How to Do Small Business Branding Like a Pro

Small business branding may be the last thing on your mind — but it’s the first thing your customers and prospective customers notice. Depending on how effective your branding is, you could be loved, adored, forgotten or ignored.

What if I told you, with a little work, you could create a brand that’s as effective to your target audience as the Nike swoosh is to athletes? Seriously. I mean it.

Follow the below steps to create a strong foundation for a memorable, effective brand.

Lock down your logo — and its variations.

Lock down your logo

Your small business logo is a signature to your brand. It should speak to who your brand is and what it stands for, incorporating colors, motifs, your tagline (in some variations) and your typeface. When you’re creating your logo, keep these things in mind:

  • You’ll want to include iterations that include color and black and white variations.
  • It’s okay to have a variety of logo iterations, because some designs cater more to horizontal logos versus vertical logos, and sometimes you’ll want your tagline included or left off.
  • Make sure you love the end product, because you’ll have to live with it in order to create brand recognition and equity.

Color your brand identity with a consistent palette.

Color your brand identity with a consistent palette

When I say Coca Cola, you think bold cherry red. When I say McDonalds, you see the bright yellow arches. When I say John Deere, you’re mind is already conjuring the signature hues of green and yellow. You could see these specific brand colors and I bet you could guess the brand without even seeing the logo. Colors are that powerful. How can you create a small business branding color palette that’s as effective?

  • Choose colors that will resonate with your audience and represent your values.
  • Create a color palette by using colors that complement your logo.
  • Don’t feel like you need to use all of the colors in your color palette for each design — pick and choose colors that will help lead the eyes of your audience to what you want them to see.

Pick two to three fonts that speak your language.

Fonts that speak your language

It may seem subtle, but the fonts you use for headlines and body copy make an impression on your audience. If your audience gets used to reading your newsletters in Arial but then one day you switch out the font for Georgia, chances are they’ll feel like something is off — even if they can’t put their finger on it. Choose two to three fonts to use exclusively for your business.

  • Indicate which font will be used primarily for headlines and subheads.
  • Have one to two font options for body copy, knowing that not everyone may have access to your fonts.
  • Be ready to share your fonts with others who are helping to create communications.
  • If you want a font that doesn’t come standard in a word processor, search for free fonts online at places like dafont.com or fontspace.com.

Create a library of brand design elements and imagery.

As you create and have things created for your communications, save them in one location for future use or inspiration. Icons, professional photographs, custom post images and more should be stashed away. Even if you don’t end up using these pieces in the future, you’ll find that your branding can be expressed through the photographs you create or use, the types of design elements you’ve employed in the past and more — and you can continue to draw inspiration from them to keep your visual identity cohesive.

  • Consider saving these elements in an easy-to-share location, such as a Cloud network or Google Drive.
  • You and your team may find it helpful to have a folder titled “Approved Imagery,” where you include even unused photos your company owns and that are cohesive with your brand identity (e.g., Zao’s imagery errs on the side of bright, fun and full of spirit).

Package your elements into a ‘recipe’ for your small business branding.

Package your elements into a recipe for branding

You know your small business brand. You may have a guy or gal who knows it too. But what if you hire, say, my company to help create a website or a brochure or whatever? We’ll ask you for your brand elements, sure. But not every place you work with, or person or freelancer, may even think to.

So what, you may be wondering. What if your typeface changes just this one communications piece? What if an old version of your logo makes it to print?

The aforementioned elements are like the ingredients to your brand’s recipe. If anyone creating for your brand doesn’t use the right stuff, then the cake will flop.

Analogy aside, you could lose the brand equity you developed. This means current customers, loyal to your logo, your colors, your type, will feel betrayed. They’ll feel confused. They’ll distrust your brand. They may say they don’t mind how you changed your colors or your font or used a new stylization, but subconsciously, they’ll start to distance themselves from your brand.

Your small business branding guide doesn’t have to be fancy. Just be sure it includes the above topics, is in a format that’s easy to update when needed and is easy to share.   

Are you at a point in your small business for a rebrand? Would you like help creating your small business branding guide? Let’s talk! I’d love to help you discover an effective brand filled with spirit!

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