Your Guide to Branding a Small Business

Branding is an essential part of business development, but it’s especially important for small enterprises trying to break into existing markets or establish new ones. Branding is all about identity, so it should be a priority to build an identity and brand from the get-go. It doesn’t matter how small your venture is, or how large you want it to become, without effective branding you won’t get far! For that reason, it’s worth investing in your identity at the outset.

What Is Branding?

At Dawn Creative, we understand that branding is everything.

But what does that mean for a small business, just starting to venture into a volatile and competitive marketplace?

The most basic definition of branding is that it’s your business identity.

It’s how customers and employees alike perceive your business.

It’s your reputation, and it’s your image.

But branding is also much more.

Great branding is a complex and planned structure that doesn’t come about by accident.

It’s made up of a multitude of individual elements that work together to create an instantly recognisable image and identity.

Branding is your colour scheme, it’s your business logo, it’s your website, it’s your reputation, it’s your products or services, it’s everything you do.

It’s a promise kept.

Great branding needs nurturing, monitoring, and constant improvement to be successful.

And it’s important to get things right.

Do I Need to Think About Branding Right from the Start?

You might have huge dreams of expansion for your small business, but if you don’t get your branding right from the start, they could come to nothing.

The UK is an entrepreneurial nation.

But given the competitive nature of business, 20 per cent of small businesses and start-ups are thought to fail within the first year.

Up to 60 per cent will have shut up shop by their third year of trading.

Those figures aren’t nice to read, especially if you’re only just starting out.

But that is the harsh reality of a modern economy.

Your goal as a small business owner is to be in the 40 per cent of businesses that make it past the third year, because then you’re more likely to thrive in the long term.

There are numerous factors to consider but branding needs to be on point from the beginning. Having a strong brand from the outset will not only help you further down the line when business is booming, but it will help you to survive those first sometimes tumultuous years, as customers begin to recognise your brand and come to respect it.

To put branding into perspective, here are the main advantages a small business can gain from building up a brand:

  • Establish a recognisable identity
  • Retain customers
  • Build customer loyalty and trust
  • Attract the best staff
  • Promote confidence in your products or services
  • Ultimately, make more sales and higher profits

Building trust and loyalty from the beginning will help you to not only survive as a small business, but to thrive in an increasingly competitive market.

What Could Happen If I Don’t Brand My Business from the Start?

For a business that fails to brand, or one that doesn’t quite get theirs right, the consequences can be harsh given the fierce competition.

Trust is one of the most important factors that customers use to make a purchasing decision. People trust brands that they recognise and respect.

Without that trust, a small business may find it hard to make sales and retain customers.

Building a brand starts from the bottom up, which is why branding is just as important for small businesses as it is for giant corporations.

Branding begins with the first customers that walk through the door or land on your website, and it can be the difference that makes them form trust, return again or pass your details on to another potential customer.

An unrecognisable business isn’t going to retain much customer loyalty, simply because there’s little to be loyal towards.

What Do I Need to Consider for My Small Business?

So, we’ve established that it’s important to get your branding right and for small businesses to approach their branding from the beginning.

But how does a small business begin to formulate a branding strategy?

What do small businesses need to consider when they start to think about their brand?

Branding takes planning

Branding should form part of your initial business plan.

It doesn’t happen overnight, because branding is a long-term strategy that needs careful thought and attention in terms of both the minute detail and the bigger picture.

For this reason, you need to start investing in branding early on as a start-up or small business and continue investing as you grow.

All this planning takes time, so it can often be in the best interests of a small business to outsource their branding strategy to an outside developer.

In a start-up budget you should plan for these expenses but know the investment will be worth it in the long run.

Think big from the start

As with any plan, you need a goal and targets to hit.

You need to know what you’re aiming towards.

The same applies when it comes to branding.

From the outset, there’s no reason not to think big just because you are a small business.

You need wider goals and aspirations, and you can find inspiration from the best and most recognisable brands out there.

Where do you want your business to be in 10 years’ time?

Do you want it to be small but manageable, or are you thinking big?

Do you want to have continued growth, or would you prefer a small pool of loyal customers? How will your current brand look to future customers or target demographics?

Think big and plan big from the start to build a better brand for the future.

Who is your target audience?

Branding needs to be targeted in order to be effective.

The most important thing a small business needs to know is who their branding is targeted towards.

There’s no point spending thousands of pounds on building an image if you don’t know who your audience is.

Branding is your identity.

People have identities too, which means particular brands identify well with different audiences. If you can identify who you’re aiming your products and services at, you’ll gain a better understanding of what it is they’re looking for.

Knowing your target audience will help you to tailor and design your branding to appeal to their likes and interests.

Creating audience personas is a great way to understand and identify your target demographic.

What are your business’s values?

You should also consider that your brand purpose, brand vision, brand mission and brand values are your business.

While not necessarily a visual part of your image, your values are still an integral part of your branding.

People buy from brands they trust.

If they believe a brand is unethical, or its values don’t align with their own, they’ll simply choose to buy elsewhere.

Ethical business practices and sustainable business practices are becoming increasingly important to branding, as these issues become more integral to our society.

Research is crucial

For these reasons, it’s important to put in the research when you start developing your branding. This is one area where outside inspiration, ideas and creativity are relevant, too.

As well as researching your target audience, you should check out your main competitors.

Ask key questions, such as why customers are drawn to a particular brand.

Is it the colour scheme, their products or services, their reputation, or something else?

Research what’s already been done and whether it’s a success or failure, and you’ll soon start to understand what hasn’t been done and where your brand can be tailored to fill those gaps in the market.

Colour schemes

Once you know your target audience and have researched the competition and gaps in the market, it’s time to start looking at how to develop your unique brand.

As branding is all about image, it’s important to choose an appropriate colour palette for your business.

This colour scheme needs to reflect your company values and interests, and it needs to appeal to your target audience.

Colour schemes help to form a recognisable brand, and they’re also important for advertising and marketing.

There are many other factors to consider too, plus you need to take into account people’s preconceptions when it comes to colour.

Human beings associate colours with different emotions and different environments, and there’s little you can do to change thousands of years of evolution.

We associate red with danger and love.

We associate green with healthy eating and nature.

If you’re selling a new health drink, you probably don’t want your branding to be red, for instance.


As well as a prominent colour scheme, you need a logo to help your business stand out and be instantly recognised.

Logos vary. Some are elaborate, some are minimalist. Some are graphic, some are just names or words.

The best brands have a logo that complements their image and that their loyal customers can identify with ease.

Some of the best examples are McDonald’s – those infamous golden arches are identifiable all over the world – the Nike swoosh, WWF’s panda, and the multi-coloured lettering of Google and eBay.

Online branding

In today’s business world, online branding is just as important as offline branding.

Any branding strategy for the 21st century needs to include websites, email marketing campaigns and social media at its core.

Branding needs to be optimised for online use, which means your colour schemes and logos need to look good on your website and social channels, as well as on your office or shop.

There are so many ever-changing opportunities for online branding, and it’s important to keep on top of different trends, values and ideas if you want your business to grow and retain a loyal following.

For many brands, it’s not enough to simply sell a product anymore.

Brands need to be active in the community (online and offline), and they need to provide value that goes beyond a physical product or service. This is where your Brand Purpose plays a big part in your thinking.

Branding is a great investment for business success

If you want your small business to flourish and grow, we hope we’ve convinced you about the importance of strong branding from the outset.

Good branding costs money though, so it’s important to spend wisely when you’re developing your strategy.

This is another reason why it’s integral to your business plan that you start investing in branding from the very beginning.
Investing early will allow you to see quicker growth and better development.

Leave the branding side of the business to stagnate for too long, and it could cost you even more in the future to see the level of success you’re looking for.

Remember that it’s better to spend more upfront than to lose money, business and growth opportunities further down the line.

Branding is an integral part of small business development.

You need to get the branding right from the start if you want the best chance of success.

If you want to show people who you are, what your small business is passionate about, and how you do things differently, then get in touch with us today.

Our creative team has been helping small businesses to perfect their branding for years.

Why not let our creatives take your brand to the next level?

We’re here to help you to brand your small business.

Call us now on 0161 711 0910, or send an email to