By Tim Ferk, 99designs
Ask any successful business owner, and they'll likely tell you that branding yourself is one of the most important things you can do for your business. Now, more than ever, branding has become a critical part of building a successful business - and understandably so! As more and more small businesses continue to emerge in the marketplace, the need to differentiate and deliver to one's target market is clear. In a business climate where the Internet, social media and technology create a lot of static, it's crucial to develop a clear voice and message for your business to help cut through the noise.
So what exactly is branding? The American Marketing Association tells us that a brand consists of a "Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers." For those who favor something a little less sterile, Seth Godin, author of 'Linchpin', defines a brand as "the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another." In addition to branding being a subject of differentiation, Godin's definition factors in the underlying emotional and personal connections that are tied to a brand. In short, branding conveys an overall feeling and message for the product or service being offered.
Branding is often thought of as something that can be put off until later, when business is steady and time allows for it. However, this notion is essentially placing the cart before the horse. It's important to create a meaningful brand for yourself early on to even be able to achieve this level of success in the first place.
Discovering Your Brand
What does your business do so well that a customer would choose you over your competitors, or even pay more for your product or service? Do you have a great deal of experience in your industry? Do you deliver an unparalleled customer experience? Perhaps you can deliver your product sooner than any of your competitors are able to. These types of differentiating factors are building blocks to your brand that will draw in customers, generate word-of-mouth, and help give your brand value. Godin elaborates on his definition by saying, "If the consumer (whether it's a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn't pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.
The Importance of Design
In addition to these considerations, design plays a significant role in defining a brand. Design provides a visual identity, and can help evoke a positive connection to your brand. For large corporations, budgets for branding and design can easily run into tens of millions of dollars. You'll be stunned by this article that lists the amounts paid by major corporations for their logos alone (and perhaps more so by how little others have paid!) The impact of good design in branding is undeniable, and it can help to build trust and credibility with potential customers.
But what options are available to business owners with little to spend on design? Many have turned to online marketplaces such as 99designs to help build and maintain their brand on a budget. For example, 99designs offers its clients the opportunity to utilize a design contest model to generate a wide variety of ideas from designers before ultimately choosing one to use for their brand. Small businesses can use the service for design needs such as logo, print, and web design. Websites like 99designs are a smart solution to secure professional design work, often at a fraction of the cost of working with a local graphic designer.
Go Forth and Brand Thyself
Branding is critical to the success of your business, and the earlier you start to think about how you'll shape your brand, the better. With each decision you make, ask yourself these three questions:
- Will this help customers to learn about my business?
- Would they pay a premium for my product or service, or choose me over my competitors?
- Will they recommend my business to others?
If these criteria are consistently met, you can rest assured that the investments you make will not only bring value to your brand, but also reach potential customers that you may never have been able to reach before.
Tim is a customer advocate and blog contributor for 99designs. 99designs is the world's largest graphic design marketplace, connecting businesses with a community of over 180,000 graphic designers worldwide for logo design, website design and more.
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