grace built co brand design

December 2023

15 branding questions every small business owner should answer

Because your visual branding is an integral part of your overall brand identity, building a strong foundation is step number one.

Building a strong foundation is step number one.

As fun as it is to work on the visual parts of branding…

It isn’t fun when you realize your logo/color palette/fonts don’t actually reflect the vibe or feeling you want your brand to give off.

And because your visual branding is an integral part of your overall brand identity, building a strong foundation is step number one.

That’s why we start with the strategy for every one of our branding clients by asking these 15 branding questions every small business owner should answer.

(Please work through these before you make any other branding decisions.)

People want to buy from people, and your why (aka your story) helps them find the emotional connection to your brand that they’re searching for.

1. Why are you in this business?

Simon Sinek says, “Start with why.”

It’s an important question to ask yourself.

When you run out of steam or have those moments where you’re ready to throw in the towel, your why will keep you going.

And because your why is unique to you and your business, it plays an essential role in your brand identity, too.

It becomes part of your story. 

People want to buy from people, and your why (aka your story) helps them find the emotional connection to your brand that they’re searching for.

So maybe you’re in for the freedom and flexibility.

Or maybe you’re trying to change the world (or something in it).

There are no right answers. There’s just your answer.

2. What sets your products or services apart from your competitors?

We could get into business jargon and call this your “differentiator” or “unique selling point,” but the real question (that I find much easier to wrap my head around) is:

1. What sets you apart?

2. What makes your products or services unique?

3. You don’t have to be the first person to sell whatever it is you’re selling. You don’t even have to be the “best.”

But you do need to find something different.

My clients often look to their process to identify the thing that sets them apart. 

For example: I worked with a copywriter who takes a “scientific” approach to her writing, which makes her process different from other copywriters. We leaned into that when developing her brand identity.

3. Why does someone choose to work with you over your competitors?

Like the last branding question, this is another one that challenges you to define what it is about your brand that makes you more appealing to your target audience than your competitors.

And it has to do with the experience you create for your clients.

What is it about the way you show up or serve your audience that makes you the obvious choice for them?

Find ways to include that answer in every interaction with your audience.

4. Who is a typical client or customer?

Go broad on this one. A “typical” client or customer is anyone who could buy from you. This is usually how we define your entire target audience. 

It’s different from the next two questions…

5. Who is an ideal customer?

Out of your entire target audience, maybe 5% of those people are ideal customers or clients.

These are the people who not only could buy from you but also want to buy from you, and they vibe with your specific qualifications of what makes an ideal customer, ideal

For many of my clients, ideal customer qualifications include:

They understand the value of your product/services. / They’re someone you enjoy talking to. / They trust you to get the work done. / They happily pay on time.

And you can add/adjust to the list to define who you think of as an ideal buyer.

6. Who’s NOT an ideal customer?

If you’ve got an ideal customer/client, you probably also know who’s not the right fit. You can even think of these as your “red flags.”

Many of my clients put the following qualifications (or disqualifications, I guess) on the list:

They might try to haggle on price. / They want to tell you how to do your job. / They want you to rush or forgo part of your process. / They make you feel anxious/nervous when you communicate with them.

Knowing your internal guidelines for who’s not the right fit can help you target your branding as much as knowing who is the right fit.

7. What is the main problem you solve for your customers

This branding question may feel pretty obvious, but I challenge you to go deep on it.

Often the real problem you solve is buried below several surface-layer pain points.

You may need to do audience research or, better yet, talk to your clients to figure out what they are.

For example: A popular problem different businesses solve is “being overweight.”

But that’s not the real problem. 

The real problem is having no confidence or low self-esteem, which leads to anxiety and makes people skip beach days with the family and other important moments. 

So the real problem you’re solving for is “low confidence that’s making my customers miss out on life’s precious memories.”

Like I said, go deep on this branding question.

8. What adjectives would your customers use to describe your brand?

Are you playful or more down to earth? A calm presence or exciting and upbeat? Do you give off a causal vibe? Or is it more sophisticated?

If you’re not sure, the best way to find out is to ask your past customers/clients directly. 

They might view you differently than you see yourself. 

And keep in mind that even if another brand uses all the same adjectives, you would still end up with different branding based on all the other answers to these 15 branding questions.

That’s why there are no easy shortcuts to creating your brand identity!

9. What are your company values?

Like a vision or mission, I know “values” aren’t always easy to define (because the answers are usually along the lines of “honesty” and “friendliness).

But I challenge you to get really specific about what your values mean.

For example: Let’s say you’re a coach who values “integrity. Integrity could mean 1000 different things. So, instead, you could get more specific and say, “I give my clients the same kind of advice I’d give my friends and am always available when I say I’ll be available.”

Remember that these are internal guidelines, so you want to make sure they represent the kind of situations you regularly need to call on your values for.

10. What goals do you have for the future of your brand?

Do you want to expand what you’re doing and eventually have a team of 5? 10? Even 100 people?

Or do you want to open an online retail store in addition to the services you offer?

Or maybe you have a completely different future goal.

Again, there is no right answer.

But your specific answer will help influence the brand identity you’re working to build a foundation for.

11. Which of your competitor's brands do you love and why?

Quick Caveat: We aren’t trying to copycat or “rip off” anyone here. 

That said, you’re likely drawn to someone eles’s branding. We take time to think about what it is you love so much about their brand.

It could be their hand-drawn graphics. Or cool color combination.

It might be their whole vibe, and when you start looking into what it is about that vibe, it’s that they don’t take themselves too seriously and seem comfortable saying some seemingly outrageous things. 

We analyze what you love about those brands so we know how to infuse some of those attributes into your branding.

12. Which of your competitor's brands do you NOT love and why?

I won’t lie – this branding question can prove to be very entertaining!

But it’s always really enlightening. 

Sometimes, my clients have no idea why they don’t love something, but they’ll tell me things like, “Something about this is off.”

And we’ll discover that the color combination feels aggressive or the underlying values they’re communicating don’t sit well with you.

It can sometimes be the insight we need to incorporate branding elements that contrast with competitors and help you stand apart even more.

13. What do you hope to achieve with your new branding?

Increase sales?

Attract new leads?

Share your business with pride?

Feel more aligned with your brand?

Communicate your unique value?

Or maybe, like my client, Lisa, you want to create awareness of your unique services within your community.

The right branding can do all of the above – and more – for your business. 

Knowing what we’re trying to achieve can help us figure out if we’re on the right track and make it easier to assess success.

14. What symbols or colors have significant meaning to you and your business?

The best branding incorporates things that appeal to you but that also have meaning or create a connection with your audience. 

When you’re asking your clients what adjectives they would use to describe your brand, consider what symbols or colors can be used to represent those things as well.

(And your designer can help guide you through that, too, of course.)

15. What brands does your business aspire to be like?

Did Apple immediately pop into your mind? I think that’s most small business owners’ go-to.

Their marketing and customer loyalty is obviously legendary. And it’s great to look to some of those big brands for inspiration.

But again, I challenge you to look a little closer to home.

Are there other small businesses with values or origin stories that resonate with you?

Do they get the kind of customer testimonials you want to get?

Are they creating a one-of-a-kind experience?

Those are brands worth aspiring to be like.

And the kind of insights that make it easier to craft a brand identity that truly represents your uniqueness.

It’s not about the deliverables

Obviously, your visual identity is about the deliverables: the awesome new logo, the perfect color palette, the right font, etc.

But none of that can happen without a strategy first. 

So it’s really about your brand identity. 

It’s about gaining a deeper understanding of your business – which our clients do simply by working through our signature process led by the 15 branding questions we just went through.

Our client, Paula, puts it better than I can: “I felt like I was just being held through this process I didn’t know a lot about.”

You don’t have to have automatic answers ready for our 15 branding questions. 

You just have to be prepared to work through them and lay that foundation before you begin.

Need help laying your foundation? Book your consultation call here.