“Do I really need branding?”
Chances are that as a small business owner, you’ve asked yourself this question at least once (or maybe a few times — no judgment here!). For a lot of new business owners, investing in their branding isn’t high up on their long list of to-do’s. And while it doesn’t have to be the first order of business, it’s definitely something you should invest in early on — after all, branding can make or break your product.
If you’ve been hesitant to take the plunge, here are five signs it’s time to invest in branding.
You’re not getting any leads
The stronger your brand, the more leads you’re going to get — but why?
To understand the connection, it’s important to know the critical role that branding and strategy play in marketing. Although some people think of them as one in the same, the two are actually very different and serve distinct purposes. While brand strategy is, in short, how your business is expressed and perceived, marketing, on the other hand, are the actions you take to influence your target audience to do something (inquire, follow you on social, buy your product, etc.).
Take Sephora, for example.
When you think of the mega beauty retailer, a few words probably come to mind: inclusive, welcoming, diverse, luxury…the list goes on. We think of these words because that’s how Sephora consistently positions itself, and in return, that’s how we’ve come to perceive its brand. But how Sephora persuades us to buy from them — through advertising campaigns and promotions, for example — that’s marketing.
Without strong branding, chances are that your business is going to struggle with effective marketing (a classic chicken-or-egg scenario). And without effective marketing, it’s hard to influence people to buy into what you have to offer.
Of course, it’s always important to distinguish a red flag from the natural ups and downs of business. Depending on the nature of your small business, it’s not unusual to experience slower periods. Going a month, or maybe even a quarter, with fewer leads and sales isn’t necessarily cause for panic. But when those slow periods become more and more frequent — or worse, the norm — it’s time to consider investing in your branding.
You’re attracting the wrong clients
Now that you know the difference between branding and marketing and how the two are connected, it’s time to consider another scenario: getting new leads but from the wrong clients.
In the world of business, all clients aren’t created equal (harsh, but true). People who aren’t willing to put their trust in you, don’t understand the value of your services or are scared to invest in their business aren’t the types of clients you want. And yet, often times, they’re the exact clients who appear in your inbox — why?
Most likely, it’s because of a misalignment in your branding. Whether it’s your visual presentation (more on that below), pricing structure, how you talk about your products, or any of these other common mistakes, somewhere along the way, you’ve sent the wrong message.
Working with a client who isn’t the right fit costs you in the long term — they’re likely to undervalue your offering, and time spent with them is time you could be spending working with your dream client. If you repeatedly find yourself working with the wrong clients, it’s probably time to invest in your branding.
You’ve outgrown your current branding
In a perfect world, your branding would scale seamlessly with your business as it grows, but in reality, that’s not always the case. Sometimes your business takes off in a new direction and before you know it, you’ve outgrown your branding.
Growth in your business is a good thing, but it’s important that your branding be properly aligned every step of the way. For example, if you’re shifting from working with entrepreneurs to large-sized companies, you’re going to need branding that clearly reflects this change. It isn’t enough to just change your company name or logo; how you communicate and market your business to a different target audience requires a strong understanding of their business, needs and how you can solve their problems. By working with an expert, you can refresh (or even overhaul) your branding so that it’s strategically aligned with whatever new direction your business is taking.
Your branding is low budget or DIY
Imagine this scenario: You’re shopping online for a gift for a friend when you come across a small business that sells hand-poured soy candles. Your friend loves candles, so it’d make the perfect gift. You click the link to the business’ website, only to find a very outdated page that doesn’t even show properly on your phone. The site is clunky and impossible to navigate. The fonts are too small and the colours are inconsistent. The photos are clearly stock images.
And, to top it off, a single candle goes for $35.
Would you buy it? Probably not.
In the world of business, first impressions matter, and it takes less than a second for people to form an opinion of your brand. Cheap or DIY branding sends the message that your business either isn’t established or you don’t take it seriously, and it does nothing to build the credibility and trust your business needs to turn a profit. While low-budget options like Canva and Fiverr are enough to get you started, they’re short-term solutions that can actually cause you to lose more in the long run.
Your branding is inconsistent
Across every element and platform, your brand should always look consistent. From your Instagram posts to your website to your product packaging, everything should feel holistic. Even the tone of your marketing should feel like a natural extension of your brand. When your branding looks and feels otherwise, it’s probably because you either haven’t invested in brand guidelines or you’re not following them properly.
Brand guidelines (sometimes referred to as a brand or visual identity guide) are a set of instructions for how to use the visual elements of your brand. At a basic level, they outline how to use your logo, colours and fonts, while more detailed guidelines will also cover your brand’s voice and personality. They’re important to follow as you build out your advertising and marketing, and they’re a must-have resource for the designers that you’ll work with throughout your business.
Whether or not you already have guidelines, if you’re struggling to present your brand consistently, it’s worth working with a designer to revisit your branding.
If you’ve reached the end of this post and find yourself waving a white flag, help is just a few clicks away. Send me a message and let’s chat about how we can get started on the right branding for your business.