Dan Antonelli on Building a Big Brand for Your Small Business

You deliver an excellent product or service, employ top-notch people, and have a good location. But business isn’t going as well as you’d hoped. Maybe it’s time to rethink your branding strategy.

Don’t have one? You’re not alone. Few small businesses do, says Dan Antonelli, CEO of the ad agency Graphic D-Signs and author of Building a Big Small Business Brand.

“Probably 90 percent or more of  the small businesses I come across have either a nonexistent brand or a poor brand. We look at that as an amazing opportunity for a small business to really stand out,” he says.

How? Antonelli (pictured) recently shared some of his thoughts about building — and leveraging — a brand with the Intuit Small Business Blog.

ISBB: Why is branding important for a small business?

Antonelli: Your brand should be one of the first things you think about. It can make you appear more professional and put you on par with your larger competitors. If all things are equal, the company that’s branded better will instill more confidence in the consumer [and] justify choosing that business over another business.

What is a brand?

A brand is composed of many different things. In my book, I use a bicycle wheel as an analogy: The logo is at the center of the wheel, and the spokes are all of the different touch points a consumer has when interacting with that small business.

Those [touch points] might include the website, social channels, uniforms for the employees, delivery vehicles, stationery, and business cards. But the logo is the part that drives the overall message and the feeling that’s evoked by all those other components.

How do you choose the right logo? Hire a designer?

It is very important to work with a professional. Things go wrong at the beginning for many small businesses because they [don’t] consider this important and do it at the last minute. Often, the path of least resistance is with the company that prints your business cards, which will just cobble something together [for you] with clip art. That’s a big mistake!

Does working with a designer have to be expensive?

It can be, but it is also a very important investment. There are crowdsourcing sites where you can get a logo for several hundred dollars, but there are a plethora of reasons why that’s not a great idea. You can go to a larger agency where probably the minimum they’ll do a brand for is $25,000 or more. A comfort range would be in the middle — several thousand dollars is typical.

What are some tips for selecting a good design team?

Make sure they have experience in the sector your business is in. If they’ve done, for example, 10 other heating and air conditioning contractors, you can assume they know the market, understand who the core audience is, and can design a brand that will work across media.

To support the brand, should a small business be active on Facebook, Yelp, or other social media?

[Those sites] are becoming more and more critical for small businesses. We like to see our clients actively engaged in social media and keep their name in front of their target audience. Anything you can do is important.

Beyond the obvious tactics, what’s a good way to use social media?  

Try running a contest on your Facebook page. You might say: “Take a picture of our service van if you see it parked in a driveway and you could win ___.” Try to engage the audience to become active participants in your brand.

About Bill Snyder

San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. He welcomes your comments and suggestions. Reach him at bill@billsnyder.biz and follow him on Twitter at @BSnyderSF.
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  1. [...] the way Dan Antonelli approaches his customers. “It is our responsibility to uncover the challenges and objectives of a [...]

  2. [...] If you don’t have a branding strategy for your small business you probably are the only one. In this article, Bill Snyder reviews small business branding as presented by Dan Antonelli, CEO of Graphic D-Signs. Intuit [...]