Who are you? Why Small Businesses Need Branding, Too!

A guest post by Cindi Schultz, CEO & Founder of two companies: Foothold Services, “Cleaning up content messes for clients worldwide since 2004,” and My Foothold, “Inspiration for women who want to take charge and improve their lives.”


I don’t have to give you anything but the names of these brands – and you can picture them. You probably have a reaction to them too (warmth, cold, anger, desire). That’s because their brands are so well styled and maintained they don’t need an introduction. Their revenues prove it.

If you’ve ever heard of a brand style guide you might start yawning, rolling your eyes and mumbling things like ‘no time for that’ or ‘we did it years ago’.

I don’t have time to build a style guide.

Building your brand style guide doesn’t have to feel like climbing a mountain. It can start out as simple as a one page overview. If you built one years ago – it’s time to revisit it and make sure it still reflects who you and your company are. But being your brand’s champion is important. Two of my favorites are Skype and MailChimp. MailChimp’s is short and any company can use their model to put together a style guide quickly. Skype’s is long but really fun to read. They’re serious about respecting their brand too:

When we help clients build brand style guides we look at purpose. Most of the time entrepreneurs want what large corporations want, which is to support their brand so it can be recognized quickly and welcomed warmly. When business owners recognize the important role a style guide can play in their marketing strategy they start greeting customers who already recognize them. That’s pretty great. And it doesn’t have to be painful.

What is a brand style guide?

A brand style guide is a compass. It helps your customers get to know your brand like their favorite song, book, movie, or meal. It helps your brand become the thing they desire. Sounds sexy right? It is. When they learn to yearn for what you have, your style is working.

What’s in it for my company to have a style guide?

A brand style guide is your vision for the way your company is seen and directs you on how your content gets presented – consistently. It helps you present your logo, tagline, products, presentations, website and everything that touches a potential or existing customer so your brand is always recognized in different situations.

Brand style guides can save every business owner the one thing they have very little of: Time.

Pink. Ford. Jimmy Fallon. Mercedes. Mitt Romney. Barack Obama. Michelle. Ann.

See what I did there? Mitt and Barack & their wives are recognizable on a first name basis the way I gave them to you here. No matter how you feel about them – you don’t mistake them for anyone else. That’s the goal of your style guide.

When companies tell us people just don’t know who they are after being in business for a while we look at how consistently they show up publicly. 80% of time these are the top 5 reasons companies lose recognition for their brand:

1. They confuse potential customers because when they present a product or service, they talk about it differently than they market it online.

2. They frequently change their logo, tagline, pitch, and service offerings. They lose sight of customers who would refer them if asked and they lose out on a great product that may not need changing. When a rebrand is needed, clients don’t bring their customers along for the change – they’re just different all of a sudden and that confuses customers.

3. As simple as it sounds the way a business owner (or their staff) answers the phone has to support their brand. A hello on the phone with an introduction to your brand goes a looooong way.

4. Website confusion. Every business wants to be unique and stand out from the crowd. That’s great with products, presentations and marketing but not so much on a website unless you’re extremely well known. Stay with site standards. Think about it like going to a bookstore. You already have an idea of how to get around and find what you want – whether it’s Barnes & Noble, Half Priced Books, or the local mom and pop bookstore. If you get stuck you know how to find the information desk. Companies shouldn’t make visitors hunt for the gold they have to give.

5. Dead links irritate people and hurt your brand. Dead links put up a brick wall between brands and long-term clients. We recently learned about a company that didn’t take time to fix dead links – instead they said those pages were under construction. Under construction doesn’t last two years. If anyone reports dead links that have to do with a brand’s content – they should be fixed right away. Bad excuses like that degrade the integrity of a brand.

When your brand shows up with a consistent brand style and message you make it easy for your customers to learn to yearn for what you sell. And your customer loyalty will soar!


Cindi Shultz founded Foothold Services in 2004. Her team works closely with established businesses to help them create and maintain content that will help the world learn to love their clients’ brands. 

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