Developing a Small Business Branding Strategy
I’ve been really reflecting on my website lately. Not only the content, but the look and feel. In fact, you may have noticed I changed the front page. A lot of the changes and the behind the scenes work I’ve been doing reflects my through process as I’ve been refining and developing my own small business branding strategy.
From time to time, I have entrepreneurs come into my office with no idea of what they’re going to call their company. In my mind, as long as the name is memorable and not to difficult to say, it’s good. It helps if it can roll of the tongue nicely.
Some company names make sense to the general masses, like MasterCard or Bank of America, others not so much, like Yahoo, Google, or Quora. Choosing a company name often comes down to what resonates with you most.
Backbone America – When I decided to start this website, I had a few criterion in mind. First, I wanted a name that made sense to most people, preferable a two word name. Second, I wanted a name that was available as a .com. Third, I wanted a name that was meaningful to what I’d be blogging about. When I discovered Backbone America was available, it felt like I’d hit the gold mine. For the longest time, I’ve held the belief that small businesses were the backbone of America. Coming up with such a simple name was perfect.
First, I want to say your branding strategy is more than just a logo. Really, a logo can be anything. Think of the Nike Swoosh, the bird for Twitter, or the weird mermaid thing for Starbucks. The logos are part of the brand, but really, those logos mean nothing without the company.
Think of the logo as a symbol that is easily identified by your customers. When your customers see your logo, they think of your company and what it represents. For example, what comes to mind when you see the black Swoosh, the bubbly blue bird, or that weird mermaid thing? For most, those logos have a concrete value in people’s minds.
Backbone America – When I started working with my graphic artist (Kimi Fischer), I had wasn’t sure what I wanted. However, I knew I wanted it to be red, white, and blue… to represent the colors of America. I’ve had criticism about it, but to me, it’s a bold statement. It’s all American. I love the shooting star and the sense of motion it gives.
Mission, Vision, Values
A lot of entrepreneurs seem to think branding stops at the name and logo. To be honest, the name and logo are superficial. It’s when you start adopting the mission, vision, and values that your branding really begins. Some entrepreneurs come us with these three core pieces because there’s a sense of should. However, it’s more than just creating them for the sake of creation. Your company mission represents what you’re doing right now. When customers view your mission they want to see a connection to what you’re doing. Your vision is the goal you’re working toward. This is the far reaching goal which seems so impossible that it’s close to a pipe dream. Your values represent the everyday moral paths that guide your business practices. Your mission, vision, and values are not to taken lightly. These core pieces act as a promise to your customers.
About Backbone America – When I decided to transform Backbone America into more than a blog and go into business, I started to really think about what was important to me as an entrepreneur. Despite being successful as a business advisor and helping an abundance of entrepreneurs build successful businesses, I knew building my own business would be a challenge. Why? because I had worked with extremely talented entrepreneurs, and I’ve yet to hear any business owner call their journey a cake walk. So, I didn’t expect anything different for me. In many ways, I’m still in transition… building my business to where I want it to be.
My own struggles and concerns led me to think about who my market would be. It was my face in the mirror that called me to work with other Black women in similar positions. When I started researching my target market, I was sorely disappointed at the disparity. The discovery made me even more resolved. My mission came from the need I saw amongst African American businesswomen.
My vision came much later. I started searching for articles about Black businesswomen and other black related news. What I found was eye opening in a way that I missed my ignorant bliss. In fact, what’s being revealed to me saddens me. I started to realize that Black people lack equality in general, regardless of where they go on the planet. An interesting thing happened to me because of this realization… I began to cling more to America. This has been the home of my ancestors for centuries. Native Americans go back further. I’m guilty of looking at an Asian on TV and wondering if they’re Japanese, Chinese, or Korean, instead of seeing them as simply American. Often there’s an assumption that being White is the standard for America. My vision is for the world to be different. It’s to see American as American with equality for simply being American. I want America to look at people living in this country and automatically assume they’re just American, regardless of their features or skin tone. I want us all to have equal opportunities without weight to our sex or any other superficial feature.
The values, REVEAL, represent my beliefs in myself and what I encourage in my clients. I am Responsible for my life and the direction I take. I am Empowered to make a difference in my life. Being true to my Values will lead to a more fulfilling life. My success requires that I am Engaged and committed to the desired outcomes. Having a self-Awareness of myself helps me identify how I can be my own roadblock and overcome barriers. I am committed to continually Learning and improving myself.
Who or what do people see when they think of your company? I think of the Mayhem guy from the car insurance commercials or Michael Jordan from Nike, and the silver apple for Apple products. These are the images that stand out for me for other brands. Images change… like the Mayhem guy was replaced by the calm, cool, deep-spoken Dennis Haysbert.
Backbone America – The more I began to delve into coaching, the more important I wanted to have a company that was represented by me. My logo was important, but I wanted a face behind the logo. I wanted people to see with whom they’d be working. It was important to me for you to see who I was, how I was, and even a little of how I wanted to be. So, I’m going to tell you a little about myself.
I love exploring the world… embracing it really. I have a thirst for knowledge and love talking to immigrants about the countries they left behind. I’m bold and take the risks to push myself outside my comfort zone. I believe I can do ANYTHING, and I’m surprised when I fail. I dust off my failures, take it as a learning experience, and move on to my next big project.
I am American. America is my country, and I’m eager to do my part to make it great, help it flourish, and uplift the people who live in it. Despite all the pitfalls, I love being American and am so happy I was born one. This is my image… the All American Woman.
Your brand is more than just a name, logo, or a set of words that encompass your mission, vision, values, or even the image. All of those are important, yes. However, it’s important to understand your brand goes beyond those. Those items just represent your brand.
Your brand is the wholeness of your company. Your brand becomes the differentiation between you and the competition. Take time to focus on the brand you reflect to the world. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a brand. It may or may not the brand you want, but you’ll have one.
As you build your customer base, eventually your company will develop a brand of its own. Unfortunately, it may not be the brand you want. You’ll see it in the reviews, people will talk about it amongst themselves… “isn’t that the company that…” You’ll see your brand develop in the culture of your company. I’ve seen too many companies with a culture of throwing people under the bus, disrespecting customers, and underperforming employees.
If you’re seeing a brand develop that isn’t what you want, it’s not too late to reboot. If you’re just getting started with your business, now is the time to build your foundation. Take me up on my offer for a free REVEAL Discovery Session, and we’ll talk about how I can help you build a brand you’re proud to have.