Lisa Merriam

Small Business Brand: Does Your Small Business Need a Brand?

If you’ve got a small company or are in the process of starting one, you might be thinking about building a brand. Given all the things you can spend your time and money on, is small business brand really worth the effort?

The answer is yes and no—it depends on what you mean when you say “branding”.

If branding means a fancy logo and expensive advertising, it is probably a waste of money.

Your Small Business Brand is Not About Huge Advertising Budgets

When many people think of brands, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Walmart, and IBM spring to mind. These huge global brands with equally huge advertising budgets have little relevance to small business brands. You have to cut past the Super Bowl ads and Olympic Games sponsorships to understand what is at the heart of the concept of brand:

Brand is really about reputation. Ads and logos are only ways of communicating reputation, or image, if you will. And reputation is very relevant to small business.

You already have a brand. If you are just starting out, your personal reputation is your brand. Your credit rating and relationship with your bank are crucial for opening accounts and getting loans. You get help from friends and family because of the strength of your vision, your work ethic, your track record, etc. When you are up and running, things like customer service, product quality, your ability to pay bills on time, all contribute to your reputation.

When you think of brand building for your small business, you need to think about what your reputation is today and where you want it to be in the future. You’ll have to take a hard look in the mirror to understand what is good, what is mediocre, and what needs to be fixed. And how do you stack up next to your competition. Talk to friends and customers. Do whatever it takes to get as accurate picture of your reputation as you possibly can. Then formally decide what you want it to be and what you have to do to earn that future reputation. In marketing-speak, this process is called positioning your brand. It is, in fact, a subject for a separate article.

Does Your Business Really Need a Brand?

So, this brings us back to the original question: Does your small business need to build a brand? Consider this:

  • Do you need to sell more?
  • Do you need to make a bigger profit?
  • Do you need repeat business?

If you answer “yes” to one or more of the above questions, then yes, your small business needs to build a brand.
With the understanding of brand as being tantamount to your reputation, you can ask a more meaningful question: What is my reputation and how is it helping me increase volume, margin, and loyalty?