Branding for Small Business: Visual, Written, and Emotional Identity-Building

This article was written by Ray Sidney-Smith, facilitator for Alexandria Small Business Development Center’s monthly Business Development Roundtable. You may join us every third Tuesday, January through November, for different topic-based discussions for Small Business in the City of Alexandria, Virginia. What brands do you think about when you think about the biggest brands in… Read more »

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This article was written by Ray Sidney-Smith, facilitator for Alexandria Small Business Development Center’s monthly Business Development Roundtable. You may join us every third Tuesday, January through November, for different topic-based discussions for Small Business in the City of Alexandria, Virginia.

What brands do you think about when you think about the biggest brands in the world? Amazon, Apple, Coca-Cola, Google, Microsoft, Target, Wal-Mart, Wells Fargo, Verizon, and more come to mind from audiences when I ask. It’s interesting that they think mostly of technology and retail brands. According to London-based brand consultancy, Brand Finance, that publishes brand valuation studies for the largest brands in the world annually, has named Ferrari as the world’s most powerful brand for 2015, and Disney clinched that title for 2016. So, while appraising your brand is complex, the components that make your brand valuable should not be!famous-logos

Branding for Small Business owners usually surround the development of a brand-enabled business name, tagline, logo, and color palette, along with the sales and marketing strategy (and collateral) to create a cohesive brand. In this article, I’d like to cover the big three components of a Small Business brand and how you might take a practical approach to making your brand consistent and effective.

Written Branding for Small Business

While most business owners will start with thinking about logo and colors for their startup, I recommend highly that you begin with your business name and tagline being what I call, “brand-enabled.” Brand-enabled means that you  have thought about how your name will be perceived by your audience, how it will be interpreted, and used across marketing channels.

For example, is your business name easily spelled? If you are using it for your website domain name, this is even more important. Many times, businesses use their tagline as the website domain for their blog. Is this equally, easily-spelled over the phone, or given in a casual conversation at a networking event?

Of course, these are not the only aspects of creating your brand-enabled business name and tagline, but I usually recommend to new business owners to brainstorm the various questions their audience would ask about their business, and then create a name and tagline that can answer those questions well.

And, it is from the words you use about your company from your name, tagline, marketing copy,  email signature, website domains, social media handles and usernames, let you next think about the visual components of your business.

Visual Branding for Small Business

The next consideration for any Small Business is to think about the style of your company and culture you would like to present visually to your potential and future clients. Do you plan to represent your business as a luxury brand with high-paying clients with specific tastes?  Or, do you have a casual brand let’s fun-loving and playful? Perhaps you have a brand that should appeal to children? parents? Mothers? other businesses? or some other specific demographic? These choices impact your business’ visually brand decisions.

By working with a competent, local graphic designer, web designer/developer, retail architect, and/or printer (and Alexandria SBDC can refer you to their internal list of vetted, local professionals), you should be able to co-create an effective visual brand that might include a combination of logo, color palette, other visual design components (e.g., Social Media profile images and headers), website, marketing collateral (including business cards, flyers/postcards, and other printed materials), office/retail space design and layout, and/or branded apparel and merchandise.

The key to a successful visual brand is its ability to stay consistent across different media and channels, but also keep in line with your verbal and written brand messaging. If they are out of synchronization, your potential and future customers will judge your business as a poor emotional brand and you will lose business, which we’ll tackle next.

Emotional Branding for Small Business

As I intimated, creating a successful brand as a whole means that your visual and verbal/written brand messaging are in synchrony. It’s an ongoing cycle of preparation, evaluation, and enhancement. However, that’s not the totality of emotional branding. Most of emotional branding takes place once a client has worked with you and their experience builds upon their needs, immediate wants, and long-term aspirations.

This makes your brand readily accessible when they have a need or want so they contact you first, or when someone they know has a similar need or want so that they refer your product or service as their first choice solution. This is a powerful component of being in business, or being edged out of business in your first few months or years as a startup.

I suggest that businesses that feel on top of their visuals and messaging components of their brand to then work on the fulfillment and customer service areas of their business to enhance their emotional branding value.

In Closing

While you can’t likely put a value on your brand easily, accountants believe they have a clear dollar value. “Goodwill,” the line item among the intangible assets on business accounting reports, is where brand value lives. And there’s a reason why the largest corporate brands command a high dollar for goodwill when buying or selling companies. Good brands bring good customers, and in turn, good profits.

Assess your verbal/written, visual and emotional branding for your business by asking your trustworthy customers and trusted business partners how they perceive your brand strengths and weaknesses. Identify where you might have improvement areas and work to make those branding decisions that will make your company more valuable, and enjoy better sales from your efforts.

The post Branding for Small Business: Visual, Written, and Emotional Identity-Building appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Hiring Employees in the New Year? Be sure to file the latest forms!

Many small businesses will find themselves hiring their first, or additional, employees this year. There are several documents on our website that can help in this process, including the Employer Checklist. There are also PowerPoints from past workshops and worksheets on interviewing techniques and other aspects of hiring. These can be found on the virtual… Read more »

The post Hiring Employees in the New Year? Be sure to file the latest forms! appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Many small businesses will find themselves hiring their first, or additional, employees this year. There are several documents on our website that can help in this process, including the Employer Checklist. There are also PowerPoints from past workshops and worksheets on interviewing techniques and other aspects of hiring. These can be found on the virtual resource library, , sort by HR Programs. The Alexandria SBDC also offers HR consulting to Alexandria City small businesses each month.sample-employment-eligibility-form
As seen on the Employer Checklist, there are some forms that must be filed when hiring a new employee. We have been asked to inform our small business clients that one of these forms has been updated. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification that must be used by all employers by Jan. 22. Form I-9 is used for verifying the identity and employment authorization of citizens and non-citizens hired for employment in the United States. The new form includes more prompts to ensure the information is entered correctly, allows the ability to enter information on preparers and translators, and a dedicated area for including additional information. For more information on how to complete the new form, call 888-464-4218 or visit their website at www.uscis.gov/i-9-central.

The post Hiring Employees in the New Year? Be sure to file the latest forms! appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Hiring Employees in the New Year? Be sure to file the latest forms!

Many small businesses will find themselves hiring their first, or additional, employees this year. There are several documents on our website that can help in this process, including the Employer Checklist. There are also PowerPoints from past workshops and worksheets on interviewing techniques and other aspects of hiring. These can be found on the virtual… Read more »

The post Hiring Employees in the New Year? Be sure to file the latest forms! appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Many small businesses will find themselves hiring their first, or additional, employees this year. There are several documents on our website that can help in this process, including the Employer Checklist. There are also PowerPoints from past workshops and worksheets on interviewing techniques and other aspects of hiring. These can be found on the virtual resource library, , sort by HR Programs. The Alexandria SBDC also offers HR consulting to Alexandria City small businesses each month.sample-employment-eligibility-form
As seen on the Employer Checklist, there are some forms that must be filed when hiring a new employee. We have been asked to inform our small business clients that one of these forms has been updated. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification that must be used by all employers by Jan. 22. Form I-9 is used for verifying the identity and employment authorization of citizens and non-citizens hired for employment in the United States. The new form includes more prompts to ensure the information is entered correctly, allows the ability to enter information on preparers and translators, and a dedicated area for including additional information. For more information on how to complete the new form, call 888-464-4218 or visit their website at www.uscis.gov/i-9-central.

The post Hiring Employees in the New Year? Be sure to file the latest forms! appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

The Business Plan: Two decades serving small businesses

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on December 22, 2016. Twenty years ago on December 17th, the Alexandria Small Business Development Center (SBDC) opened its doors to support and strengthen the small businesses that are central to Alexandria’s economy and character. Over… Read more »

The post The Business Plan: Two decades serving small businesses appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on December 22, 2016.

Twenty years ago on December 17th, the Alexandria Small Business Development Center (SBDC) opened its doors to support and strengthen the small businesses that are central to Alexandria’s economy and character.

Over the two decades, the center has answered many thousands of inquiries about a broad range of business matters. It has provided over 25,000 hours of objective feedback and assistance to several thousand individuals, both existing business owners and startups. It has also helped individuals obtain over $71 million in loans, primarily from Alexandria bankers.

The center provides growth and operational advice to existing small business owners, small non-profits and associations, and those interested in starting such organizations. Existing businesses are helped with common problems, or to improve operations and marketing. The center also helps businesses make connections to the organizations, professionals, and resources that can make a real difference.

Those who work with the center from the earliest phase of their startup are typically better organized and prepared for the requirements, and they launch with better connections and more viable and agile operations. With the center’s proactive guidance and ready availability to help owners with problems, the SBDC’s client longevity rates far surpass national failure statistics.

There are many business fundamentals that are constant – market research, planning, site selection, cash management, customer service, forecasting, for example.  The way some of them is achieved has changed a bit over the years.

Social and mobile media have vastly changed marketing, customer relations, and entire business strategies. Online commerce is now an essential business element, as is creating a distinct customer experience.

The SBDC has guidance in all these business areas that might be familiar to some but not to others. We also have ready access to experts on social/local/mobile marketing; human resources; government contracting, nonprofit management, and retail operations. The center’s extensive website (www.AlexandriaSBDC.org) has resources on many timely business issues.

With the center as a free resource for City of Alexandria businesses, clients have access to an experienced staff that has nothing to sell them and is focused entirely on their best interests. Even more important than our highly regarded programs and services, clients say that the center’s candid and objective feedback is what distinguishes us from other programs.

The center is continually adding resources and contacts to meet shifting demands on businesses. It is also responsive to changing times and community priorities. For 2017, the SBDC is partnering with the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership on retail outreach to enhance the vitality of Alexandria’s shopping districts. The center is also connecting with additional business specialists to guide Alexandria owners through pressing business circumstances.

The staff and board of directors of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center are honored to have had the opportunity to serve Alexandria businesses for 20 years. We value the support from and collaborative partnerships with city government and our economic development partners.  Alexandria is truly a closely-knit business community.

We wish you a very happy holiday season and prosperous New Year!

The post The Business Plan: Two decades serving small businesses appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.