Small business and the branding crossroads

There’s a marketing crossroads companies come to when they’re at that stage of going from Small Company to Less-Small Company. It’s an interesting time for a marketer who has worked with businesses large and small, as you have to be very diplomatic and appreciate this as a pivotal step for your client.

It’s usually the point when companies have a stream of big business of their own and cannot help but compare themselves with their (usually) much more sophisticated clients. It’s also when there’s a bit of downtime from a period of fast reactive growth and the company starts thinking about proactively approaching new business.

Although logo and branding are only a part of marketing and communications, I still find with the smaller businesses it is this that requires the most urgent attention and it is this that can be the hardest sell.

One of the challenges is the perception of the logo as a simple icon and the psychological price point that the small business owner has versus the large established company.

Where a big blue chip is prepared to pay tens, if not hundreds of thousands for a new logo, the small business owner can’t see how this ‘badge’ can be worth more than a few thousands dollars. A few thousand? Why so much when they can go back to their own designer and get them to knock up three for $500.

Many may think the logo is just a symbol or a mark that sits in the top left corner of the stationary and website, but a brand is not the same thing at all. When a small company comes to that crossroads, it’s a total mindset change that raises them to a different playing field.

Needless to say there are a multitude of core business and marketing strategies that are necessary for successfully growing a small company. When it comes to that professional rebranding step though, I find that’s when the entire company – from senior level through to workers on a factory floor – start to feel the buzz and a sense of increased pride in where they work.

Without fail there’s controversy and disagreement among the staff when the new logo and brand are chosen. There are mutters of disapproval as style guidelines are enforced and the person on the front desk is told no more palm tree email backgrounds or festive signature fonts. There is an absolute uproar when Snappy Snap local printer is put under review and retired because the print quality doesn’t measure up to the new standard.

It’s a challenging time and unless you’re a marketer with total belief in yourself and in your expertise you won’t win this battle and potentially even worse, in the long term you’ll be blamed for not doing what you were hired to do in the first place: elevate the company.

There is inevitably always a good ending to this if done well. As the new signage goes up outside and in the foyer, the new stationary gets handed out and personal business cards go to individuals, as the sales team receive their impressive new collateral, as the vehicles start driving around with new decals and the uniforms arrive in a fresh new style, the website launches looking slick and professional, the trade press runs the wave of concurrent media.

When everything the company produces has the same, strong, consistent brand that’s when it all comes together and the buzz becomes palpable. The branding controversy all but disappears and the business moves on to the next step of implementing the business and marketing strategy with a confidence in its ability to make an excellent impression every time.

For this reason I will always fight the fight with small business clients and implore them to start working with a small external team of suppliers at a much higher level than what they were in the past. That includes an excellent design, print and web partner – all marketing savvy, all highly experienced and all with initiative and skill to advise you on the best possible solutions.

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