How important is branding for a small business?

So we started asking questions as part of what we do on our social accounts in order to engage with people and offer better tips. So this is what I put out there this morning:

How important is branding for a small business?

So I gave him a quick short answer on twitter stating that…Branding is what a prospect thinks about you. It’s about establishing trust to do business. So VERY important.

Ok, this is great, but does it really answer his question? Yes and No. Obviously 140 characters is very few to tell the whole story of the importance of branding. Here is what I would say in person if Matt and I were talking about this topic:

Branding is someone’s gut feeling about your company. So on some level every company big or small needs to think about branding. Think of it like this everyone person in business is branding themselves. If they choose not to think about branding then they have decided branding isn’t important. This often shows.

Sometimes small businesses try to do branding on their own. Some people can do well, but most can’t. I recently wrote an article titled: Designing a Logo: Before and After… a Logo Design Review. In this article I show an example of a friend/client who went the self branding route which didn’t work too well for him.

Let me give you an example to try… for a branding experiment:

Think of any type business or industry. Go to google and type that industry keyword in. For this example I did a search for MUSIC STORE. Feel free to try another industry if you’d like to try this for yourself.

Then scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the #10 to go to page 10 of the google listings. 

Then pick one of the Music Stores (or whatever you choose) on that 10th page.

This is the listing I chose and here is the website that came up when I clicked on this link.

Now let’s talk about branding. Do you think this small business spent much money on branding? Did they even think about what branding is or if it is important? Probably not, or not too much. They are however trying to position themselves with a few things, like…

  • The tagline: “Your lifestyle, your music store” and
  • another tagline: “Changing the world…   …one string at a time.”

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this front page make you want to jump into the site?
  • Does it establish trust?
  • Do the taglines fit the website?
  • Do you want to buy your instruments for this business?
  • If you answered no, then I’ll ask why?
  • Is it because they have a weak brand?

Well let’s head into the site before we jump too quickly.
So here is the next page in the site:

Ok, so then on page two it talks about being a full music store, but no where at the top of the page can I browse instruments. I can however get web design from this company. Just for giggles I went to their web design site. Here is the image they share that I found funny. I especially like the animated graphic with the person banging his head against the computer. This is fitting for this article.

Stay focused. Branding means staying in your wheelhouse of experience and expertise.

Ok, enough about this. My goal here is not to bash Weeks Music Store (or their web design). The point of this article is to show the importance of branding for small businesses.

Would you hire this web designer? Would you buy from the music store? Most people wouldn’t and that is because these businesses didn’t understand the importance of branding, creating a professional name, creating a professional logo, creating a space in the mind so that you will be remembered.

Ok, now let’s look at the other side of things.

What if you did think about branding. What could it get you. Ok so back to the search term Music Store. For this example I chose the Guitar Center. Hmm that sounds good and grabs my attention. Here is the listing:

…and here is there website:

Granted Guitar Center is BIG. Do you think it is because they were just rich or do you think it is because they built a better brand. Keep in mind branding is much more than logos and design. Branding ties into everything you do… Sales, Answering the Phone, How you Dress, actually any way that you or your business comes into contact with customers… is either building or destroying your brand.

Notice the care Guitar Center took to build their online brand:

  • Music is in the name
  • an instrument’s in the logo
  • at least 6 images of music instruments right on the home page
  • 15 product listings right on the home page
  • navigation that will quickly get me to new or used equipment
  • heck even deals on equipment
  • as well as a quick easy way to find a location near me.

Also review each companies google listing side by side. Notice the difference. Weeks Music has about 4 areas referencing music and instruments. Guitar Center on the other hand mentions these items nearly 18 times in the same amount of space. Do you think this affects a brand? Is this part of branding? Sure it is!

Yes Guitar Center is probably a million dollar (may multi-million) company, but how did they get there? Partly by building a better mousetrap, better customer service, by taking the business serious and using the right marketing tactics to attract customers, and maybe a little luck. The point is they watched every little detail and made it as close to perfect as they could. This is what takes a small business into a powerhouse of a large brand. Attention to detail, testing, testing, testing, and constant improvement.

Granted you may not want to be a large brand, but you may want to be doing better than you are currently doing. So how can you improve? How can you start branding? If you have a great product and you service your customers well then I’d recommend looking into adding a solid sales system into the mix if you do not have it. Then lastly start studying branding. Start applying serious branding strategy to your business one thing at a time. Review your name, review your logo, review every point of contact a customer or prospect has with you. Where can you improve?

Branding is an ongoing journey, it is not the final destination.

There is always room for improvement and campaigns will flop. Just get started on small incremental improvements even a small business can create a strong brand!

Want to learn more about branding and standing out in your marketplace? Then click this link to get a free ebook on branding and marketing in a poor economy.