Build a Better Brand: 7 Essential Small Business Brand Guidelines

When preparing small business brand guidelines, the first thing to understand is that branding is absolutely everything in marketing today. Even small businesses, startups, burgeoning entrepreneurs, and small-scale influencers are vividly aware of how strong the influence of a brand or branding is on their business. There are many success stories on the internet about how proper branding can get a small business noticed.

Branding affects everything. It’s the most effective means of standing out, especially in a crowded field such as the eCommerce world. In a world filled with people starting up their small shops, fashion lines, beauty, skincare lines, and more, a company’s brand or branding can catch the consumer’s eye. A small business with brand guidelines that effectively showcase the best that the business can offer can get the edge even over larger companies, leading them to better exposure to potential consumers and subsequent growth.

Better Branding Matters: Why Small Business Brand Guidelines are Vital

Why do brand guidelines matter so much? Essentially a small business’s brand becomes its identity. Consumers typically don’t remember company names so much as they remember identities. There is far better brand recall when a company defines its personality, tone, values, colors, and other identifiable features. This reason is also why businesses choose the colors, designs, typefaces, and logos for their websites, product packaging, and marketing materials.

Furthermore, for a small business, brand guidelines don’t only refer to visual identifiers. It also includes the tone in the marketing copy and how it communicates to customers. It can delineate policies on attitude, values, and even the type of taglines, greetings, or mottos associated with the company.

A brand is a personality, and small businesses must create comprehensive guidelines about it. It’s not only a matter of convenience (so you don’t have to develop decisions about them as the business grows constantly). It also creates a set of standards and rules. People who work for the company are made aware of what those are. They know the measure of the products and the quality of the service are expected and the elements that comprise the visual identifiers.

Small business brand guidelines are necessary to maintain consistency throughout the business’ properties and pages. Being consistent maintains the company image, reinforcing it to customers. If the small business’ brand guidelines are kept constant through your pages, products, and services, it reminds customers repeatedly: this is who you are and why you’re good at what you do. It’s as unique as a fingerprint, setting you apart from competitors.

The cohesive branding across the board eventually cultivates your brand culture and creates a rounded-out atmosphere of professionalism. These things lead to customer trust and brand loyalty among your customers, leading them to return again and again if they’re happy with what they see and experience.

This is How It’s Done: Tips and Tricks to Creating Great Guidelines

Getting their name out there is step one for any small business. Brand guidelines allow them to market themselves with their best foot forward, and here are some great ways to build those guidelines.

1. Clearly define what or who your brand is.

As your branding will be your identity, you must delineate what that identity is. What does your business offer? What products or services act as its centerpieces or primary goods? Look into the market that it falls under and determine why your customers would or should purchase the product or service. 

Another good way to help you decide your brand identity or central image should be to ask your present or target consumers. What do they think of when they look at your business? What do they like or need the most? By knowing how you see your brand and how customers see your brand, you can create small business brand guidelines with a happy middle, creating a fusion of the brand’s ideal image.

2. Look into what the competition is doing.

Companies building their small business brand guidelines benefit a lot from looking into what their competition is doing. Checking competitors, both large and small, allow you to see what they’re doing right with their brand, which gives you an idea of the kind of path to take for your own.

Why are customers responding positively to these aspects of their branding? Are they checking and verifying their email list?How can you manage that on your own? Another benefit is that you can see what’s not working for your competitors. Is there an aspect of their branding that customers don’t like? Are consumers looking for alternatives to their brand? How can your business give them what they’re seeking? Owners can make small business brand guidelines with the answers in mind.

3. Create an iconic logo with consistent colors through your branding.

When you think of a big company like Target, you first see in your mind their indicative red dot. McDonald’s has its famous golden arches. Starbucks has its iconic green mermaid on every cup, with baristas dressed in the same shade of green aprons. Consistent color branding in conjunction with a symbolic logo is intrinsic to creating brand guidelines. This will be your company’s signature or marker. 

A great tactic is to study color theory and color psychology to understand how some colors can influence the emotions of people who look into them. It may help you define color guidelines, keep them consistent across the board, and increase brand recall among customers. If you have a unique symbol or color palette, even a clever tagline, customers begin associating it with your brand and be reminded of you.

4. Maximize by covering every base.

Small business brand guidelines aren’t and shouldn’t be restricted to your colors and logo. Cover everything in your document for company branding guidelines:

  • Marketing and Signage: How your marketing style should be, the tone, the design, and images.
  • Communications: Should your company be formal? Informal? Informative? Soothing?
  • Sales and Customer Service: How should your sales and CS personnel communicate to customers?
  • Store Design (Physical and Online): What should customers feel when they come into your store? What colors, themes, images, and styles should be present?
  • Social Media: Which platforms should you be on? How often should your company update? What should their online content and tone be like?
  • Employee Dress Code: How should your personnel be dressed? How should they present themselves? Should they be dressed in business wear? Casual clothing? Store merchandise? Uniforms?

All these things are essential for a small business. When maximized this way, brand guidelines allow you to build a cohesive company brand straight away and remain consistent right from the beginning.

5. Put your customers in focus.

Your target market and your existing consumers should be the focus of your brand guidelines. Remember that you need to appeal to them to grow and reach an even greater audience as a small business

A long-term relationship with your customers is critical, so ensure that not only are you able to meet their expectations, but at the same time don’t promise things you can’t deliver. Clear, honest small business brand guidelines allow you to build trust. And with consistent, reliable service, customers will continue to maintain a relationship with your brand.

6. Have a mission and vision statement.

It may sound old-fashioned, but having a mission and vision statement ensures that you and your company keep your eyes on the ball or the end goals. It’s easy to start changing directions one way or another, especially if you end up going with what’s currently the market trend. 

Having a clear mission and vision in the guidelines ultimately reminds you and your business why you started the company in the first place and what it hopes to achieve long-term overall. Small business brand guidelines with a mission and vision also help shape all the rest of the policies, as they’ll be drafted with the same goals in mind.

7. Make a clear list of Dos and Don’ts.

When starting, small businesses are mostly “playing it by ear” or making things up as they go as they build experience as a company in their specific industry. That may lead to vagueness in the wording when the brand guidelines get drafted. 

To make sure everyone is on the same page and any restrictions or wordings are clear, create a list of Dos and Don’ts. It creates a clearer picture of what you want to see from your brand and what employees should do or avoid. The list can also further underscore the small business brand guidelines’ most critical reminders, such as tone, logo, color usage, and specific issues that you find non-negotiable.

Final words 

Brand guidelines are more than just a list of rules and standards. Essentially, it’s a summation of your business in its images, visuals, voice, and what it hopes to achieve with your customers or employees. It’s an expression of your brand that will ingrain itself in the minds of your customers and should be at the forefront of your employees’. 

And by keeping consistent, delivering quality according to the standards and reminders listed there, you’re able to build a strong brand voice that continues to grow through the years.

How did your company create its logo and branding? What were the most crucial small business brand guidelines? Let us know in the comments below.

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