If you’re starting a business it is likely that you have come across many resources telling you how important it is to brand yourself! But what is a brand? A brand is your promise to your customer. It differentiates you from your competition and makes you memorable. However, many small business owners have pushed branding to the bottom of their priority list.
To learn more about branding for a small business from the perspective of myself, a personal brand photographer and Esther Mund, a personal brand strategist read on!
Great Branding Leaves an Impression On Your Customers
Of course, our priority as small business owners is always to be memorable. Word of mouth and referrals are huge sources of revenue. Inevitably you will provide a product or service that your customers love and will likely inspire them to refer you.
But have you considered how your brand affects people’s recall and likely referral of your business? Branding is more than just a nice logo or a great Instagram post. It’s the first impression your customers have when they encounter your business, online or in person, this impression ultimately leads to their decision to buy from you, revisit your business in the future or recommend you to a friend.
The short-term investment turns into a long-term asset.
Opening your business comes with high startup costs and it’s only natural to seek out savings where you can. Unfortunately, this often results in branding falling to the bottom of the priority list. This will stand to be a mistake for your business down the line. Opening your business with high-level branding sends a message to the public that you are not only established and credible but that you understand their needs as a customer base.
Perhaps you did go through the branding process but on a tight budget, while this may seem practical at the time, you have nearly guaranteed that you will need to rebrand down the road. While rebranding is not impossible it can be confusing for your customers. Investing in your branding from the beginning will ensure that you are working with an expert, who has a keen eye for design, an understanding of classic styles and the determination to get to the heart of your brand.
The decision to invest in your branding is a big one…
here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing between branding experts.
- Are you impressed by their work for past clients?
- Are they objectively talented or do they just happen to be very on-trend at the moment?
- Do they specialize in a specific brand aesthetic and if so does that align with yours?
- Do they provide a one-on-one service or take a more hands-off/DIY approach?
- Are our personalities aligned? (you wouldn't want to clash!)
- If something comes up (or goes wrong), will I feel comfortable speaking up?
- What do they value as a business owner?
- Will they respect the work I do?
- What do they specialize in? (example, brand strategy or design)
Note, these are some questions your potential buyers are asking about you!
"Here's the bummer, if you show up on social media, you already have a personal brand, a messy one, but a brand."
Photography is an integral part of branding for a small business.
There are many steps in the branding process and you will likely work with a few different experts along the way, a photographer who specializes in personal brand photography should be one of them. However, it is unlikely that your photographer will take you through the entire branding process, so think of them as the second or third step after you have established your brand pillars, logo and colours. When I meet with a new small business to create their branding photos, my goal is to have a clear understanding of their image before we ever set foot on a shoot. Together we will discuss how you want to be portrayed as a business owner, how your personal values align with your business and how we can translate those into your photos.
In current times there is no way around the visual image, customers want to see the face behind the business and your presence on social media. This can feel very overwhelming, which is why I take the time with every client to establish a sustainable shoot schedule that provides them with a diverse selection of staff headshots as well lifestyle content for social media or marketing.
I know just how tempting it is to hide behind your brand (hey, introverts). I did that for two years (my awkward story), but I quickly learned the ugly truth: you can't hide behind your brand - you are your brand. Because it's *you* who shows up on social media every single day (not your brand)!
It's important to remember that people don't just hire you for your product or service nowadays. Because let's be real, hundreds of people are offering the same thing as you. People buy from you because they want to connect with you - the person behind the brand and photography is an excellent way to allow them to do just that. Photos give your audience a chance to know your personality, values, and lifestyle, but more importantly, it helps them build a deeper connection with you!
(And the person with the most authentic connections walks away with the most sales. Yes, it's that simple!)
Branding is not only for large companies.
If you take one thing away from this post, let it be the importance of branding for a small business at any stage. As a business owner myself, I can relate to the feeling that your business “isn’t there yet” but the moment you begin taking yourself seriously is when others do the same. Investing in your business from the beginning will create loyal customers, save you from having to rebrand down the road and ensure that you have a team of freelancers with a keen understanding of your brand who will support your business as it grows.
Here's the bummer, if you show up on social media, you already have a personal brand, a messy one, but a brand. Because your brand is your audience's experience, it's everything your brand offers. And by everything, I mean *literally* everything (yes, even your Instagram rants). Every interaction your customer has with your brand becomes their brand perception: the good, the argh and the ugly.
But here's the good news, when you invest in a powerful personal brand experience, you're in control of that experience! An experience they'll want to share with others!
"If you take one thing away from this post, let it be the importance of branding for a small business at any stage."
Meet the Authors
Hey, I'm gabi!
Owner of Gabi Macias Photography and personal brand photography specialist. I combine my BFA in photography from Ryerson University with my 6+ years of industry experience to create powerful photos that capture your brand's vibrant personality. I love connecting with business owners and entrepreneurs to perfect their visual image.
*Fun Fact* My home base is Toronto but I am a dual-citizen of the United States where I grew up and travel frequently.
Hey, I'm Esther!
Every day, I help business owners like you develop a *personal* brand from the ground up. My mission is to help you show up as yourself, own your space, build real connections and help others along the way.
Right now, I'm probably in the zone, working on a pretty cool personal brand strategy, ranting on Instagram or Twitter, or having a very important conversation with my 8-year old.