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to brand or not to brand

To Brand or Not To Brand.

Is branding necessary for solo entrepreneurs and small businesses? Brand is the gut feeling your customers get when they think about or interact with your business. Here’s another way of looking at it: your brand is just another word that describes your reputation. Do you have a reputation for consistency and quality, and if not, why not? Do you have a sense for how your customers feel about your business, as a baseline?

We started this post asking, “To brand or not to brand?” But in reality, it’s a trick question. Your brand, and therefore your reputation, exists no matter what you do. You can control it, or you can be at its mercy. Customers will go on feeling things regardless of whether or not you do any advertising, regardless of whether you spend a little or a lot of effort on your website. The question then becomes, what are you going to do to ensure your brand is cast in a positive light?

Fireballs, not flowers

Riddle me this: What does your business do? If you said something like, “I provide consulting services,” or “We do haircuts and styling,” then you’re still approaching the question from the perspective of a service provider. You need to put yourself in the customer’s mindset.

Economist Theodore Levitt said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” In other words, don’t force customers to do the mental work of connecting your service to the effect it will have on their lives. Color in that picture for them.

When Mario picks up a flower, he can shoot fireballs. Your brand works a lot like this.

Showcase the effect of receiving the service, not the service itself. (Source)

Here’s another example: in any Super Mario videogame, the flower is a highly sought-after prize. But players don’t go after the flower just because they like flowers. They do so because the flower turns them into a super-sized Mario that can throw fireballs. Your brand needs to do this for your business: it needs to bridge the mental gap between the flower (your service) and the fireballs (the effect of receiving your service).

Making this mental shift is half the battle when it comes to your brand. A haircut isn’t just a haircut, it’s a feeling of confidence and style. Consulting isn’t just consulting, it’s empowering business leaders to make the right decisions.


Case Study: Drummer Town

Here’s an example featuring an actual Setmore customer who provides drum lessons. In this case, “appointment setting” is what we do, but it’s just a means to an ends. The experience at the root of the appointment is what matters. Drum lessons allow you to do this, and appointment setting allows you to give drum lessons.

Your job is to paint a picture of how the experience will change your customers. There is a “before” and “after” to consider. For example, before Setmore you might use a pen-and-paper appointment book. After Setmore, you’re a highly efficient, cloud-based, appointment-setting machine.

What’s your story?

Your story is the sum of your experiences, your background, and the stylistic touches that you infuse in your day-to-day social interactions. In the context of a small business or startup, your personal story effectively becomes your company’s story. You pin down your story by writing it out, and in practical terms this forms the basis for your website’s “About” page.

Story is the difference between “Bob the plumber,” and “Bob the captain of a 40-year-old family plumbing business that delivers peace of mind when a broken water heater turns your garage into an indoor swimming pool.” One is a blank slate, a mannequin with overalls and a monkey wrench. The other is a flesh-and-blood person that people actually want to do business with.

This is where you have an advantage over the Coca-Cola’s of the world. Fortune 500 companies will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars creating a fictional persona that embodies their brand. They’ll define it like a character from a TV show and give it traits and personality quirks, and tell their public relations staff to speak and act as this character would. Which is why when you dial the company hotline you’re greeted by somebody who speaks as “We, the company” rather than “Me, the person you’re actually talking to.”

From Jello to concrete

As you write content for your website, your blog, and your email newsletter, remember these two things: 1) tell your story and not your features, and 2) show how your service will transform the customer. It’s important to note that this is just the beginning. Your brand is something that takes time to mature. It starts out with the ideas we’ve hashed out above, and over time you’ll start to develop a more solid grasp of how all the pieces fit together and how the sum of the parts differentiates your business from the competitor next door.

-The Setmore Team

What are some of your branding challenges? Let us know in a comment below!


by Cassandra

Writer, editor and scheduling product expert at Setmore Appointments.

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