Low-budget branding tips for small businesses

Over the years, we’ve written quite a few articles about branding. Branding is about getting people to relate to your company and products. It’s also about making your brand synonymous with a product or service. This can be a lengthy and hard project. It can potentially cost you all of your revenue. No wonder branding is often associated with investing lots of money in marketing and promotion. However, for many small business owners, the investment in branding will have to be made with a relatively small budget — especially during a crisis. 

You might be a local bakery with ten employees or an industrial company employing up to 500 people. These all can be qualified as ‘small businesses’. All have the same main goal when they start: to establish a name in their field of expertise. There are multiple ways to do this without a huge budget. In this post, we’ll share our thoughts on how to go about your low-budget branding.

Define and communicate brand values

Branding with a limited budget starts with defining your company’s and your brand’s values. You need to think about what you, as a brand, want to communicate to the world. Doing this yourself won’t cost you, provided you are capable of doing this yourself. It’s a pretty hard task when you think of it. It’s about your mission, the things that make your brand into your brand. Brand values relate to Cialdini’s seventh principle, Unity.

Some of our favorite examples illustrate unity: outdoor brands like Patagonia and The North Face, which make you feel included in their business ‘family’. “We are all alike, and share the same values.” By being able to relate to these brands and their values, we are more enticed to buy their products. It’s a brand for us, outdoor people.

Take some time to define your brand values. That way, you can communicate your main message clearly and consistently. It makes your marketing all the easier. You’ll be able to create brand ambassadors, even on a budget.

Come up with a proper tagline

Once you have defined your brand values, it’s time to summarize them all into one single tagline. For example, WordPress’ mission is to “democratize publishing“. In your tagline, you formulate your values and make sure your added value for the customer, user, or visitor is also reflected. Again, be consistent. If you set a tagline, your actions and products should relate to that tagline, actually, even be based upon it. It summarizes your business.

Having a great logo is essential. When designing that logo, you’ll have to remember that it’s probably something you’ll have for years. It’s the main thing – besides yourself – that will trigger (brand) recognition. It’s not that you can never change your logo, but don’t ‘just’ add a logo. Consider how it stands out from other logos, for instance, on a local sponsor board.

Design that logo, print it, stick it on your fridge for a week or so, and see if anything about it starts to annoy you. If so, it’s back to the drawing board. Feel like you don’t relate to it in terms of business values or even personality? Back to the drawing board. Designing a great logo is probably your most expensive task when discussing low-budget branding.

Online low-budget branding

The online world is a great place to work on your low-budget branding. You need to establish a name in your field of expertise, and the surplus of social media can facilitate that by giving you a free platform.

Social media

People often say: “Social media takes too much time”. Changing your mindset about the costs and seeing the revenue social media can bring you might be wise. It is the easiest and probably one of the cheapest ways to promote your brand. The only cost is time investment (depending on how aggressively you want to use the medium). Finding a social media strategy and/or platform that works may take a while, so give it some time, and don’t just throw in the towel!

Social media helps you connect directly with your target audience and show your brand’s personality. Keeping things consistent, like using the same cool logo and colors across your social media profiles, will make your brand instantly recognizable and memorable.

But it’s not just about looking great. Engaging with your audience is key. Respond to comments, messages, and shares with genuine enthusiasm. Show them some love and build those relationships. Don’t forget to share some valuable and fun content — think of stunning images, inspiring videos, and helpful tips. Encourage your audience to get involved too! User-generated content is like pure gold for brand visibility.

And don’t forget to listen carefully to your audience. Social media is a treasure trove of valuable feedback! Take the time to respond, address concerns, and use your insights to refine your brand.

When you do have some budget, try paid advertising. It might sound like an investment, but it can be worth it. You can reach a wider audience that fits your business with targeted ads. Target folks based on their interests, demographics, and behaviors, and watch your brand shine even brighter.

Social media is about being consistent, engaging, and having a blast. Show off your brand’s personality, connect with your audience, collaborate with people, listen to feedback, and don’t be afraid to invest in paid ads when you have the budget.

Read more: Social media for small business owners »

Share your expertise

You can use Twitter to stay in touch with like-minded business owners. Discover the huge number of Facebook groups in your area and/or in your field of expertise. See what Reddit can do for you. Bond with people that share the same values. Feel free to answer questions in your business field and do this confidently. Position yourself as the go-to company for these questions. Help people that way and create brand ambassadors. You have to put some effort into establishing your position. It won’t happen overnight.

A bit of an extreme example: the founder of Yoast, Joost de Valk, was already sharing content/expertise and our open-source software before it became a business. He engaged actively in forum and social media discussions about WordPress and SEO. Commenting on other people’s blogs. Time before revenue: eight years. We’re not saying you must wait eight years before making money with your passion. But you should be able to write, comment and take a stand on topics that matter to you from the start.

Consistency is key

Building a memorable brand on a limited budget requires consistency across all aspects of your business. Maintaining consistency is crucial, from your brand logo and visual elements to your messaging and customer experience. Consistent branding creates a sense of familiarity and builds trust with your target audience. Ensure that your brand’s visual identity is cohesive and aligns with your brand’s values and messaging. Consistency should also extend to your customer interactions, whether online or offline. By delivering a consistent brand experience, you create a lasting impression without the need for extravagant expenses.

Make yourself visible

Eventually, it all comes back to business values. Everything you communicate should reflect these values. It’ll give you guidelines and ensure your message is always delivered similarly. Low-budget branding is about just that: making yourself visible in a consistent way. Our Local SEO plugin can help you by ensuring that Google gets the right information about your business, such as your location and opening hours.

Keep reading: The ultimate guide to small business SEO »

Coming up next!

15 Responses to Low-budget branding tips for small businesses

  1. Zola
    Zola  • 4 years ago

    I am currently working on branding my own website and I’ve seen it takes a lot of work, but I know it will pay off in the long run. I’ve been building my online presence for the last 2 years, organically, certainly has been a discovery path, but I’m trying to stay consistent. As well, I see that SEO has helped my blog stand out in search results on Google. Thanks for putting out all these strategies to help our business be more visible.

    • Edwin Toonen

      Awesome, Zola. Good luck on your endeavours!

  2. Melissa Gerke
    Melissa Gerke  • 4 years ago

    As a freelance SEO copywriter, I find branding can be a bit personal, because really, I’m the brand in my business.
    How do you suggest to separate yourself from your brand when it’s just you?

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 4 years ago

      Hi Melissa! Thanks for your question. Considering the work you do, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that your branding feels personal. In your case, this can be a unique selling point as your customers will know who they’re dealing with and who is writing their copy. It can give you a one up on your competition as your business will feel very personal and approachable. Don’t underestimate the power of a personal approach :)

      If you want to make serious work of your branding, you can find our articles on branding here: https://yoast.com/tag/branding/

      Good luck!

  3. carolyanmiller11
    carolyanmiller11  • 4 years ago

    Seo has huge impact on website traffic. especially off page seo is key to rank web site so we have to improve our on page and off page seo to be in rank.

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 4 years ago

      Hi there, and thanks for your comment! We totally agree that SEO has a huge impact on your traffic. It’s important to spend time on both on-page and off-page SEO. Off-page SEO helps you bring in visitors by create exposure, trust and brand-awareness. And on-page SEO helps you make your site awesome by creating great content, having a solid site structure and fast mobile site. We believe both are important pieces of the puzzle :)

  4. jonathan chartrand
    jonathan chartrand  • 4 years ago

    I usually don’t find articles by Yoast that are very well written and explain everything really well in the least amount of words, but this article is excellent.
    I will look for articles by Michiel in the future.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 4 years ago

      Hi Jonathan, we’ll let Michiel know he has a fan. If you’re looking for more articles by Michiel, check out the “Posts by Michiel” tab on his page: https://yoast.com/about-us/team/michiel-heijmans/ . Good luck!

  5. Josh Kemp
    Josh Kemp  • 4 years ago

    We’ve been using Yoast SEO Premium on our site metalkards.com for a couple years and it’s helped us rank well. These are some great tips, keep em coming!

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 4 years ago

      Thanks, Josh, we will! Thank you for using Premium and so glad to hear you’re happy with it.

  6. Stefan Drew
    Stefan Drew  • 4 years ago

    I spent years running a very successful marketing consultancy, until I semi retired a few years ago when I started doing pro bono work for charities etc. I have to agree that marketing and branding can be very low cost … or even free (except for your time).

    My rules with branding are however slightly different. Certainly having a logo etc is useful when running a larger business but I’m not convinced it’s at all necessary for many smaller businesses. Eg my dentist, plumber, builder, local garage and small local retailers don’t have have logos but still run very successful businesses.

    They don’t understand terms such as brand values and mission. They are successful because they offer good customer care, value etc.

    Smiling, saying please and thank you, and being on time may not appear in many books on branding. But I believe they are key to building a brand.

    Let me finish defining what a brand is for me. It’s what people say about you when you aren’t there.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 4 years ago

      Hi Stefan, great addition! Surely one of the most important things of branding is how you run your business and how you treat your clients or customers. Agreed that those basics should be covered first as they’re essential for word-of-mouth marketing. The tips on this post mostly focus on the things you can do in addition to that, so people recognize your brand :-)

    • Hutch
      Hutch  • 4 years ago

      Your comments around being polite and respectful are what keep me returning to our local Mexican restaurant and our local garage.

  7. Marjo Toska
    Marjo Toska  • 4 years ago

    I certainly agree that most small new businesses can become successful without breaking the bank.

    That’s how I built an online presence of Emerald Dental Clinic, which has around 1,000 followers on Instagram and 300 likes on Facebook. All it takes is posting regularly, and what’s most important, posting quality content.

    • Edwin Toonen

      That’s good to hear, Marjo. Great work!