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The SMB Guide to Branding with Expert Anne Gillaspie

In today’s hyper-competitive world, where consumers have more choices than ever before, branding is critical. It can help you stand out from the competition, build a loyal customer base, and it quite literally can make a business successful. 

Most businesses understand the importance of branding, but branding itself feels more like a theory than something they know how to actively engage in. 

To help with that, we talked with Anne Gillaspie, Master Brand Strategist and Owner of strategic branding agency Fix & Form.

In her work over the past decade, Gillaspie has helped brands strategically improve or create new, impactful branding, including by delivering outstanding experiences using a human-centric approach to branding.

What is Branding?

If you ask some people what branding is, they might think of a brand name, or a business with a memorable logo. But it’s about much more than that.

How to Know if Your Brand is Effective

An effective brand is one that is memorable and helps attract customers and purchases your way — including both new customers and returning customers. Knowing whether or not you have an impactful brand, however, can be a challenge in and of itself.

What Causes Weak Brands

As you’re working to build your business, it’s easy to let something like branding— which is a big task and may seem non-urgent— to fall by the wayside. Some business owners either try to quickly rush to slap something together that’s “good enough” and don’t dive deep enough, or they fail to make an intentional branding effort beyond creating a logo and calling it a day.

This is a major risk, because lack of effort in branding is (perhaps unsurprisingly) the biggest culprit behind weak or ineffective brands.

So How Important Are Visuals in Branding?

While your logo shouldn’t be the only branding that you engage in, the logo and the visuals on your website do matter— and they matter a ton.

Gillaspie stressed that visuals played an extremely important part in company branding: 

The visuals you use may be some of the first things customers notice, and they say a lot about your brand. It’s important to make sure that they’re saying the right things, and that customers are able to remember them.

That said, Gillaspie also stressed that one of the biggest mistakes that SMBs make is thinking that branding is only about a logo:

How to Establish & Implement Brand Voice

Brand voice— which is the consistent way that your business communicates externally— is a distinctive part of branding. Some brands like Wendys have even developed famous brand voices that elevate them to social media stardom.

The key word here, of course, is consistent.

Here’s what Gillaspie said about brand voice:

The First Steps in Branding for SMBs

There’s a lot that goes into branding— so where should SMBs start?

By asking these questions, you can get started on actually developing the brand itself, including brand voice, visuals, and USP, copy, and taglines.

When To Factor Social Media in Branding

Some businesses have leveraged social media to not only promote their business and deliver customer service, but to strengthen the brand itself.

Social media is a long-term play, and making strategic moves about what you can consistently invest in and sustain is an important consideration to keep in mind.

When to Consider Working with a Branding Agency (& What to Look For)

Many SMBs that are first getting started would love to work with a branding agency — but it’s not always the right time and it may not quite be in their budget.

It’s important to note that experienced brand strategists can help you at any point in the process, so whether you have an existing brand that needs some improvement or you’re starting from scratch, when you need help with the vision and/or implementation and have the budget, they’ll be ready.

This is what Gillaspie said when asked about when SMBs should consider working with a branding expert or agency:

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of elements that go into building a strong business, and branding is just one. That said, it’s an important one— especially as you’re looking to scale, increase your client base, and build solid brand awareness and recognition.

Branding plays a vital role in many business’s long term success, and it includes brand voice, visuals, and the overall customer experience. If you’re ever feeling stuck, consulting with a branding expert can help, but starting with some market research, audience research, and a solid understanding of what you can offer your customers is a good place to start.

Want more tips about starting and running SMBs? Check out our blog for more!

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