When you start a business, it’s easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing. To create a strong brand, however, you have to find the right balance between your own goals and motivation and your competitor’s positioning.
Since I started in 2010, I’ve put a lot of work and effort into creating a strong, recognisable brand in sandstonecastles marketing. It’s not always easy to be objective when it comes to your own business and it requires a lot of patience (not my strong suit!). But it is a process I really enjoy and I want to help you feel the same way about your brand journey!
Small business branding is so much more than just a name and a logo. It’s an entire set of values, a personality and a voice that you lend to your business. This is what people come to know and love. Think about your favourite brands. What is it about them that makes you trust them enough to stick with them?
In this post, I’m going to talk through my top tips on how to create a strong brand. I’ll walk you through my decision-making process, so you get an idea of where to start with your own brand. Let’s dive in!
Developing the sandstonecastles marketing brand
My main goal has always been to make marketing work for small businesses. Marketing is a huge discipline with many channels and platforms. But as a small business with a small budget and team, you can’t explore them all and have to focus on what works best for you.
And while there’s plenty of content out there telling us about the benefits of each and every channel, there is little advice available on how to actually choose the ones that give you the best shot at achieving your goals.
So, I want to cut through the noise and focus on facts and clear, actionable advice. And this emphasis on realistic and effective marketing also means that I don’t stop at putting a strategy together. In my opinion, having the right tools, workflows and process in place is as important as the planning stage to make the best use of your time and money.
As you can tell, there’s a lot of ‘no-nonsense’, ‘down-to-earth’ and ‘straightforward’-ness at play when it comes to my marketing advice. I’m here to clarify your options, help make decisions and offer tips on how to get started. I’ll show you how to add marketing activities to your daily routine to keep workloads small while seeing results.
So… now, how do you bundle all this up and create a strong brand around it, you ask? Let’s explore!
Designing your perfect logo
Like I said, branding is about more than just a logo. But I have heard many people talk about just “pulling something together” to throw on the website or social media. Don’t rush in! Good logos say something about your brand and tell a story. They catch the eye and become synonymous with your brand and positioning in the marketplace, even when the name is removed. Just think of Starbucks, McDonalds or Apple!
My logo design
My logo (as shown in the two colour variations above) is hugely reflective of the approach I discussed above. I thought it would be useful for me to break down my thought process when it came to creating this design:
- While sandstonecastles is about clarity and effectiveness, the majority of marketing brands are already very corporate, simple and clean, so I decided to focus on other aspects of my brand.
- With that in mind, I chose to go for an illustration. My logo is hand-drawn and deliberately not polished, stylised or glossy. It’s realistic – more representative of what small business life is like!
- This also gives my logo a bit of character and personality; this was hugely important to me. I wanted my brand to feel approachable and friendly.
- I believe that having fun and enjoying the journey of small business life is key – the same goes for your marketing. And I felt that this sense of fun should come across in the branding.
- While it’s fun, it’s not too chaotic – I’m very organised! So I took care not to go too far in the opposite direction of the other more sleek styles.
Have a think – what vibe do you want your brand to give off from the moment a potential customer finds you? Are you positioned in a high-end, luxury market? Or something more low key? Consider the message you want clients to receive when they interact with your brand. And take the time to figure out what will help you stand out from the crowd!
Tone of voice and language
When it comes to content, the tone of voice and language we use is really important to be consistent with. For me, I knew from the start I wanted to be as straightforward as possible. No jargon, no buzzwords. I wanted to create a strong brand that made my clients feel comfortable. The content needed to be approachable, too. Trying to sound “too clever” in order to showcase your expertise can often just alienate potential customers.
I’m sure you’ve noticed – there’s a lot of hype around marketing. The industry can make keeping on top of trends, new tools and techniques feel totally overwhelming and scary. In my experience, this just puts people off, especially when busy running their own business.
My goal, then, was to keep things simple. My tone of voice has always been friendly, approachable and relaxed. I take care to keep the language used in my content as reader-friendly as possible!
It’s about meeting people where they are, and understanding that while your customers or clients are highly capable, they don’t know the ins and outs of the industry like you do! Don’t ever assume something is obvious! And if something is going to be tricky – be honest! No-one likes to have things sugarcoated.
Content style – colours and fonts
We’re living in a time where social media can convince us everyone else is sailing through life (and work), picture-perfect and hassle-free. That just isn’t my style, I’m afraid! I take a “warts and all” approach to business – there’s no polished reality/perfection here. I actually believe that there’s far more fun in the real, day-to-day life of a business anyway.
Ultimately, the vibe of my brand is kind and relaxed, honest and real. Following on from my logo, my content design had to fit this style, too. When you create a strong brand, consistency is key, across all elements.
For me, choosing slightly less corporate, polished fonts felt like a better fit for my brand. Similarly, when it came to brand colours, I chose more of a rainbow palette with colours that pop. There is a lot of very shiny silver, black and white branding in the marketing world, and a lot of pastels too. Don’t be swayed by the crowd! Again, find ways here to stand out and mirror your brand personality in your colours and fonts.
Don’t be afraid to grow!
Consistency may be key, but this doesn’t mean you’re stuck with one style forever. Far from it! I just gave my own content a revamp recently! After a while, it can be really energising to freshen things up – check out this post on whether it’s time to update yours!
So don’t spend months agonising over the format of an instagram post! Work with your brand colours and dedicated fonts to make your content easily recognisable – and then go for it! The basics will remain the same, but if you’re running a business for thirty years, it’s naturally going to grow and change.
The most important thing is that you know your brand inside out. You know your core values, the key message you want to send and the identity your brand has developed. That will never shift, no matter how many tweaks you make to your design! That sense of familiarity and trust is what will help you create a strong brand. And it’s what will keep your customers coming back again and again.
To read more about this topic, have a look at these:
10 Things I’ve Learned Running My Own Small Business
7 Successful Ways I Market my Small Business On and Offline
3 Steps to Raise Your Brand Awareness With Social Media Marketing
Is Your Small Business Branding in Need of an Update?