there should absolutely be boundaries about what you will and won’t share with the world (keep the drama at bay, especially on social media), you can use your personal brand to build close relationships with your customers, which would otherwise be impossible in a larger, more corporate setting.
It may be tempting to hide behind your business name (and there’s no harm in having one, in most cases), but the saying “people buy from people” is still true in the digital age – customers can’t build a relationship with you if they can’t get to know you.
You can build authenticity by:
- Show actual, real, unfiltered photos of yourself and your team
- Sharing honest stories about your experiences and lessons learned in business
- Showcasing your team members (yes, include a photo!)
- Celebrate your customers’ achievements
- Explaining how and why you got started in business
- Share your excitement about an upcoming event or opportunity (make sure it’s ok to go public!)
- Being genuine in your interactions (whether that’s in person, by phone, email, video call or live chat)
- Using blooper reels/leaving in small mistakes made in videos and podcasts
- Not relying on AI to generate content for you (it can help sometimes, but you should always heavily edit and add your own flavour to it!)
Branding often gets treated as an afterthought in marketing: “pop a logo onto everything and make sure things are the right colour”. Sadly, that’s where many business owners stop, but you can do so much more: Good branding should impact how people feel about you and your business – and great branding will excite people to engage and buy from you!
Where are some areas you can polish your branding to delight, reassure, and build rapport with your audience?