If you haven’t yet launched your new business, you’re in luck. Read this before going any further. If not, there may still be hope for you.

A new study reported by eMarketer shows that only 26% of US small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) owners and managers focused on their logos and branding before launching their businesses. This doesn’t bear well for new SMBs. Plus, I have two big problems with this research.

The First Problem

The study was commissioned by 99 Designs, an online graphic design company. Its focus is on brand identity which is only one component of Branding. Therefore, the study results feature a lack of focus on developing professional logos and websites. And, that’s just not the whole picture of what SMBs should be doing.

I’d like to clarify what a brand is…

“Basically, your small business’ brand represents absolutely everything about it, whether you are its sole proprietor or are one of 200 employees.

Yes, it’s the visual representation — the logo, graphics, colors, look, and professionalism of a company’s marketing communication materials or collateral. But it’s also how employees represent the company — in their behavior, language, commitment, messages, facial expressions, and interaction with internal and external customers. It’s also the promise your business makes to its customers and prospects and whether it overdelivers on these promises consistently and predictably.

Your brand is a combination of a customer’s experiences with your business at every touchpoint. Each memory, thought, impression, website visit, story, sales letter, social media post, event, phone call, and transaction contribute to your company’s brand reputation.” (From my soon-to-be-published book: Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas that Matter Most for Small Business Success, ©2015)

Related Article: Branding for Small Businesses

Every start-up (and existing) business should have a solid marketing and branding plan, ideally before launching. Without this, business owners can spin their wheels wasting time, effort, and money. I’ve seen this happen time and time again.

The Second Problem

The study segregated “marketing” from “logo and branding.” Yet, marketing and branding go together like marshmallows and campfires. One without the other just doesn’t cut it. How do you like my summertime simile? 🙂

I did some digging and discovered this quote from Metric Marketing:

“The primary difference between branding and marketing is that marketing promotes and branding reinforces. If you have a crappy product or customer service issues, marketing can get you leads and sales, but only branding will help enhance your reputation and strengthen customer loyalty.”

Take a look at the chart below. The number one area that SMBs dedicated the most time was in finding customers (68%). Now, take a look at “marketing,” “company name,” “logo and branding,” and “market research.”

All these areas are necessary to develop a marketing/branding plan and are part of developing a strategy. For example, without doing marketing research, it’s impossible to know anything about your target audiences (market segments). Making assumptions can get you into hot water easily.

Side Story

Several years ago, I worked with a start-up service company that had an excellent niche concept. It was definitely a “Blue Ocean” idea that the investors were keen and ready to start. However, I cautioned them not to do anything until we did some marketing research before developing a marketing and branding plan.

I’m glad they agreed because we discovered that consumers were not overly enthusiastic with the idea. They found issues with it that the company founders hadn’t considered. Imagine all the money that would have been poured down the drain had they moved forward.

Choosing a company name should also be researched to see which ones resonate – NOT with your family and friends – but, with your target audiences.

Finding customers falls under the category of marketing tactics – identifying what do you need to do to attract and retain customers and reach other marketing objectives. Would you set up a lemonade stand without making lemonade first?

So, there you have it. SMBs have a much better shot at success when they develop their marketing strategy first, followed by the tactics. And, branding is part of the strategy.

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