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Small Business Branding Revisited

April 18, 2013

Small Business Branding Word CloudA couple of years agoI wrote on small business branding.  My point then was that in a small business, you are the brand. And I still agree with that, more than ever. But I want to take it further.

The conversation keeps coming up, sometimes with new clients, sometimes with ones that I have worked with for a while… what should we do about our brand?  So lets talk about what a brand is and isn’t.

A brand is a promise. A promise of experience, quality, consistency, speed – really whatever factors are core to your differentiation. Its not a logo, or a color or a typeface (font).  Those items are brand elements – they represent the promise, but they aren’t the promise in and of themselves.

Now my co-worker Randy would argue vehemently, that in today’s literate society, we really don’t need logos.  They served a purpose when a large part of the population couldn’t read.  I don’t disagree with him in most cases.  In the vast majority of cases, for most businesses, stylized type works quite well in place of a logo or as the logo (think FedEx, Home Depot, Staples). The exception that I would call out is when your target market can't read – also known as children. There a logo does serve a clear purpose.

So your brand is who you are when you are not there. For the big companies, it’s all they have (that's why you see things like the 100 most valuable brands in the world). For most of those big companies, there is no person there (people like Steve Jobs, Frank Purdue and Dave Thomas being the now past exception). So the brand stands in.  But as I said a couple of years ago, for a smaller business, your people and every interaction they have with a customer or prospect is your brand.

I think the easiest way to think of it is this.

For a large company, your brand is an introduction letter.  It tells someone who isn’t your customer, what it will be like, what they will associate to, when they become a customer. Its why big companies spend so much money on brand related advertising, events and PR.

For a small business, your brand is more of a thank you note. It is a confirmation to your customer that what they have experienced is really who you are, and that their experience is not just a one-off event.  That they can expect it the next time around.

So for a smaller business, it is incredibly important to make sure your brand is tied to your “why”.  The why you are in business (your mission on behalf of your customers). You have to get that alignment between your why, the what you do and the how you do it. If you do, you will create a powerful brand – often without even trying.

Do you want to talk about this some more?  Give us a call.  Or, if you can think of an example of a local business where you have experienced what I am talking about, drop us a comment.


Dan Kraus
Written by Dan Kraus

With more than two decades of experience in sales, marketing, and go-to-market strategies, Dan Kraus has developed a deep portfolio of experiences that he now uses to help small businesses profitably grow their businesses. As an entrepreneur, Dan understands the challenges of growing a business with limited capital and human resources. As a line of business manager in larger companies such as SAP America and Great Plains Software (now part of Microsoft), his experience launching new business ventures inside reputable organizations established his reputation as a creative and effective executive that could both plan and execute within corporate confines.

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