If you’re a sole trader, you may feel as if branding is for large companies and corporations. But your brand is closely linked to your reputation so even if you don’t think you need one, you really do.
Much like your reputation, it’s essentially what your customers say to other people about you. That’s why companies invest a lot of time and money in branding, in order to develop and coordinate a more human personality across all aspects of their business.
But in truth, branding doesn’t require loads of money. It does take time, but it requires passion and careful consideration of the image you want to put across. Your brand will be affected not only by what you do but by how you want your customers to see you.
It may be useful to start by literally thinking of what words you would like your customers to think of when they think about your business. As an independent trader, you need a strong brand in order to stand out.
Whether you’re a window cleaner or a personal trainer, you should be able to buff out your personal goals fairly quickly, but you also need to focus what your unique selling points are.
What’s special about your business? What can customers get from you that no one else can give them? These are the things that will separate you from your competition and show you in a positive light, which will in turn appeal to new and existing customers.
For starters, you should want to appear knowledgeable and authoritative about your industry, so it helps to know your audience inside out. You need to not only understand their needs but also feel confident that your mission and values will live up to their requirements.
Taking the time to carry out market research will deepen your understanding of your target audience and make branding decisions easier in the long run. Customers don’t want to know what you know, they just need to know that you’re up to the job.
It’s not about boasting, but about showing your potential customers why they should choose you over other traders.
In addition to setting out your stall and sprucing up your image, effective branding gives your business a personal touch. You already have an advantage over companies that affect a tone of voice in order to sound more human, because you already have a personality.
Depending on your brand positioning, your professional personality may differ from your own, but in any case, you automatically have consistency. Press your advantage by pushing your unique selling points and speaking directly to your audience in your copy.
No one knows what you do better than you do, but the goal with your personal brand is to show how you do what other, maybe larger companies cannot. From social media posts to website copy, everything you produce for your business should be in your own tone of voice.
Your Name and Logo
Some people think that a brand consists of nothing more than your name and your logo. It’s more complicated than that, but these are still important aspects of your overall brand. Many sole traders use their own name as their company name, but if you want to go a different way, it’s important to consider this carefully.
Be creative but don’t over complicate things. Your ideal brand name will be catchy and easy to understand. Also, you need to make sure that the domain for your chosen name is available in order to avoid confusion with other companies.
Once you’ve settled on a name, create your logo. Again, to avoid confusion, make sure that it’s appropriate to your business as well as being visually arresting. Choose wisely, because an eye-catching graphic is no use to you if it doesn’t also say something about your brand.
Designing Your Brand
Unless you’re already an experienced designer, it’s best to consult the professionals when developing the visuals that go with your brand. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have input, but from the logo down, it’s more important to get it right than to do it all yourself.
Professional designers will be able to help you make the right choices on everything from colour to font. These decisions may seem straightforward, but they’re crucial to your brand positioning and must be considered as carefully as any other aspect of it.
While it’s wise to consult the professionals when it comes to designing your brand, all decisions are ultimately yours, and you can always get a better idea of what suits your industry by looking at competing brands to decide what you like and what you don’t like.
Once you’ve settled upon your personal brand, it’s vital to make sure it is applied across all of your website and any other content. Obviously, you don’t want to mix friendly and formal tones of voice in your customer emails or change colour schemes from one web page to the next.
Think of your brand as a system of values and guidelines that should direct all of your customer-facing interactions. Again, you have the advantage of making these decisions as an individual, in line with your own personal taste, but this also means it takes time to come up with a brand that’s designed to stand up to user scrutiny.
Ultimately, the ideal user experience is informed by smart, consistent branding that not only conveys the qualities to which you aspire but also builds trust and shows you are reliable and unswerving. Whatever trade you’re in, those are appealing qualities to display.
5 top takeaways
- Market research will allow you to gain a greater understanding of your network and divine their tastes more accurately. When you know what your customers want, ask yourself how you provide the solution.
- Unlike larger companies, you don’t have to come up with a collective personality. What other advantages do you have over your competitors and how can you convey these to your customers?
- Think about how you talk to your customers in person. Now, examine how to get that tone of voice across in all of your written communications, from emails to website copy.
- While branding needn’t break the bank, don’t be afraid to invest in consulting professional designers or branding experts about your ideas, particularly when it comes to your colour palette and other aspects of your identity.
- In order to create a coherent brand image, you must develop a clear idea of what your brand is and strive to represent that in all of your interactions and services. Aim for the reputation you want to have, and the rest will follow.
Nazrul Hoque – 01 August 2019