Branding Basics for Small Businesses

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How much thought have you put into your brand? Being clear about who you are and what makes your business unique will help you make strong connections and build lasting relationships with ideal clients and prospects. This is an important topic, so I’m pleased that Sara Miller is here with some tips to help you create or further develop your own brand.

big brands

Photo courtesy of Samira Khan, used under a Creative Commons license

What is it that big companies like Nike, Apple, and Microsoft do that allows them to constantly reach their followers and keep them loyal, and how can a small business or start up learn from these giants? The secret lies in a successful and powerful brand strategy. Brand is more than a trademarked “swoosh” or tiny blue bird. It is your promise and reputation, and it resides primarily in the mind of your customers. Brand is identity, and your “brand bible” is the document that establishes the way that the company’s identity is handled. However, before you develop your own brand there are some basic questions you need to ask yourself about your business.

What do you achieve?

What is your business core purpose? This isn’t just what you do, it’s what you deliver. For example, a coffee shop sells customers good coffee and an experience they enjoy. It doesn’t just sell coffee.

Who are your customers?

What do your potential and current customers like about you? If they love your selection of premium wines and cheeses, it might alienate them if you present yourself as a bulk party goods supplier.

What do people think of you?

How do your staff and your customer base feel about you? Brand values are the emotional ties that will make up the foundation of your brand identity, says GreenBlog. Do customers trust you? Do they think favorably about you?

How far can you go?

What direction can your company grow in without alienating current customers or losing sight of your basic competencies? For example, it would seem strange to consumers if a bakery started selling skateboards. Home-made sandwiches, however, wouldn’t be stretching too far.

Build a “Brand Bible”

Once you’ve answered these questions for yourself, it’s time to move on to presenting the message “who we are” to your customers.  Integrate the answers to these questions into everything that a potential consumer perceives about your company. This is how you build a brand bible. According to Designshack, your brand bible should outline the goals and philosophy of your company, as well as provide answers to common questions about what ways the company logo and identity can be used.

This document will streamline many day to day design issues for a small company. When you order business cards, you’ll already know the colors, design, fonts and layouts that communicate your brand to customers. Your brand bible should include logo specifications, brochure designs, voice guides for writing, and should use examples of acceptable and unacceptable brand usage. It should also codify how your brand applies online.

Examples Can Help!

Some brands are so iconic we can’t escape them, and they had brand bibles too. Lucky for you, old brand bibles can be found online and are a treasure trove of information and ideas. Grab a copy of the 2008 “I Love New York” brand bible and peruse it. With the tools used by an incredibly successful company to brand themselves at your disposal, it’s like getting a master class in 50 pages.

From first grade through graduate school, “B” was never in Sara Miller’s vocabulary. In addition to being a perfectionist, she has always been fascinated by the anatomy of successful start ups.


  1. Avatar Kingsley Agu on June 30, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Who are your customers?

    I think I’m finding it a little hard to answer this appropriately. How do I really know who I’m suppose to target ?

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