Small-business owners must know branding.

Brand and branding strategy are complicated topics. Here are some tips you should know as a small business.

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as “a name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.” Simple enough, right?

Your brand resides within the minds of consumers, customers and prospects in a hierarchy (you are positioned first, second, etc., when your company/product is thought of). Your brand is composed of exposure to, perceptions of and personal experiences with your company, product or service. You can influence the public’s attitude and behavior toward your brand through advertising, word of mouth and other means.

Having a strong, recognizable brand is invaluable and should be the cornerstone of your marketing communications. Brand messages should be clear, credible, confirming, and connecting, while motivating buyer loyalty.

Your branding strategy is present at every point of public contact. Some of your considerations and components should be:

Name development — It should be memorable, evocative and differentiating. Beware of cultural differences if exporting.

Logo development — Logos should be used consistently. Develop a style guide to help define how to use, where to use, colors to use, size, proportion and placement.

Trademark™ or Register® your mark (please refer to my Herald-Tribune column on intellectual property and the small business, dated June 16, 2014).

Taglines — “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin,” “Just do it,” “The quicker picker upper,” “Google it,” “It Works!” Use memorable product attributes and benefits.

Corporate identity — Everything you do helps build or detract from your identity. Use social channels to help in brand building.

Packaging — Your packaging says a lot about your company. Think of Amazon and its smiling logo on its boxes, or how Apple products are packaged. Everything matters with your branding strategy.

Website design — Do the most you can with the budget you have. Look at websites you like and copy their use of design elements with your message. You can use free templates offered by WordPress.

Your branding strategy should seek to increase awareness, build trust, position your product first in the mind of the consumer, continually build your brand and drive conversions (sales).

In a well-defined approach, market research (budget allowing) should focus on perceived value of your brand, surveys of customer awareness, attitudes, intentions to purchase and actual buying behavior.

Keep in mind what the competition is doing, as you will be measured against other similar choices. Your goal is to carve out a messaging niche that resonates with your target audience.

My personal experiences with branding

Name development — I love creating names out of thin air. In Orlando, I started a magazine called Orbus™. The name was a combination of Orlando and Business. My tagline was “Bringing Orlando and Business together.” Orbus was a great success and was sold for seven figures within two years. Not too shabby.

But at first it sounded funny. What’s an Orbus? After a short while, however, the business community would say, have you seen that article in Orbus about such and such? It really caught on — it was unique and easily identifiable. There was no doubt that Orbus was positioned as “the” business magazine in Orlando.

Brand architecture and extension — In the ’80s, I published a group of magazines called Office Guides. These publications were real estate directories listing available commercial office space. The publications were supported by commercial developers (office and industrial) and product- and service-related advertising.

The first magazine was Office Guide To Tampa. In scaling this brand, the series was rolled out to Orlando, Miami and Broward and Palm Beach counties, the state of Florida, Denver, Colorado, and Phoenix, Arizona.

The branding was kept consistent for the logo and the layout. The publication was given a $10 cover price, because nobody throws out a $10 magazine. The circulation was primarily controlled and targeted to company presidents and relocation professionals.

The Manasota SCORE podcast series, Been There, Done That! with Dennis Zink, is available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, at Manasota.SCORE.org and now at SCORE.org (our national website), which receives over 250,000 unique monthly visitors — great exposure.

The name Been There, Done That! effectively positions our podcast series by conducting feature interviews with business executives and thought leaders discussing their experience and knowledge on a particular business topic. These podcasts are also available at centreofinfluence.org.

Finally, where should you place your message for branding? Depending on your business, product or service, you should consider using print, TV, radio, outdoor, direct response, digital, mobile, social media, email, podcasts, YouTube and other methods to get your message out to the public.

Target your message to customers who will buy and then influence others to also buy your brand.

Dennis Zink is a volunteer, certified mentor and chairman of Manasota SCORE. He is the creator and host of Been There, Done That! with Dennis Zink, a business podcast series. He also facilitates a CEO roundtable for the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, runs a business MeetUp group, Success Strategies for Business Owners and is a business consultant. Email him at centreofinfluence@gmail.com.

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