A complete guide to creating a brand for your small business

A complete, step-by-step guide to creating a brand for your business. This how-to covers everything from defining your purpose, your brand personality, your customers, your brand voice and more!

All right, so you already know how important branding is to the success of your business. You know it’s how to differentiate your business from your competitors, build your credibility and establish strong relationships with your target audience so you can gain ideal clients. Now what you want is a step-by-step guide to creating a brand so you know what order to take as you tackle this task.

If so, you’re in luck because that’s exactly what I’ll be diving into with this handy and comprehensive post. I’ll outline the step-by-step process for building a brand with plenty of links to more in-depth posts for each step. Buckle in! This is going to be a lengthy one.

By the way, you may also be interested in my free workbook that guides you through the initial stage of this process. Click here to get the Core Brand Pillars Workbook.

Phase 1: A guide to developing your brand strategy

Building your brand strategically will save you a tonne of trial-and-error, and possibly months or even years of time. Too many business owners make the mistake of believing that branding is just about the visuals and that branding starts with logo design — don’t be one of them.

Instead, begin the branding process by defining your goals, your ideal clients, and what I like to call your brand foundation. These are the key components of your brand strategy. Here is a post that goes in-depth on brand strategy.

1. Set your goals

What’s your vision for this brand? What do you aim to achieve? Your brand strategy must be driven by a goal — something you’re reaching towards. It could be a financial goal, a lifestyle goal, a goal to change the world for the better in any big or small way.

Ask yourself why you want to create this brand. Is it to raise awareness of your business? Gain more clients? Raise your prices? Do you want to use it as a platform to build a community, or to establish yourself as an expert in your industry? You should always be aware of what your goals are — both in the short and long term — so that you can make well-informed decisions about your branding as you move forward.

Also read: How to align your business goals to brand strategies

2. Identify your ideal client

Clients are the lifeblood of your business and the central part of everything you do with your brand. Your purpose, values, logo design, colours, marketing… everything that follows from this point is going to be about matching their expectations and meeting their needs.

So, define what those expectations and needs are.

  • Who do you serve and what do they desire?
  • What pain points are they struggling with?
  • What’s currently holding them back?
  • If they can overcome those problems, how will their lives be improved?

Always aim to be very precise with who you’re targeting. Don’t try to appeal to everyone. Don’t be average. Aim to be the perfect fit for a specific type of person — your dream client.

Also read: Why you should define your ideal client

3. Establish your purpose

This is the reason your business exists and one of the three components of your brand foundation. It’s about being able to explain how your services will help your ideal clients and articulating why it’s important. You’re not just explaining what you do; you’re explaining the benefits of what you do. How it gets the results your clients are looking for. What getting those results will allow them to go on to achieve.

Also read: Discovering your “why” and how it drives your business to success

4. Define your core values

Your core values are another component of your brand foundation and define what you stand for. What are the promises you make about how you will conduct business? What beliefs are important to you? These values should be something you share with your ideal client.

The core values you choose to uphold in your business should be values that are naturally infused into the way you run your business and deliver your services. They’re not attributes you’re aspiring to achieve. They’re values that you can demonstrate right away.

Also read: The essential guide to defining your core brand values

5. Describe your brand personality

The final part of your brand foundation. Your brand personality is the tone of your brand. It’s the voice of your brand. It makes your brand personable and relatable. Giving your business a personality might sound like a trivial thing, but I think it’s key to creating a brand that people want to follow and engage with.

A brand is the impression people have of your business, but branding (the action of creating that brand) is all about building relationships. Purpose and core values play their important parts, but personality brings it all together.

Take the brand personality quiz

Phase 2: A guide to building the language of your brand

By developing your brand strategy, you’ve done the all-important groundwork to establish what you want your brand to be all about. By doing so, you should have brand clarity and be able to define what makes your brand noteworthy.

The next phases are all about taking that internal work you’ve done and building the language you can use to communicate externally — to your audience. What is it going to look and sound like when you share your brand with them?

6. Develop your messaging

I think it’s important to have a strong message before moving into the visual elements of your branding. Your brand message is how you communicate your purpose and core values to your ideal clients so that they understand what you do and why they should pay attention to you. Your message is an incredibly powerful tool in business and is ultimately what sells your brand to your audience.

What you’re doing here is creating compelling ways to tell the story of your brand. Who it’s for, what it does, how it does it. Everything from your website headlines, to your tagline, to your Instagram captions, to your emails are all examples of your brand’s messaging in action. They should all be infused with your brand personality and always be sharing the value you have to offer.

For a place to get started check out: An easy exercise for writing a brand message

7. Design your logo

Remember when I said a lot of business owners seem to think step 1 of branding is creating a logo? I think it comes from believing that branding is all about the stuff you can see. They don’t know about all the thought and care that happens behind the scenes, when it comes to creating a brand.

The problem with skipping straight to design work is that there’s no context. No way to know if you’re on the right track. Does your logo suit your business? Is it attracting the right audience? Without a strategy in place, you just can’t be sure.

If you know your message, your personality, your ideal client, choosing the design of your logo seems simple. You know what kind of tone it should set and who the target market is. And this is critical, because the aim of your logo is for it to be a visual representation of your whole brand. You want it to be recognisable and to carry your message. It also needs to be versatile and timeless.

The standards of design are getting higher and higher — and the look of your business communicates a lot about the professionalism and credibility of your business. So, if you’re not an amazing logo designer yourself, consider investing in a pro who can create a logo that your business can depend on for years to come.

Also read: 8 key points for logo design and how to apply them

8. Choose your colour palette

All the visual elements of your brand (logo design, colours, typography, imagery) should ideally be tackled as once. These aspects of your branding together are known as your brand identity, and they encompass the visual language of your brand. Your brand identity supports your messaging and helps you to attract your target market.

When it comes to choosing your brand colours, it should be less about your personal preferences and more about meeting the expectations of your audience. Colours go a long way to help you demonstrate your brand personality and set the tone of your brand. Consider what your ideal client is looking for and select colours that help you demonstrate to them when they’re in the right place.

Also read: 22 hand-picked colour palettes for your next project

9. Select your typeface suite

This is another key part of your brand identity. Selecting typography is more than just picking two or three fonts. It’s also about how you use them. How will your headlines look? What about body copy? How do you arrange your text on your website or on a page? Should your text be centred? Left-aligned? Do you use all-caps? Lower-case only? Bold? Italics?

Like every aspect of your branding, consistency is very important with your use of different typefaces. Your logo isn’t the only way to visually tie different pieces of collateral together. When you’re consistent with the way you use your entire brand identity system, you can build stronger brand awareness and recognisability even when your logo isn’t visible.

Also read: 5 typography tips to refer to when designing for your business

10. Create an imagery style and other graphics

There’s no hard-and-fast rules about what must be included in your brand identity system, but in general you probably want some guidelines about what kind of photography or other imagery you will use. You may also want patterns, icons or other graphics created to further support the visual language of your brand.

The best way to keep track of how to use all these different visual design elements is to have a style guide. A style guide will cover the “rules” on how to implement the various components of your branding, from correct logo use to which brand colours you can use together, to guidelines for your typographic hierarchy. It can also include examples of how to apply patterns or graphics to branding collateral and instructions on how to select appropriate stock images or edit photos for use in your branding.

Phase 3: A guide to designing the experience of your brand

Now that you have the words and visuals to communicate your brand, it’s time to build out your brand experience. Determine what kind of touchpoints are needed and what kind of marketing tactics you will use.

11. Make your website

If there’s one touchpoint I think every modern business needs, it’s a website. No matter what your business is, if people want more information they go online. If you don’t have a website, you’re missing out on a valuable chance to strengthen the relationship with your audience.

Your website is the space where your brand lives in the digital world. From the moment people land on it, your brand should be clearly expressed. Carefully consider the copy, the visuals, and the user experience. Is it clear what you offer? Is the site easy to navigate? Will your audience be able to find what they’re looking for?

The best advice I can give regarding website design is to keep it as simple as possible. Each page should have a concise headline that clearly explains what the site is about as well as a compelling call-to-action that lets visitors know what to do as their next step. The brand identity you’ve created should be consistent throughout the design and your messaging should keep your ideal client at the centre of the story.

Also read: 5 tips for a high converting website design

12. Create your other brand touchpoints

Every business is going to have unique needs when it comes to the touchpoints required. Maybe you need business cards and stationery. Maybe you need packaging. There might be proposals, pricing guides or other documents you send to clients.

Any point of contact between you and your clients/audience is a chance to express your brand and strengthen the relationship you’re building with them. I love to see businesses find new and unique ways to deliver their services while other businesses stick to the standard (but undeniably unimaginative) way of doing things.

If you can delight your audience, even a little, it can really make your brand stand out. It can be as simple as the way you express “thank you” when you send an invoice, or the way you follow-up with past clients.

13. Develop your marketing strategy

Branding coupled with marketing is a powerful combination. Neither works quite as effectively in the absence of the other. Branding gives marketing a story to tell. And marketing gets your brand in front of more people, so they can hear that story.

There are plenty of options out there for how you can market your brand. You can use paid advertising to bring traffic to your website. You can use content marketing to build an audience more organically. Use lead magnets to grow your email list and then use email marketing to promote your brand and services.

Find methods of marketing that work for your brand. The key to gaining traction comes from having a clear and compelling message — which you should certainly have at this point as a result of all the previous steps as you created your brand.

Also read: How to build brand awareness organically in 4 steps

A step-by-step guide to building a brand for your business. This comprehensive guide will explain how to create a strong foundation, develop a brand voice and design a visual identity.Last thoughts

Creating a brand is a long-term strategy, but one that can truly elevate your business. It helps you strengthen the relationship with your audience and draw them in, so you don’t have to use pushy marketing tactics to grow your business. Instead, by defining who your brand exists to serve and focusing on how best to deliver what they need, you can gain loyal followers and create a community of people who consider your brand irreplaceable.

If you’d like help implementing these steps, then great! Because that’s exactly what I do. Learn more about working with me.

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