Why brand? It’s a question asked by a lot of small businesses – you might even find your clients asking you the question about themselves! And the answer is very simple, branding, at its most basic, is just a way of knowing who you are. When you’ve defined your brand, you have something tangible and exciting to communicate to others. You’ve got a promise that you’re making to your clients and a message that you’re able to transmit to the wider world – this is who I am (we are) and this is what I do (we do). Without brand identity, you’re a blank, a void, a vague space in the business world. It’s a bit like going on a blind date with the Invisible Man; a brandless business has no face to present to the world!

For start-ups, branding helps define who they are, and who they aren’t. It helps prevent the organisation heading off in non-productive and non-profitable directions and it encourages a sense of loyalty and awareness that many new businesses find vital to their early progress.

For established organisations a branding (or rebranding) exercise can be a valuable way of taking stock. It helps reveal how the business has changed over time and that can produce new brand values that increase the attractiveness of the organisation in a competitive marketplace.

How to brand

Thinking about the promise you’re making to clients is vital – some VAs brand themselves as reliable, trustworthy and solid while others focus on their speed, efficiency and professionalism. Some build their brand identity around specialist knowledge whilst still others choose to focus their brand promise on their expert, up-to-date skills in certain areas. None of these are wrong, or right, they are all simply aspects of brand definition and I’ll bet around half of you just decided that you want to brand yourselves as reliable, speedy, specialists who are bang up to the minute!

The problem with trying to be all things to all people is that we end up being wishy-washy. Successful VAs tend to find their niche and stick to it, forming their brand around what they do best and demonstrating their complete mastery of their chosen fields through the brand values they adopt.

Your brand identity should be something you want to live with, so it should contain the values and beliefs that caused you to set up your business in the first place. That’s what will attract new clients and boost the loyalty of established ones.

Top tips for powerful brand identity

What are channels? Facebook is one, word of mouth another. Pinterest can be a channel, as can networking at a local B2B event. Communicating your brand through all possible channels is much simpler than it might sound.

  1. Visuals – get a strong distinctive logo and use it wherever possible, especially online; an effective email signature with a logo is as good as a business card
  2. Define your brand message – this isn’t as simple as ‘we’re professional’ or ‘I can take admin off your hands’ or ‘nobody does spreadsheets better than me’. It’s more about the emotion you want to convey and the tools that convey it. There’s no point trying to convey a professional brand identity if you answer the phone with ‘Hi, who’s this?’ and no point claiming to take admin off your client’s hands if you have a clunky website that requires them to fill in lots of boxes to just get a quotation from you.
  3. Develop a tagline or elevator pitch – this is your business encapsulated in two sentences, or even better, one! Learn it and be prepared to use it, and if you have associates, make sure they can trot it out too.
  4. Be consistent – don’t claim to be something you’re not and when you make the claim ensure it applies everywhere. Professional organisations don’t tend to have cutesy cartoon logos, friendly approachable businesses aren’t generally represented by black websites with gothic script! Once you’ve defined your brand, it becomes easier and easier to live within it and live up to it, both of which help shape successful, dynamic organisations.