As you start your business, establishing your identity in your market and building your brand need to be among your top priorities.

Branding, branding, branding. You’ll hear about how important it is over and over again in what you read online and in talking with other business professionals.

But what is your “brand” exactly?

This definition from Entrepreneur.com says it perfectly, “Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors'. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.”

Just how critical is branding to your small business?

The answer: Absolutely essential.

Branding your business helps build trust, awareness, and a base of loyal customers in the present and for the future.

A smart branding strategy starts with answering some basic questions about your business:

  • What benefits and advantages does your company provide to customers?
  • What do you want your company to be known for?
  • What qualities come to mind when customers think about your company now?
  • What key message do you want all involved in your company to communicate about your brand?

When branding your business, consistency is extremely important. The messaging, color, and design in your advertising and marketing materials (both online and in print) should be in sync so customers will more easily recognize you over your competitors in the market.

Pay attention to providing a consistent look/feel in the various communications channels that you use in your branding efforts:

  • Your website
  • Your social media accounts
  • Your blog
  • Review websites
  • Online directories
  • Brochures
  • Direct mail ads
  • Newspaper ads
  • Social media ads
  • Banner, retargeting, and other online ads
  • Business cards
  • Letterhead
  • Promotional items

As you’re building your brand, keep an open mind and continuously monitor how well your brand resonates with your key customers. Be prepared to tweak your message (and make improvements in your business) as necessary, and look for opportunities to reinforce and strengthen your brand.