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Branding Mistakes: Forgetting that small can be BIG

Table of Contents

The video itself was a Google+ Hangout hosted by iStock and you can watch it in its entirety at the bottom of this post. It’s nearly an hour long, but you may find it worth your attention. Otherwise, read on for some commentary!

What are the top branding mistakes small businesses make?

The five mistakes discussed in the video are:

These are all really great points and there is one I want to focus on right now: #4 (yes, I’m going out of order) Forgetting that small can be big.

Small Business is big business in America

Based on U.S. Census Bureau data, businesses with less than 20 employees account for 98% of all businesses in the United States. That means there are a LOT of small businesses in America. And I will clarify that further to say there are a lot of microbusinesses — meaning less than 5 employees, including sole proprietors. (In 2013, there were 5.31 million incorporated self-employed.) The point? We can’t all be IBM or IKEA. And we shouldn’t try to be, at least not right away.

What’s wrong with being big?

There is a common thread I hear among some microbusinesses expressing that “We want to look bigger than we are,” and I cringe at that. Why? Well, it’s a bit dishonest in my opinion. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being big, or having goals of growth. But guess what? Once people decide to engage with you and find out that Oz Industries, Inc. is actually a little man behind a green curtain, they may feel deceived and become distrustful. Not the best foundation for a relationship. 

As contradictory as it may seem, there is power in being small! We are experiencing a rising cultural shift towards values of “smaller” and “local” — perceived as more authentic, more relational, and more community-minded. Many people are disillusioned with big business with their perceived abuses of power and lack of relationship-based customer service. Ever had an issue with your phone company, credit card company, or almost any government agency and called their customer service line? Chances are you were stuck on hold for half of eternity only to have to start at square zero with each new representative you were transferred to. Some large entities are seen as inefficient at best and and uncaring at worst. So what does that mean if you’re a small- or micro-business? Be truthful; be authentic. Don’t puff or pad your advertising. Make honest claims. Be prepared to back up your word, and don’t make guarantees that you’re not able to honor. And tell your story! (Or, as is mentioned in the video, let others tell your story. Get testimonials from clients you’ve helped, employees that love working with you, community groups you’ve touched, charities you’ve donated to.) This is all branding — it’s not just your fancy logo.

Size should not determine your level of professionalism

However, speaking of fancy logos, you do not want to neglect your visual brand. Professionalism has no bearing whatsoever on size. Even if you’re a small business, you don’t want to be unprofessional, and you also don’t want to look unprofessional. I repeat: Small can and should still be professional. This means, yes — invest in other professionals that can help you be the best you can be. Be prepared to have a marketing budget that includes getting professional head shots, subscribing to a stock photo service where you can find professional and authentic imagery to represent your brand well, and creating a strong and memorable foundation for your visual brand.

So, want to be a successful small business? Start here: In your branding and in your operations, leverage the positive aspects of being small. It often means you can be more flexible and more relational, and therefore be perceived as a positive alternative to the big box.  Above all, don’t forget that your professionalism is never limited to your size. 

Don’t discount the little guy! You’re bigger than you think!

Read more » Mistake #2: Targeting everyone, reaching no one

Read more » Mistake #3: Blending in with the crowd

Read more » Mistake #5: Overlooking the little moments

Here’s the full video:

Nyla Smith

Nyla Smith

Nyla is a Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Front-End Web Developer and Consultant with over 15 years of experience. She is the owner of n-Vision Designs, LLC in Hampton Roads, Virginia, which exists to provide marketing support and brand consulting to small- and medium-sized businesses needing creative solutions. Contact Nyla if you'd like to discuss your next creative project. She can usually be bribed to a meeting with a cup of green tea and an oatmeal cookie.

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