Branding is about getting your customers to see your company as an important key provider in addressing their needs and gives you a real competitive advantage. Branding Your Small Business;marketplaceOnce you have done thorough market research and checked out the competition, it is time to start developing your brand identity. Your brand is the name, design, or distinctive symbol you create for your product or service that makes you unique in the marketplace. It will convey your reputation, quality, uniqueness, and credibility so it is important that it be built carefully. Building a trusted brand requires knowing your target audience and building a strong relationship with them which will lead to brand loyalty. Yes, it takes time to communicate the character of your business, but it is time and money well spent because a positive brand usually means repeat business for your company.

Effective marketing cannot happen without a strong brand. Why do you need a brand? Erin Ferree, a marketing design strategist and owner of  Elf  Designs, says, “Forty percent of people better remember what they see than what they hear or read. So having graphics associated with your business will make you more memorable in the mind of a potential client.” A well-designed logo and effective brand gives you a major edge in competitive marketplace.

When it comes to developing your brand identity, there are two schools of thought. You can hire a firm to help you name and brand yourself, or you can pull together your kitchen cabinet of advisors and close friends willing to work for food and have a good old brainstorming session.

The benefits of utilizing a branding strategy are real and can help you do several things:

  1. Look more established.  It is very hard to fake it until you make it with an unpolished corporate image.  Avoid clip art or homemade business cards.
  2. Attract clients.  Not using a professional logo on your marketing materials can keep you from getting a meeting with a perspective client.  Corporations, in particular, are filled with gatekeepers whose job it is to screen small businesses.  No one will risk their reputation on a small business that is not presented well.
  3. Convey trustworthiness.  A colorful, distinctive logo, professional collateral materials and up to date website shows that you are a serious about your business and committed to your clients.
  4. Explain an unusual line of business.  In a highly technical or off-beat industry, a professional logo can clarify visually exactly what you do.
  5. Explain your company name. If your company name contains a fictitious word, jargon or an acronym, the logo can help explain its meaning. With compelling graphics, potential clients are more likely to remember you.

There are a few things you need to consider in creating your brand:

Your brand is a symbol of your promise to the customer. If you go to McDonald’s, there is a certain level of service, food quality and environment that is expected. When you see the golden arches, it symbolizes your expectations.

Get professional help with your logo.  Hire a professional graphic designer to develop your logo. Do not, use clip art, free art on the web or (my personal favorite) stylized FONTS as your logo. This is not only unprofessional, but it immediately screams newbie small business owner.

Protect your brand/logo with a trademark. You’ll be putting your brand or logo on everything from your advertising to stationary. If your company is successful, competitors are not shy about stealing your business by duplicating your look. Trademarking your brand gives you protection and legal recourse.

Remember, that your brand is the starting point for how people perceive you. Be memorable and above all else, invest in a real logo.

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Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small business experts. Melinda Emerson "SmallBizLady" As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure.  As CEO of MFE Consulting LLC, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. Forbes Magazine named her one of the #1woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog Melinda is also the author of the national bestseller Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works. (Adams Media 2010)