Marketing strategy

Branding on a budget: Small business branding essentials

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You’ve worked hard to build your business, and now you’re ready to take things to the next level. Creating a brand that people can connect with will help you do that. A solid brand gives your business credibility, sets you apart from competition, and makes a lasting impression with customers who can spread the word about your business.

So, where do you start?

We’ll walk you through how you can:

  • Build your brand
  • Grow your customer relationships
  • Measure success and refine your strategies

Defining your brand identity

The first step to building a brand is understanding your business’s mission. This will form the foundation of your brand’s vision, look, and feel. Although a mission and a vision may seem similar, they serve different purposes. A mission expresses your brand’s core values and purpose. A mission can also be how you want your business to change or add to the world.

Your vision is about imagining what that future looks like for your business and outlining your goals and ambitions accordingly. A vision is the concrete goals you can achieve to fulfill your mission.

Once you’ve established your mission and vision, you can think about your brand’s personality. Analyze the competitive landscape to see how other brands sound across different channels. What are some of the keywords brands in your industry are using? How are they interacting with customers, particularly on social platforms? What kinds of conversations are they engaging in? What type of language do they use to tell their story? This social listening will help you develop an ownable tone of voice that will stand out.

Tips for developing a brand personality:

  • Think about your audience and come up with a brand muse, or customer persona. Who is your ideal loyal customer? What do they do for a living? What are they passionate about? What are their pain points that only your brand can address?
  • Sometimes, it helps to start by writing a brand manifesto. This is an overarching document that shows people what your brand is all about in a few simple sentences.
  • Make two lists of words or phrases to help define brand attributes. One represents attributes that align with your brand, the other should be words you know definitely don’t.
  • Look at what other companies or businesses are doing. You can often find brand manifestos and mission or vision statements on the About Us sections of company websites. See what competitors are doing, and check out other brands you know you like or are similar to yours for inspiration.  

Designing a memorable logo and visuals

You don’t have to be a designer to create a logo. Think about your brand from a purely visual standpoint. You can start by making a mood board (Pinterest is a great, free platform for this) that includes colors, textures, words, or anything else that inspires you. Then, choose the fonts and colors that you want to use. All of these visual elements will help as you dive into designing your logo. Canva is an easy tool for beginners because they have pre-made illustrations, and you can upload your own images or other sources of inspiration. Plus, you can download your logo design for free. There are also free tutorials on YouTube about creating good branding and learning design basics such as kerning, spacing, and logo design. 

Above all else, consistency is key. It makes your brand memorable and more professional looking. Consider creating a style guide with rules and instructions for your new brand assets. 

What to include in your style guide:

  • Your brand manifesto
  • Your brand personality and guidelines for tone and voice 
  • Your logo and recommendations for correct sizes, proportions, spacing, and colors
  • Brand colors in PANTONE, CMYK (print), RGB, and HEX codes
  • Typography guidance, including font names, uses, and sizes
  • Image guidance for subjects, sizes, and proportions

Bluevine Tip

If you only have the resources to hire help for one aspect of your brand, consider using them to consult a professional designer to partner with you on your logo. Using your brand mission and vision, a graphic designer can build a logo that’s unique to your business and crafted to target your specific audience. A great logo paired with a style guide will inspire confidence and look professional.

Leveraging digital marketing

A holistic approach to digital marketing will help you bring your new brand to life. Start by creating a website for your business that includes ecommerce services like online payments, shipping, and ways for customers to engage with you. You should also set up social media accounts so you can connect with your customers on the social platforms they use the most.

Your customers will often find you via online search, so you should also consider using SEO tools to understand which keywords you can target. This can help boost organic site traffic and overall brand awareness.

Positive relationships are another tool in your branding toolkit, so you should also focus on creating a seamless customer experience. It will foster positive associations with your brand, and a good reputation can lead to more profits.

Finally, embrace content marketing. Putting out relevant content can make your brand memorable and nurture relationships with prospective and existing customers. Touchpoints like emails, blog posts, newsletters, and videos can build trust and boost brand loyalty. 

Engaging with your community

Real connections lead to real growth, and building relationships offline will always be a key driver for growing your business. See what other small businesses are nearby, get involved in your local community, and explore partnerships with other organizations in your neighborhood. 

You can expand your brand reach by getting out in the world. Try attending networking events or joining other community organizations that share the goals you created in your mission statement earlier. Above all, be open to introducing yourself and your brand to other business owners who can relate to your journey. 

Using free and low-cost branding tools

There are plenty of affordable tools that you can use to build your brand and make it a core part of your business. Here’s a collection of resources to try out:

Defining your brand identity:

  • Pinterest for mood boards 
  • Canva for your logo and other visual elements
  • for free fonts

Managing your presence on social media:

  • Buffer 
  • Hootsuite

Growing your web presence:

  • Squarespace 
  • Shopify

Maintaining brand consistency:

  • Adobe Spark
  • Grammarly
  • Sketch
  • Figma

Measuring branding success

Once your brand is out in the world, it’s valuable to continuously track your performance. Checking in on things like site traffic, social media engagement, and email click-through rates will help you understand what’s resonating and what could be improved. Google Analytics, SEMrush, and Meta Business Suite are a few low-cost tools you can use to analyze performance so you can make adjustments going forward.

Beyond metrics, customer feedback is a tried and true way to gauge how your brand is doing. See how your customers engage with you on social platforms, and allow them to leave reviews on your site. People respect brands that keep the door open for dialogue.

If you take advantage of the affordable tools available, you can define your brand, foster relationships with your customers, and analyze and adjust your strategic efforts. Building a brand isn’t easy, but it’s well worth the effort and doesn’t have to cost a fortune. 

Already have an established brand but need a refresh? Get expert tips for rebranding.


This content is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice of any type, such as financial, legal, tax, or accounting advice. This content does not necessarily state or reflect the views of Bluevine or its partners. Please consult with an expert if you need specific advice for your business. For information about Bluevine products and services, please visit the Bluevine FAQ page.

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This content is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice of any type, such as financial, legal, tax, or accounting advice. This content does not necessarily state or reflect the views of Bluevine or its partners. Please consult with an expert if you need specific advice for your business. For information about Bluevine products and services, please visit the Bluevine FAQ page.

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