Small business branding essentials

Whether you’re a small business or a well-known blue-chip brand, your brand meaning plays a key role in its long-term success.

In Australia alone, there are approximately 32,000 registered accounting firms – an extremely cluttered competitive landscape to say the least. Imagine, if just one of these firms focused on, say, positioning itself as a specialist to small business for all their accounting needs.

What does this example mean for the small businesses of Australia? Businesses need to understand the competition, customers, the market and then communicate to them.

Let’s not be scared. Being a brand-focused, marketing-led business is not as hard as some people may think. So, what are some of the critical elements when it comes to your branding essentials so that the right perceptions are created in the mind of the marketplace?

Investigating the marketplace for competition

One of the key elements of marketing anything is communicating it to the marketplace in an easy-to-comprehend fashion. Communicating your brand is generally a battle of the minds (your clients and customers) more than anything else. Getting in their mind first is a big step in the right direction, otherwise you’re forever battling to get inside. To know which part of the mind to occupy, you need to know what part of the mind your competition is playing in. Is it based on the audience, price, colour, location? You need to be in the part of the mind that hasn’t been taken by your competition. You want to be towards the top of the list, if not the first. If you’re not first into a market, it makes the journey a lot more difficult.

Creating a “positioning”

Communicating vagueness or ego is played out too many times in business. You should be asking yourself, what is my brand really communicating? The most important thing we should be doing is owning a piece of real estate in the minds of customers and clients. This is known as the positioning of your brand. Generally, this positioning defines what you do, as clear as day, in the marketplace. You need to also ask yourself, what position does my brand own in the mind of our customers and clients? Am I the cheapest in my category? Am I the most expensive? Am I the first? Am I targeting someone that no one else has? You need to own a position in the mind that is beyond quality. Minds are cluttered, so find a space and fill it.

Consistency in communication

So now that you have a position in the mind of your clients and customers, are you staying true to your brand’s positioning? I often see brands embarrassing themselves by giving in to one-off sales. If you’re an exclusive brand, don’t be loose on the discounts. If you’re a cheap brand, don’t try to be glamorous. Be consistent in your communication so that people remember what your brand is about. Constant, consistent reinforcement is critical.

What made Coca Cola so successful in the early days was the simplicity and focus – they started out with “Cola”. As companies do, they explore product line extensions, steering them away from what they’re known for. “Coca Cola Life”, Coke containing Stevia, a natural sweetener, lasted all but 24 months on Australian shelves.

So, the key take away for Australian businesses is to make sure you’re investigating your competition, see where you can be different, positioning you in the minds of your customers and clients with the key difference being at the fore front of all communication, and making sure this communication is consistent.

Michael Kava, Founder and Director, Little Marketing Group