In between production, service delivery, administration, and financial management, many small and medium businesses ignore or give little importance to a critical part of the business. Branding, Many business owners and directors think that branding is something only large companies need. As long as they have a name and logo they have covered everything in branding. They can’t be more wrong. The one thing common to all small businesses that made it big is that they had a good branding strategy. Apple, HP, Walt Disney and Amazon all began as small businesses. Closer home, Flipkart, Kent RO Systems and Ola are some brands that started small.

Branding is at the foundation of every business. To understand this let us begin by understanding what a brand is.

Whether you aware of it or not, your business has a brand. Your brand, to put it simply, is your company’s promise to your customers. It tells your customers what your product or service can do for them, who you are and how you are different from your competitors. Your brand needs to go much deeper than your logo. Branding includes every interaction your Company has with its customers. From product packaging to how you communicate with customers on the phone.

So why should a business focus on branding? Strong branding helps companies differentiate their products and services from those of their competitors. Brand names like Porsche, Apple or Nike, for example, evoke certain feelings. Feelings that help them differentiate from other strong brands like Ferrari, Samsung or Adidas.

A strong brand adds value. Research has shown that customers willingly pay more for a branded product than an unbranded one. Not only that with a strong brand your company will find it easier to attract capable talent as employees and the best companies as suppliers. Good branding also helps attract investors and makes it easier for companies to expand their product range and enter new markets. Consider this: In 1993, Coca Cola paid $60 Million to Parle for their beverage brands, most notable of which is Thums Up. No other assets changed hands, just the brands.

How does a small or medium business with its limitations on resources go about building a strong brand? Begin by understanding your customers. That does not mean knowing who they are by name but what do they think about your brand, what they seek from your products, what motivates them, what do they aspire for.

1. Define your brand’s promise or draft your brand’s mission statement. What value does your brand provide? What is the reason for your brand? BMW’s brand promise, for example, is the Ultimate Driving Machine. BMW has always boasted on the efficiency and ease of driving their cars. Even though they are luxury cars, the brand’s promise is on the driving experience.

2. Determine your brand’s personality. What do you want your customers to think about your brand? If your brand was a person how would that person be? Young or experienced? Friendly or professional? Lively or serious?

3. Research your competition. Who else offers the same products or services? What differentiates your offering from theirs? Southwest Airlines in the USA is the World’s largest budget air carrier. Southwest has had the same unique selling proposition since it started flights in 1975 – “We are THE low-fare airline”

4. Develop a name, logo, and tagline. To have a brand name that customers easily remember and refer choose a name that complements your business and is easy to use in a speech in English or any regional language. A distinct logo and colors that complement your business help visually distinguish your brand from that of competitors. McDonald’s logo with the two golden arches is distinct and clearly represents the brand wherever it is in the World. Remember, the name, logo, and tagline are not your brand. They are the only ways to communicate your brand.

5. Integrate your brand at everything you do. Incorporating the brand in physical elements such as your premises, stationery or packaging is easy enough to understand. But it is also important to bring in your brand and its values in every interaction you have whether it is with customers, suppliers or staff.

6. Customer experience is critical to brand building. Poor customer experience can bring down a brand’s value. Unlike some years ago the customer today is able to voice complaints on online platforms and these can snowball into scandals if they go viral. This is equally true whether your sales are in the B2C or the B2B channel. Information is freely available these days and customers research a company’s products and services before they pay anything for them.

7. And finally, there is something that actually does not need to state. Ensure that quality in service and product is of the highest level at every stage, whether it is at the time of purchase or after purchase.

To summarize, every company needs to focus on its brand every day and in everything they do. A brand is much more than the logo and the brand name even though they are an essential part of the brand. Understand who your customer is, know who your competition is, give your brand a personality and include the essence of your brand in everything you do, from product quality to customer experience.

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