What's a good branding strategy for a sole trader?
Is brand positioning as important for a sole trader as it is for business, even a small business? It seems to me that the positioning is almost inherent for a sole trader as it all stems from yourself and your own interests etc, but my experience is limited. What would you argue?
Great question. I think that a brand strategy is important for anyone in business individually or as a group. Now positioning will be different. As an individual you are the brand as a group the company is the brand. Why does this matter?
- Image - as an individual you need to be aggressive but protective about what you put out there both professionally and personally. Why? As an individual you don't get the luxury of separating your personal life from your business life (because the brand is you). This can have wide reaching implications that must stay at the forefront of your mind.
- Exit Strategy - as an individual if you've built the company around your name and image, what happens if your situation changes or you want to sell the business? The underlying problem in this strategy is that unless you are passing down or selling your business to another family member you'll potentially run into two issues.
- Brand Recognition - Hopefully you've spent years building up positive press and clients within your industry. Hopefully they like you and would ideally continue doing business with you. However, if you sell your business to family or an outsider, how will their handling of the business maintain what you've built?
- Incongruity - Would you want to allow an outsider to keep your name for their business? What if they don't hold the same values or ethics? Sure they'd get the brand cache that you've built, but they could also lead the business somewhere you unfortunately get associated with because of the name and your previous experience there. (e.g. if SMITH Attorneys is no longer owned by any SMITH family or relatives will that confuse and/or mislead customers?)
Always plan for the unexpected and also plan for the future. Are you okay if your venture completely disappears after you retire? Or are you hoping to leave a company legacy? These are things that are important not to just consider when forming the business, but as your business and customers change and evolve over time. There is no one correct outcome other than the one that is the correct fit for your needs.
Just because you operate as a sole trader, does not mean you need to be the face or brand of the business. It really depends on the business. There are few businesses that would require you to be the face of the business. The most obvious one stemming from the members on our site would be consultants and business coaches. However, there also exist many accountants, lawyers, web developers and otherwise that have their businesses built around a distinct brand. Being a sole trader business does not mean you are the sole person in the business.
With that said, whether you are incorporated or operating under a sole trader license, your business needs a strong brand to succeed. Your point of difference, your UVP and image amongst all the other intricacies of brand development need to clearly designed and executed to optimise the success of your business.