In the world of small business marketing, certain terms are thrown around quite a bit – so much so that they become cliché rather than tenants of a solid strategy. You’ve heard them before, terms such as “think outside the box,” “something catchy” and maybe the phase “branding”. Despite its overuse at Monday morning meetings, it’s worth reexamining what branding is really about.

As a small business, never gloss over the power of branding. The reason is simple. Branding is the foundation for top-of mind-awareness. It’s the thing that allows customers to remember you despite their daily exposure to thousands of competing marketing messages.

So let’s start at the beginning. What is branding? Branding is simply the consistent means by which you communicate the services, products and ideals of your organization. It’s your identity—the DNA of your business. With proper implementation, branding will highlight key differences that separate you from other businesses in your city, sector and industry. This is vital for those who operate in highly-competitive arenas such as: retail, finance, automotive and so on.

Here are three simple concepts that can galvanize your branding strategy:

No. 1: Know your audience. Successful branding begins with the customer. The projection of your brand should be predicated on the needs, values and lifestyles of your collective audience. All too often companies possess "personalities" that are inconsistent with their customer base. So before launching into an ad campaign, do a little research. Ensure the projection of your company’s identity resonates.

No. 2: Having the right tools. Cramming more and more verbiage into your ads is not the solution for visibility. It’s going to take mnemonic tools to get things to stick. Here are some examples of things you can use to bolster your company’s brand: a jingle, logo, tagline, company colors, a mascot, spokesperson and so forth. Let’s be clear, using one of the previously mentioned items will not magically result in branding; you’ll most likely need several simultaneously. And most important, they will have to be used consistently.

No. 3: Commitment. This may seem like an easy one but you'd be surprised at how many businesses fail to solidify a brand due to a lack of consistency. This is the most critical concept for small business owners when evaluating branding.

Things to remember:

• Don’t cancel ad placements if your phone doesn’t ring right away

• If your budget is limited, don’t “media hop"-- stay with one thing

• If using a jingle, feature it everywhere (radio, TV, on‐hold, Web)

• Don't change up your logo often

• When buying an ad ‐ budget for more than a couple of weeks

• Use your tagline every chance you get

All too often businesses “dabble” with ideas in full view of their audience with no real commitment to a core message or theme. It’s better to consistently run with an average commercial rather than sporadic airing of brilliant ads.

Walter Dailey is a former ad agency partner and experienced marketing professional. He is the lead consultant and executive producer at Dailey Sound Vector Media, a creative services organization that specializes in developing commercials, jingles and marketing campaigns for small businesses throughout North America.  Ask Walter your questions atwalter@dsvmedia.com