1. DO: Find inspiration from other brands

Take the time to review what your competitors are doing. Notice what they are doing right, and what they might be doing wrong.

Look at a competitor closely in these areas:

  • Brand identity
  • Product or service offering
  • Website user experience
  • Content publishing
  • Social media
  • Advertising

Make notes about why you think something is working well for your competitor. Then, strategize on how your brand can do it BETTER.

Alternatively, you may find that a competitor message is not very clear or straightforward. Leverage that gap when creating your own brand story. This makes it easier for customers to choose you over them when making a decision.

2. DO: Understand who your customer is

One of the more difficult things with business branding development is to commit to a target audience. It’s important to visualize what an ideal customer within your audience looks like.

We call this a buyer persona. It’s a fictional customer but based on real data about your existing consumers coupled with market research.

Now, if you’re a new company with little to no sales data, it helps to look at competitors and make educated assumptions.

If you are an existing business, it’s important to gather an understanding of who you are already helping with your product or service. Whose pain point does your business exactly solve for already?

Your buyer persona will have a name. They’ll have a personality, lifestyle, motivations, and frustrations (this is where your brand can guide them!). Creating a complete picture ensures that you can develop business branding ideas to meet their exact needs.

DON’T: Try to be everything to everyone.

Your brand can’t be everything to everyone. Without specificity, you become nothing to no one.

Here are a few ways to help hone in on your ideal customer:

  • First, eliminate who isn’t your audience
  • Look at Google Analytics if you have a website
  • Conduct a survey to existing customers
  • Conduct a survey on social media
  • Have a real conversation with a customer

3. DO: Have a professional logo designed

No matter what size business you have, it deserves a professional identity design. A freelance graphic designer or a branding agency for small business can create a brand logo.

The largest creative agencies working with the top brands will charge hundreds of thousands of dollars (sometimes millions!), for comprehensive brand development.

For a smaller business or startup, don’t fret—there are options for branding companies for small business. Expect to pay a thousand dollars or more for a great logo, style guide, and collateral to go with it.

Sometimes, you can find cheaper graphic designers online, but keep your expectations in check. You will get what you pay for. It’s worth investing in a professional logo at the beginning (or for a redesign).

When in doubt, remember what Paul Rand said:

“Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.”

So make it exceptional!

As you look to hire someone for your logo design, ensure they provide these things at the very least:

  • Logo in vector format (EPS)
  • Color palette and fonts
  • Brand style guide

Some agencies also provide added materials with a logo design, such as business cards, social media profile graphics and other collateral.

Find out what else can be included in a complete brand identity package.

DON’T: Overthink your logo

Typically, half of small business owners have some kind of vision for their logo. The other half are open to creative ideas—and know what they like when they see it. In either case, the logo design does not have to be complicated, literal, or super fancy.

When reviewing concepts from a designer, ask yourself if the logo truly is:

  • Simple
  • Memorable
  • Timeless
  • Versatile
  • Appropriate

4. DO: Create a brand slogan or tagline

A slogan or tagline is a short phrase that exemplifies the essence of your brand, its personality, and positioning. It does not have to apply directly to your products.

For example, one of the most famous business branding slogans is Nike’s “Just Do It.” Those three words have nothing directly to do with shoes, but the Nike slogan is memorable and conveys the essence of the brand. It motivates!

When creating a brand slogan, keep these points in mind.

  • Convey positivity
  • Use it to differentiate
  • Explain a key benefit
  • Make it memorable

5. DO: Research current trends

When you are creating a new brand from scratch, you should do market research to see what is happening in your industry. And, what is appealing to your target market.

And actually, this is important to do even when you are an established business so that you can stay current with your branding.

6. DO: Determine your brand “personality”

Bland doesn’t work too well with brand, unless you are marketing flavorless food.

(Pretty sure that product is a dud.)

Your brand should have a personality or attitude, even a subtle one. Think about some adjectives that might describe your company, and use that as a basis.

Determine on which side of the personality spectrum your brand falls:

  • Personable or corporate?
  • High-energy or careful?
  • Modern or traditional?
  • Cutting-edge or established?
  • Fun or serious?
  • Accessible or exclusive?

For example, a consulting firm may focus on high-end, white-glove services. That should be a part of the brand personality…perhaps by being sophisticated or exclusive in nature.

7. DO: Develop a unique business culture

A unique culture can become part of your overall business branding and brand personality. What we mean by “culture” consists of how you do business.

How do you treat your employees and customers?

Does your company value teamwork and collaboration?

Is being family-friendly, including generous maternity leave, a part of your corporate culture?

These can all become a part of your business branding.

Bringing your employees on board with your brand’s business culture and values can be the difference in having long-lasting success.

8. DO: Trademark your brand

Coming up with a unique business name is getting harder every day, as there are more entrepreneurs and small businesses. You’ll want to protect your brand from copycats. A trademark protects a symbol, name, word, logo, or design used to represent the manufacturer of goods.

9. DO: Use a Consistent Voice

In addition to your visual style guide is the voice that you use for your communications as a brand.

Is your voice casual or professional?

Are the blog articles on your website in first person, second person, or third person?

For a financial business brand, such as an accounting firm, you might want to err on being more formal in your communication. Unless you’ve gone the other direction and branded yourself as “The Wacky Accountant.” Heck, it might work as a differentiator.

With the brand voice that you determine fits your brand personality best, you’ll be able to develop a compelling brand story and associated messaging. These are the fundamental pieces of communication you’ll use across all channels, such as your website and social media.

DON’T: Change your voice too frequently

So, let’s say you do run an accounting firm, and you want to set it apart by re-branding it as a fun, “wacky” accounting firm. This is all fine and good, but you may need to give this new voice a try before switching gears suddenly.

Do some testing with your current customer base, to see if the voice resonates with them.

10. DO: Boost your brand

Once you have your brand name, logo, slogan and story, make you sure to promote it. The prettiest logo won’t help a darn bit if nobody sees it!

Build a clean, user-friendly website that clearly explains what your business does for the consumer. Remember to include a call-to-action that points people in the right direction (Buy Now, Schedule a Call, Sign Up). Tell them exactly what to do.

Develop a marketing plan and implement it. Foundation elements of a digital brand strategy should include:

  • Content marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Paid advertising

DON’T: Be shy about your brand

Finally, don’t be shy about your business branding, especially if you are a solo entrepreneur. Let people know about your brand and promote it proudly!