I love this saying, ‘little acorns become big trees,’ as that’s how I see small businesses…because it says that we all started somewhere, that at one time, the big brands of today, were once small organizations and start-ups.

We often think that it’s the big companies with the resources that are more successful, but I don’t believe that they always have the same power of a small business, who are more flexible and able to pivot during difficult economic and uncertain times. Big brands are often bogged down by layers of bureaucracy, preventing them from being flexible and reacting to the ever-changing needs of their customers. Those layers of decision-makers can make it hard for them to be daring with their branding.

But this where I think that small business can have the edge, where they can be in-touch with themselves as a brand, because branding is just as important for small businesses as it is for big names. Yet the many small business owners I talk to, who understand that branding is essential to their business, still don’t really understand it. While, others are confused about their own brand identity; if you don’t know your brand, how can you expect others to know what you do and what you stand for?

Many small business owners recognize the link between successful businesses and strong branding and want to build a brand that creates similar success for themselves. They know that branding is not just a logo or how their business is perceived externally, but too few realize that successful brands have branding at the heart of their business. So much so that, you could almost substitute the word brand for business.

Branding is a way of defining your business to yourself, your team and your customers/your external audiences. It could be called the business’ ‘identity’, but only on the understanding that it embodies the core of what the business is and its values, not just what it looks and sounds like.

Customers of all sorts of businesses are so savvy today that they can see through most attempts by companies to gloss, spin or charm their way to sales. A strong brand encourages loyalty and advocacy. Therefore, the benefits that a strategically defined brand can bring are the same as when people fall in love with each other!

So, how do you define your brand, well it’s about knowing your brand values and is something I discuss in my business book, The PR Knowledge Book, published by Business Expert Press in August 2019. But not wanting to leave you on a cliff hanger this is the gist of it…first, it is important to start by defining your brand. Review the product or service your business offers. Pinpoint the space in the market it occupies and research the emotive drivers, rational needs and concerns of your customers. Your brand character should promote your business, connect with your customer base and differentiate you in the market.

When building your brand, think of it as a person.
Every one of us is an individual whose character is made up of beliefs, values and purposes that define who we are and who we connect with – our personality determines how we behave in different situations, how we dress and what we say. Of course for people it’s intuitive and it’s rare that you even consider what your own character is, but when you’re building a brand it’s vital to have that understanding.

Understand, what is driving your business. What does it believe in, what is its purpose and who are its brand heroes; these things can help establish your emotive brand positioning and inform the identity and character for brand communications.

Believe in long-term relationships and aim to build relationships with your customers. Create trust with honest branding and be true to the values that drive it every day.

Importantly, be true to who you are as a business and don’t try imitate the look of big brands. Carve out your own distinctive identity. Truly independent operators can leverage their status to attract customers who are looking for something more original and authentic, which actually aligns with how they feel about themselves. Be innovative, bold and daring – stand for something you believe in.

I think it’s important to never under-estimate your customers’ intelligence, many big brands over the years have fallen into this trap and Nike is one that springs to mind, where in the 1990’s Nike was confronted about the working conditions of their factories in Asia. Their shoes were being created by employees being underpaid, and the pressure was mounting for Nike to address the issue. Nike acknowledged that they had to change.

Final, thought, when a small business has worked out who it is as a brand it makes all those other things easy, from who you want to collaborate with, who you customers are (and you now know where to find them) and more than anything it gives you satisfaction. With satisfaction comes immense sense of wellbeing and positivity. You are ready to become that big tree.