In addition to writing a fantastic small business blog called Makery, Sarah Stearns is a marketing coach and web designer based in the great city of Louisville. She works with small businesses to build their brand, engage their customers and increase their bottom line. Sarah enjoys playing Frisbee, eating chocolate chips, and encouraging small business success stories.
For most people, the term “brand identity” conjures images of multi-national companies and shiny corporate logos. But branding isn’t a marketing strategy that only the big boys should use. Even the smallest of businesses can benefit from a strong brand image.
But what is a brand? It’s the promise that a shop makes to its customers. Your brand tells your customers what they can expect from your products and what differentiates your products from your competitors’. Simply put, your brand is a combination of the image you are trying to project for your business, plus the associations and memories that your customers bring to the table when they encounter that image.
What does your brand promise? What expectations does your customer have for your shop? Are you the innovator, offering cutting edge products? Are you the eco-friendly business that promises a commitment to renewable materials? Do you promise low-cost, high-value items, an intriguing story, or the friendliest customer service? Consistency is key. When you meet your customer’s expectations, you are keeping your brand’s promise. If your customers’ expectations aren’t met, they won’t make repeat purchases or recommend your products to their friends.
Circa Ceramics is an excellent example of branding in action. This shop’s logo, font, and tone of voice support their brand image: functionality, color, and fun.
Our job, as business owners, is to capture what is special about our products and communicate that unique selling position to our target audience with uncompromising consistency.
Defining Your Brand
Discovering your brand identity is a process of business-minded self-discovery.
Try asking yourself these questions:
1. What are your shop’s values?
2. What are the unique features and benefits of your products? Why should a customer choose you over another company?
3. Who is your target market? And what do your existing customers already think of your shop?
4. What do you want your customers to associate with your shop? What are the emotional, somewhat intangible attributes that your customers can experience and identify with?
Little Sapling Toys: This shop’s visual aesthetic and written communication (especially their awesome profile) support their brand’s image: modern, natural, organic, and sustainable. Their brand values are showcased in recycled packaging and participation in their local green power program.
Get the Word Out: Consistent Brand Communication
Once you’ve defined your brand, try these simple tips to communicate your brand to your customers during each part of a sale.
Before the Sale
- Get a great logo. Visual design is an important part of brand identity. Choose fonts and colors that evoke your brand.
- Design marketing materials with your brand in mind. Your business cards, banner ads and promotional postcards should have a visual aesthetic that supports the image you hope to achieve for your brand. Use the same color scheme, logo placement and fonts. Your designs don’t need to be fancy, just consistent.
- Integrate your brand image across your social media profiles. For example, match your Twitter background and Facebook fan page to your shop’s banner.
During the Sale
- Write item descriptions with a tone of voice that reflects your brand’s personality.
- Tell the story behind your product and how it relates to your brand values.
- Use your photo background and props to help convey your shop’s identity to your target customers.
After the Sale
- Design your packaging to be consistent with your brand’s personality. A well-packaged item will impress your buyers, turning fans into loyal, repeat customers. And don’t forget that your stamp, sticker, or label is an opportunity to remind your customers of your brand name and shop URL.
- Branding extends to every aspect of your business, especially customer service activities like answering follow-up emails, shipping, and issuing refunds. As a business owner, you have a great opportunity to build your brand during customer service activities where you have the (rare) full attention of your customer.
Allen Company Inc: This shop’s pristine photography, focused product line, and artfully-displayed items support a strong visual brand image.
A strong brand can be a company’s most valued asset. Brands are based on a promise and built through consistent customer experience. Each customer interaction is an opportunity that can make or break the customer’s relationship with the brand.
When you develop a consistent brand image, your target customers will invest emotionally in your business, become loyal to it, and be your biggest advocates.
This is the first in a new 4-week series of blog posts to give your Etsy shop a makeover for the new year! The first Shop Makeover newsletter will go out January 11, 2011. Make sure you’re on the Etsy Success mailing list to get all the details.