Five Branding Mistakes That Will Cripple Your Small Business Ross Kimbarovsky | April 23rd, 2013

I am fortunate to meet thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners every year. Many ask how they can improve their small business brand. This is not surprising – successful businesses avoid making branding mistakes that cripple other businesses.

If your branding is confusing, inconsistent, generic, or otherwise sub-par, you can easily undermine your business’s credibility and ruin your chance for success. Let’s look at five branding mistakes that will cripple your business (with tips on how to avoid them):

Mistake 1: Bad Company Name

A strong brand is easily recognizable by your customers and potential customers.

Recognition starts with your business name. The name will appear on your business cards, letterhead, website, marketing materials, social networks, products, and everywhere else – in print and online – to identify your company and your company’s products and services.

Naming your company can be challenging and time consuming. Getting an available URL for your company’s name can present an even greater challenge because even when you find a great name, the URL might not be available.

Your company’s name should be simple, easy to pronounce, spell and write, and memorable. If you want useful tips on naming your business, there’s good insight in 10 tips for startups and small business on naming your company.

Mistake 2: Poor Design

It’s not enough to have a good, recognizable name. People also associate brands with a logo. As you think about your logo design, keep your audience and products/services in mind because you want your logo to reflect the products and services your company sells. A good logo builds trust and a strong logo will help to pull your brand together.

Think about the logos of some of the world’s most admired brands (Apple, Google, Amazon). How do you feel (emotionally) when you see their logos?

Now look at your own company’s logo. Have you ever asked your customers how THEY feel when they see your company’s logo?

If you want useful tips on getting a great logo, read 10 logo design tips for buyers.

Great design doesn’t stop with the logo. It should not surprise you to learn that consumers prefer better looking websites. Take a look at your company’s website. Does it look professional? Is it regularly updated? Does it have the relevant information your customers need? How do customers feel when they visit the site? If you want useful best practices and tips on successful small business web design, I recommend you read Small Business Marketing: Web Design Best Practices and Tips.

Mistake 3: Inconsistent Voice

A brand is the sum total of the experiences your customers and potential customers have with your company. A strong brand communicates what your company does, how it does it, and also establishes trust and credibility. Your brand is your story. Your company’s brand lives in everyday interactions with your customers and potential customers, the images you share, the messages you post on your website, the videos you create, the content of your marketing materials, and in your posts on social networks.

What you say is important, but don’t overlook how you say it. Your company’s “voice” is the language and personality you and your employees will use to deliver your branding message and reach your customers. Successful brands speak with a unique voice. Think about the brands you admire – what makes them unique? How do they communicate with you and other customers? What do you like about their voice?

Why should you care about brand consistency? You should care because brand consistency leads to familiarity, and familiarity leads to trust. Customers buy from brands they trust.

image credit: Cayusa

Mistake 4: Not Keeping Your Promises

Businesses succeed or die by the promises they make. When you tell your customers you offer outstanding customer support – they will expect you to deliver on that promise. Every time. If you consistently deliver (and over-deliver) on your promises, you will create more loyal customers who will become zealous advocates for your business.

Although this is common sense, you’d be surprised how many small businesses tarnish relationships with their customers by failing to keep their promises. Happy customers who feel good about your business are your best source of referrals. For example, Zappos has built great trust and credibility with customers by promising quick delivery (2-5 business days) but Zappos goes even further and upgrades most customers to free overnight shipping. As a result, Zappos has very loyal and zealous customers.

image credit: discoodoni

Mistake 5: No Vision

Do you have a vision for your business? How do you want customers to remember you?

Think about brands you love. Those brands commonly stand for something (or against something) and connect with their customers emotionally. After all, marketing is about values.

One of my favorite companies, 37signals, develops software to help people collaborate. 37signals believes that most software is bloated and difficult to use. They don’t compete on features – they compete on usability. They have developed a reputation as a company that stands for easy to use software.

What’s your vision for your business?

image credit: jjjohn

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  • Picking a logo is one of the most important, and most frequently mistaken, branding choices a company makes.Having a fun, silly logo isn’t always bad branding, but it is if you’re not a fun, silly company.Pick something that suits your business. When in doubt,show test logos to people who don’t know your company and ask them what kind of business they would think had logos like your samples.

  • Good advice, Barbara – especially about getting opinions from people who don’t know your company.

  • Thank you so much for great post.I think every small business owner must read this for growing their business.

  • Thanks, Tony.

  • Vision is an easy one to agree with. A firm without vision at any stage provides no value to its customers. But the hardest thing is to stick with the vision particularly when it becomes difficult to make dollars and sense of some of the vision’s results. Sticking with the vision, whether it is to grow the firm or to increase brand recognition or to create a new social marketplace is something that we actively try to do at NewTress.

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