By Renu Sharma

What do you think of when you see the golden arches of McDonald’s or the iconic swoosh of Nike? You’d immediately think of the brands associated with the logos, even if their names aren’t specifically mentioned. These are examples of great branding, which is crucial for the success of a business. Even for small businesses and startups, effective branding can go a long way in achieving overall growth.

But how exactly can you pull off a successful branding initiative for small business? The rule is to make a plan to avoid the following common yet harmful branding mistakes.

1. Failing to Develop Branding Guidelines

One of the first and most important steps in branding – regardless of the size of your business – is to establish a set of guidelines that will play a role in creating your brand identity. This will cover several elements of branding such as logo, colors, fonts, typography, taglines, imagery, voice, mascots, etc.

You may not need to develop all of these at the start but you need to have a detailed and documented plan for these elements. Failing to do so could result in a lack of direction and consistency, which are crucial for branding success. Your branding initiative could go haywire without this set of guidelines. It’s important that your branding guidelines also stay true to your brand values, goals, and identity.

2. Failing to Define a Target Audience

Whether you have a small business or a multinational organization, it’s crucial that you have a defined audience before you begin with your branding or marketing efforts. Defining your target audience can help you develop an effective business strategy. At the same time, it helps you understand your customers better. This, in turn, gives you leverage when building a branding campaign.

Once you’ve defined your target audience and conducted a study on their likes and dislikes, you should have the necessary knowledge to develop the branding guidelines mentioned in the first point. For example, if your target audience comprises mainly of females you could pick a brand color that appeals to female consumers.

3. Failing to Leverage Employees for Branding

Your employees are your most valuable assets. They could also be your best advocates depending on how well you leverage them. Unfortunately, many small businesses fail to realize this. Remember that your employees are the face of your brand, so they could play a huge role in your branding initiative. Begin by keeping your employees happy, which will encourage them to become your biggest advocates.

Give your employees the freedom to connect with your customers on behalf of your brand – whether it’s on social media or real life. Have customers listen to your story through people who work for your brand. And make sure your website has a section about the people behind the brand so that you can put a human face to your brand.

4. Missing Opportunities in Telephone Branding

What do people hear when they call your offices in to ask a question or make a purchase? Do they only hear a telephone ringing like in the usual calls that they make? And when they’re on hold, is there only silence on your end? If you answer “yes” to these two questions, then it’s clear that you’re missing an opportunity in telephone branding.

Introduce branded on-hold marketing messages to give a professional image to your business. When you greet callers with a branded automated message, you give off the impression that you mean business. And they also get the assurance that they’re dealing with a business that takes its job seriously.

Additionally, on-hold marketing messages can help you prevent loss of business by convincing people to stay on the line. If they only hear silence when they’re on hold, callers may cut the call thinking they’ve been disconnected. But with a clear message telling them to stay on the line, you could improve your caller retention rate.

5. Being Inconsistent

Consistency and successful branding go hand in hand. For example, the golden arches of McDonald’s have practically remained the same ever since we can remember. And other big brands have only made minor changes, if any, to their logos, taglines, and brand colors. The point is that once they develop their branding guidelines and brand identity, they stick to it.

If you keep changing your brand logo, tagline, or color; you might end up confusing your audience. You need to have them relate your brand name to a particular imagery or a specific tagline. So embrace consistency and even if you have to make changes, make sure you don’t stray too far from the original.

You now have a better understanding of some common mistakes you can make in small business branding. Make a plan to avoid these mistakes to successfully grow your brand. Got any doubts or questions about this article? Leave a comment below and let’s hear your thoughts.