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Building a Successful Brand Strategy: A Guide for Small Business Owners

Understanding Branding


Branding has evolved beyond the basics of a logo and fonts. A brand is the perception people have of a business. While we can’t force people to see our business in a specific way we can influence their perception.


You can learn more about the nuances of branding in this recent blog post Busting the #1 Branding Myth.



a collage of images from a client brand photoshoot

What is Brand Strategy?


A brand strategy is a set of elements curated to attract ideal clients. It helps small businesses differentiate themselves from countless other similar products or services using three core components: the heart, the voice, and the appearance.


The ultimate goal is to create loyal customers who rave about your business to their friends. This is the most renewable and free way to sustain business growth.


While many brand strategy examples online feel out of touch for small companies and solopreneurs, here's how to tailor it to your unique needs.


What Most Small Businesses Get Wrong When Creating a Brand Strategy


Many small business owners have a passion for what they do but don't always know how to translate that into something of value for their customers. Bridging the gap between passion and business smarts is what I help my clients with every day.


Anyone can decide tomorrow to start a business. The key difference between success and failure lies in understanding how to provide value to customers and then communicating that value effectively.


Here's a graphic from my workshop The Authentic Brand Blueprint  to help visualize building a brand.


A graphic illustrating brand strategy.

Steps to Create a Brand Strategy


Step 1: Decide What Your Business Stands For


Beyond what you sell, what is at the core of your business? Why does it exist? What does it stand for in this world? How is your business doing good?


Owning a business is tough—it's not for the faint of heart. Getting clear on why you’re doing this and the vision you have for the future will keep you motivated when times get tough.


Questions to Consider:

  • Of all the things you could do, why choose this product or service?

  • Imagine your customer just received their package. What do they feel?

  • If you left this world suddenly, what would you want people to remember you for?

  • What are your top 5 personality traits and how might they influence your business?


Use the answers to these questions to shape your brand's values, mission, and vision.


Here's a quick break down of each terminolgy


Your purpose statement should answer— why do we exist, why do we do what we do?


A mission statement answers — what we hope to do as a result of our business? What will our impact be?


A vision statement is your future — what is the future we see as a result of what we do?



Step 2: Understand Who You Serve and What They Want


Just because a business has something to sell doesn't mean people will care and buy.


As Brendan Kane writes in his book Hook Point,


“Digital and social media have reshaped our world into one of micro-attention. With more than 60,000,000,000 messages sent out on digital platforms each day, we have an incredible amount of information constantly being sent to us.”

Having a clear understanding of your ideal client is one of the hardest parts of building an effective brand strategy. Many small business owners worry that if they talk directly to one type of person, they’ll lose potential business.


Creating a clear picture of who your ideal client is and why your product or service is for them is essential to building a memorable brand.


How to Discover What Your Ideal Client Needs:

  • Interview past clients and review testimonials

  • Implement client feedback surveys and questionnaires

  • Structure discovery calls to include market research questions

  • Find and interview ideal clients


Questions to Ask Yourself:

  • Who do I want to help most with my product or service?

  • Where do they live? What type of job do they have?

  • How does my product or service make their life better?

  • What type of people do they hang out with?

  • What activities do they like?

  • What brands are they loyal to?

  • What is their biggest fear or concern?


Questions to Ask if You Have Clients:

  • Who are your top 3 favorite clients and why?

  • What problems did you solve for them?

  • What similarities do these clients share?

  • What part of the process or product did they love most and why?


The answers create your ideal customer avatar. Give them a name and every time you create content, speak directly to them.


Step 3: Define Your Brand Tone and Voice


Your brand voice is what you say and how you say it. It should be:


  • True to how you speak

  • A tone of voice you’re aspiring to


How to Identify Your Brand Tone of Voice:


  • Ask five people you trust to describe how you talk and your sense of humor

  • Analyze texts, emails, and recordings of yourself speaking

  • Use your brand values as a guide

  • Consider your ideal client and what you sell


Describe your brand voice in 3-5 words.


For example, is your brand's tone of voice is curious and playful you'll want a clear description of how that translates through the copy on your site all the way to emails.


Here's a graphic outlining what each of those words could mean for a brand with examples of things they do and don't say.



graph example of a brand's tone of voice with do's and don'ts

Step 4: Create Your Visual Identity


Designing a Logo


A logo should be a continuation of your brand’s personality. For product-based businesses, a logo and package design are critical. For service-based businesses, you can start with something simple but aim to invest in a professional design eventually.


Choosing Fonts


Fonts should echo your brand's personality and values while being readable. The art of putting together type is known as typography. Common types include serif, sans serif, script, and slab serif. Fonts are the digital version of typefaces.


Here’s a quick guide on the characteristics of the most common types of faces used:



A graphic illustrating different typography and their meanings

Choosing Colors


Color creates an impression and is used to evoke emotions and reinforce personality. Understanding how color supports your brand and resonates with your target market is essential.

Here are some resources to generate a brand color palette:


What to Consider When Creating Brand Images and Videos


Images and videos are imperative in your brand strategy. A brand photo is more than just a pretty picture; it conveys an idea, emotion, or story.


Brand expert Marty Neumeier, in his book The Brand Gap, states,


"Charismatic brands have three elements. A clear competitive stance, a sense of rectitude, and a dedication to aesthetics. Why aesthetics? Because it's the language of feeling, and in a society that's information-rich and time-poor, people value feeling more than information.”

When deciding on the style of photography and what types of photos you need, consider your goals and where these images will live. My favorite tool is Pinterest for gathering inspiration.


Organizing Your Pinterest Board:

  • Posing

  • Team Photos

  • Environment

  • Textures

  • Colors

  • Mood/Vibe


I’ve put together this guide 8 Photos Every Business Needs to help you plan your brand photoshoot.


Think big picture—how is this serving my business?


TLDR; Creating a brand strategy involves defining your business's core values, mission, and vision, understanding your ideal client, and crafting a unique brand tone and visual identity. Small businesses should focus on translating their passion into value for customers and effectively communicating that value. Use tools like interviews, feedback surveys, and Pinterest for inspiration, and remember to consider company culture for a holistic approach.


Ready to elevate your brand?


If you’re ready to skip the hours you’ll spend going the DIY route, book a free strategy call to learn how we can bring your brand to life.


References:


  • Kane, B. (2020). Hook Point: How to Stand Out in a 3-Second World. Publisher.


  • Neumeier, M. (2005). The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design. New Riders.




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Hey friend!

 

I'm LeeAnn a Pittsburgh-based personal brand photographer helping women create memorable brands that align with who they are  while attracting the right people. 

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