Guide to Branding On A Shoestring Budget
Nothing in this world is free but for many new businesses, figuring out a way to brand and market on a shoestring budget is the bottom line. It’s important to have some sort of a budget, but since it’s not likely going to be the kind of coin a large organization like Starbucks could spend, you’ve got to find ways to be deft at spreading your budget in a way that works. If you don’t, you’ll be on the fast track to business obscurity.
What is branding?
A brand is what identifies your company to others, both in a visual sense and in terms of what your company stands for. It’s also what helps to make your company distinct from others.
The logo, colours, and fonts are what define the visuals for a brand and need to be unique. Developing a brand for your business makes it instantly recognizable, which matters in a world where we are constantly bombarded with ads and content.
Distinct from the physical appearance, branding also defines what your company stands for and therefore why a customer should choose your company over your competitors. Some companies do that by being socially aware or involving themselves in philanthropy. Others do it by a strong commitment to customer service. There are many ways to enhance your company’s brand and, consequently, how potential customers feel about you.
When you develop a brand for your company, both visual and in terms of what values your business represents, you need to always act in ways that support your brand, including in all your marketing endeavours.
How is branding different from marketing?
Think of branding as the development of your image and marketing is how you get your image out to your potential customer.
Think of it this way: developing your brand is like developing a personality for your business: the who, what and why of it. Marketing is how you advertise that personality in order to attract attention.
How to build your brand?
Step 1 – Get a logo, decide on fonts and pick your colours. If you’re not a graphic designer, invest in someone who will listen to what you’re about and what you want to convey with your image. If you do this right, you’ll only have to do it once. You should receive your logo in a variety of formats (.JPG, .PNG, .EPS, .PDF), with and without a background. Make sure you get the colour codes so that if someone is ever reproducing your logo as part of an ad or event signage, they get it right.
Step 2 – Decide what values you want to reflect, as a company, and what tone you want to set. If your value proposition is that you are concerned about the impact of your business on the environment, you will make purchasing choices that reflect those values. Depending on what it is that you want your company to stand for, you need to make those issues or values part of your company’s core brand. Just remember: authenticity is the key. Don’t just pay lip service to your company values. Instead, really embrace them and align all of your marketing towards supporting that branded image.
Other ways to grow your brand on a budget?
- Order your business cards and other marketing materials online. You can create professional looking materials, once you have a logo, that will not break the bank. And check in with local printers too. You might be surprised at what good value they provide in terms of quality and service, at negligibly more cost. Supporting local business is always a good idea if you want them to reciprocate!
- Make sure your email signature contains your brand, as well as links to your website and social media. Every time you send out an email, even if it’s unrelated to your business, your brand will be visible. If they are interested, people will click on your website link to see what you’re about.
- Build a website that reflects your branded image and your business goals. Lead generation and e-commerce sales are two business goals that you can derive from a nicely designed site. Be sure to choose a site platform that works well on mobile devices, as mobile is how most people engage with the online community.
- Make sure your business presence on social media—Facebook Page, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram—reflects the same branding. If someone clicks on one of your social links, it needs to be clear, visually and ‘stylistically’, that they’re dealing with your business.
- Create content that reflects your brand without blatantly advertising it and share it on your own blog or as a guest blogger on other sites. Be wary of creating content that is too political or that doesn’t enhance the brand you are trying to set up. Positivity is the key!
- Ask your customers for testimonials. There is nothing better to support your brand than people who say they love your product or service! A lot of people rely on testimonials and reviews to make buying decisions, even when those reviews come from people they don’t know.
Branding your business well is more about effort than money. Your whole business has to be imbued with a sense of what you want it to be and how you want it to be perceived by others. If you stay on style and on message, you will consistently reflect that brand image and people will recognize you faster than you might think!
If you have any questions on starting a business in Innisfil, contact an Economic Development Officer by filling out our form.