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Developing Guidelines For Your Small Business Brand

Small business branding: a step-by-step guide


As a small business, whether you are a start-up or well-established, your brand is one of your most important assets.

It represents your business’ identity and differentiates you from others in the market so that your audience can identify and build a long-term relationship with you. Creating a strong brand increases your customer’s ability to recognise your small business as a reliable, solid and trustworthy organisation.

Powerhouse brands like Coca-Cola, BMW, Apple and The Commonwealth Bank all have strong, well recognised and consistent brands that at their core use a set of brand guidelines. Not a powerhouse brand yet? Doesn’t matter! Brand guidelines and the process of getting them developed for your business are vital components for the growth of your brand and bottom-line.


What are brand guidelines?


A brand guidelines document is a guide that contains all the rules and examples of how your brand must be represented across all channels, including colour, font, size, messaging, personality and so on. As a small business owner this branding document is a great way to outline to your employees, partners and suppliers on how and how not to use your brand.

Setting up official brand guidelines means that your business will always be presenting a united, consistent identity (look and feel) to your customers across all ‘touch-points’ – website to printed brochures and flyers (and everything in between) – driving familiarity and relevance of your brand.

To help, our team have put together a simple, three-step guide to developing strong brand guidelines for your small business. Whether you are starting from scratch or feel its time to review your current guidelines, read the below:


What is your business’ purpose?


The best way to build a brand identity is by starting with and understanding ‘the why’ of your business. What’s your purpose? What defines you?

Write down your small business’s mission and the core values you wish to communicate to your customers and prospects. What makes you different from your competitors and why do customers value this?

Involving your whole team in this exercise is a great way to get unique insights from employees at all levels within your company. It’s especially powerful when reviewing / developing your core values and how you want to be perceived by everyone that comes in to contact with your brand.

By understanding how you want to be perceived by others will help you shape your brand image.



Creatively interpreting your purpose (brand image)


Building on step 1, the next phase is to use the information gathered about your purpose and values etc to develop your brand image. This involves deciding how your brand will look, sound and appear across all executions, thus forming your brands identity.

This part of the process includes developing or reviewing your brand mark / logo (shape and design), as well as font, size and positioning, tagline and colours. You should also include the tone of voice that must be used when developing copy or talking about your brand, as well as what type of images should and shouldn’t be used to represent your brand.

Once you have agreed the above brand foundations, these need to be recorded, and the best way to do this is by developing a brand guidelines document. This document will vary depending on the size and complexity of your business, but one thing should remain the same regardless – your brand guidelines must be followed – all the time – including how your brand should visually look across a wide range of executions, such as your website, banners, social media, brochures and flyer. business cards, email signatures and so on.

This way, whenever someone comes into contact with your branding, there’s no confusion – they know it’s your business, and that you’re presenting a coherent, joined up brand!


Share your small business brand guidelines


Now that you have the official rulebook for your small business’ branding, it’s time for your team and business partners to ‘live and breathe’ them. This means sharing them with your internal teams and other outsourced functions so that they can review, learn and adopt the guidelines.

With everyone working from the same document, you can ensure that your brand is consistently used in the right way internally, and more importantly is consistently portrayed as it should be externally when communicating with your customers and prospects.

This said, brand guidelines aren’t a do once and forget exercise – remember to regularly review and update your guidelines to reflect any shift in brand identity. If you have several brands under your organisation’s umbrella, you might also consider developing a brand guidelines template/example, so that you can easily replicate and update the format as required.




Having a strong and consistent brand is vital in today’s competitive business landscape. Well thought-out and executed branding is no longer a reserve of big business, but while most small business brand owners appreciate the benefits of creating a strong brand, many don’t have the time or internal resources needed to full advantage of what can be achieved.

At GDR, we provide unrivalled local marketing services to Australian SME’s in order to help them grow, thrive and succeed.

Our team of experts can help you review, develop, and document your brand’s identity and image to:

  • Increase your brand’s awareness
  • Make your brand distinctive and memorable
  • Provide you with all the tools needed to help you stay ahead of your competition


We would love to help!

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