By Sharon Bange, Client Service Director at Kindred Agency

This month, we asked our permanent focus group, the K100, about their attitudes towards small businesses and found that whilst 70% of people would ideally prefer to spend their money with small businesses, only 14% actually do.

According to our research, one of the primary reasons for this discrepancy is a lack of visibility, with 20% of respondents telling us that they don’t use small businesses simply because they don’t know about them. With this in mind, it is evident that there is a huge opportunity for small businesses that is not being harnessed. The way for businesses to increase their visibility is by building a strong brand identity - a brand identity that informs everything they do.

Building a brand identity involves far more than simply deciding on external brand accessories such as a logo or strap line, it means putting who you are and what you stand for at the heart of your business. The best place to start is by asking yourself 'why?' Why did you start your business in the first place? What was your original purpose? Why does your business do the things it does? This is something that we at Kindred did when we found ourselves with a brand identity that we'd outgrown and that didn't best represent who we were as an agency. We knew what we were doing but we weren't communicating it as effectively as possible.

Embarking on our own voyage of self discovery, we asked ourselves some serious questions.
We isolated that our main driver was to truly connect with everyday people in order to deliver marketing strategies that really resonate. After all, we are an agency of 'everyday' people from all walks of life. We also knew that we did our best work when we didn't just rely on data but went to talk to, discuss with and listen to the people our clients wanted to reach. We then took this premise and repositioned ourselves as the 'people's agency', putting people at the centre of everything we do. We were able to extend these people centric values throughout all elements of the business and instil them in our employees.

Boiling down who you are and what you are trying to achieve into a simple mission statement allows you to define your business from within. If you don't understand who you are as an organisation, how can you hope to communicate it to your potential customers? Knowing why you do what you do and having a strong set of core values is critical to encouraging people to connect emotionally with your brand.

Big businesses are often criticised for their impersonal nature, their large scale makes it hard for them to hold onto their 'why'. People love to hear the story behind a small business so use this to your advantage. Stay close to your roots, know who you are and invite customers to share in your strong brand values and beliefs. You will soon see the kind of loyalty and advocacy that comes from connecting with people with integrity.

Once you've worked out your brand identity, it's time to roll it out across your business and start getting the word out to potential customers. Here are five simple pointers for how to go about this:

1. Live your core values and make sure they inform how your brand 'behaves'

2. Decide on key messages - isolate the key things that you want to say about your brand and ensure that all your employees are able to communicate them confidently

3. Give your brand a 'voice' that can be extended across all elements of the business from how you answer the phone to any written communications

4. Choose a logo and strap line, something unique and meaningful that captures your brand identity

5. Stay connected to your mission and remember, no matter how fast your business grows, never stop asking yourself 'why?'