According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), there were 5.94 million small businesses (with 0 to 49 employees) at the beginning of 2020, but at least 250,000 small businesses are predicted to fold during 2021. That still leaves a lot of businesses out there. That’s a lot of businesses from which you have to stand out, stand up and be counted! So, in the plethora of purchasing opportunities that still remain for consumers, how do you stay noticed, stay in business and stay earning?
- But, what does this actually mean for your business?
- Would you say you have an established brand?
- Is your business recognisable?
- Have you done enough of the leg work to fully optimise your branding?
Consistent visual branding is what makes you different, sets you apart from the competition and gives that all-important unique and individual style that reflects your business values and your product or service. Think of the visual elements such as brand colours, design and logo style – this is how you present yourself to the world. This is what your audience and potential customers see.
Here are some vital elements to consider:
- Logo and strapline – short, sweet and succinct.
- Different logo variations – depending on what you use your logo for, the colours and resolution may need to be adapted.
- Brand colours – check out www.pantone.com for some amazing fresh colour palettes.
- Typefaces/Fonts – super important that you get the resolution right to avoid pixilation.
- Consistent style of imagery – try to avoid mixing image styles e.g. cartoons vs real pics.
- Style guide – always useful when working with a third party so they understand the requirements of your visual branding, including pantone number, font name, font size, logo colour variations and sizes to name a few.
How to achieve brand consistency
Now that you’ve done the creative legwork and perfected your brand image, now it’s time to concentrate on your brand consistency. This is how a large or small business aligns its message with the core values, brand commitment, brand promise, customer expectation vs outcome. Brand consistency supports your brand in a way that makes it easily identifiable throughout each marketing, advertising portal and touch point.
Building a Brand of Trust
Did you know that the more consistent, noticeable and identifiable your brand becomes feelings of trust and reliability are evoked within your existing and potential customer base; your audience get to relate to you on a deeper and more personal level – they feel comfortable and safe within your brand.
- Who do you aspire to be like?
- Who is your favourite big brand?
- Have you checked out their branding?
As a coffee lover, I’m going to use the example of Starbucks; who in 1971 were a small business like you – now if this doesn’t give you something to aspire to, I don’t know what will!
The Starbucks logo has had its own historic and fascinating evolvement; from the early days the logo has displayed a mythical two-tail mermaid/siren of the sea inside a circular ring. The original coffee brown palettes of 1971 were thought to promote appetite, nature, nurture, and stability. Following Starbucks’ 1987 buyout, the logo’s colours changed to a ‘Kelly’ green, representing a fresh start, growth and prosperity. We can certainly say they’ve achieved that!
Any small business owner may think they don’t need to be consistent with their branding, but they would be mistaken. Small businesses usually do not have the budget and driving force of big brands like Starbucks, but even in the community of small businesses, we recognise one another’s businesses through our brand identity. Small business does not mean small mindset; we can all think big, plan and grow to any scale. Investing in your branding or creating it yourself is a positive step forward.
Note how the siren is consistently featured in this logo evolvement. The branding is strong, to the point where losing the wording ‘Starbucks Coffee’ does not make the logo unrecognisable or any less significant.
Think about your own branding in relation to this quick checklist:
Does your logo appear on your:
- Business card?
- Facebook business page profile picture?
- Twitter account profile picture?
- LinkedIn profile?
- Instagram profile?
- Email signature?
- Presentation slides?
- Networking or professional body biography?
- Car wrapping?
This is a great place to start on your mission for visual brand consistency. One other good tip: keep every business card you ever have printed; it tells your own unique story of brand evolvement.
Creating Relationship Consistency
Think about how you manage the relationships within your business. These could be:
- Current clients
- Old clients
- Future clients
- Colleagues and associates
We have many different relationships to manage within our small businesses, all requiring different elements of contact from us at different stages. It’s important to keep contact going and reinforce your message, especially to clients, new, old and potential, because if you’re not, your competition will be.
Here are some valuable tips that will help you to create relationship consistency without becoming a borderline stalker!
- When you receive an inbound lead – actually follow it up – and do it quickly. This might seem like I’m stating the obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t follow up within a reasonable timeframe – or even follow up at all, wasting a perfectly good sales opportunity.
- If you think you may struggle to respond individually to each enquiry or make time to stay in touch, maybe it’s time you thought about automating your communication. Most social media accounts allow you to automate responses and pre-schedule content, LinkedIn allows you to personalise introductory messages and there are a multitude of CRM systems that will allow you to create individual databases and send segmented mailouts. All of these are far less time consuming than managing it on a case-by-case basis. Mapping out a plan that enables you to consistently follow up is essential; be sure to prioritise the leads.
- Non-inbound leads are a different kettle of fish, as largely there is no relationship history that has gone before. These are business contacts we have perhaps met through business expos, networking events and charity fundraisers. What we need to do here is nurture and grow this new relationship and keep the connection going. This new group of business contacts won’t necessarily want to jump feet first into all of your marketing and mailouts and will require a gentler approach.
- All we can do is aim to be consistent, reliable and knowledgeable at the right distance. We can nurture relationships and stay at the forefront of people’s minds, without adding stress and aggravation by being overbearing. Not every point of contact needs excessive communication; we need to respect the wishes of our contacts and tailor our communication accordingly – find out how they’d like to be contacted and how often, there is nothing worse than being a business nuisance! Your clients and contacts will love you more for this; they want to feel cared for, understood, listened to, nurtured and have that personalised experience with you.
Creating that unique personal relationship is so important because we all want to feel loved in a world that can often be quite unkind. Small things like thank you stickers on purchases, branded thank you cards for orders and gestures of appreciation can help to keep your customers coming back time and time again, because they feel valued. You can create something simple and affordable, yet effective to make your customers smile.
If you’d like to explore ways to get more consistency in your business, for less than the price of a cup of coffee each week, join the Acorn Club monthly subscription or book a personalised 1-2-1 coaching session with me, Jacky 🙂