Why UK small businesses lack individuality

By Jake Amos, Head of UK Marketing, Vistaprint

Out of the 5.7 million private businesses registered in the UK, 96% of them are classed as micro businesses employing nine people or less[1]. These small businesses are the backbone of the UK economy and their contribution is vital to driving growth, opening new markets and creating employment opportunities.

When most businesses start out, it is usually the product of one or two people who have a vision, bringing to life a brilliant idea they want to sell. Often these businesses owners are mainly focused on the items or services themselves so other factors like marketing and brand may come second.

Vistaprint recently conducted a study analysing the websites of 1000 small business in the UK. The findings published in the Small Business Uniqueness Report found that many small businesses were lacking in distinct branding. The report highlighted that many businesses used the same colours, fonts and words to describe themselves, leaving them at risk of fading into the background.

With the internet being the nation’s first port of call when making purchasing decisions, it is more important than ever for businesses to ensure they are not only searchable, but memorable.  Small business owners who work independently such as a mobile hairdresser or a plumber may not realise the positive affect a brand can have on their business. The benefits of being able to communicate what makes a small business unique leads to better brand awareness, recognition and recall which are all vital for long term success.

There were five main branding pitfalls highlighted in the Small Business Uniqueness Report:

Poor business descriptions

68% of small businesses are not adequately describing their business online, with some not describing their offering at all. By failing to describe themselves they may be attracting fewer new customers and impacting on customer retention. To avoid falling short, businesses should think of the best way of describing their business effectively, so they can differentiate themselves from their competitors. How well you describe your business may give you a big advantage over someone selling a similar product or service for a similar price. This will also help improve SEO making you more favoured in internet searches.

Over used cliched adjectives and jargon

33% of small businesses use cliched adjectives to describe themselves. Vistaprint’s research found: friendly/ independent/ family-run/experiences were some of the most frequently used adjectives. If too many businesses use the same language (which can sometimes be seen as jargon) they are at an automatic disadvantage due to sounding the same as other businesses.  While it’s difficult not to repeat cliched adjectives, one thing you can do is look at what your competitors are doing and ensure your language differs and is more engaging for your audience.

Lack of winning imagery

5% of small businesses had unrelated imagery or no imagery at all on their website. Many businesses opt for stock images, again leaving them lacking in individuality. Make sure your website has relevant and visually pleasing images.  It’s worth paying for a photographer or calling in favour to get some strong imagery that is unique to your business.

Inconsistent font style

77% of UK small businesses use more than one font size on website copy and 51% use more than three”. When putting together content for your website, consistency is key. Well-chosen words, letters, font choice will greatly impact how the end-user views your business. You don’t need to have to have your own type font, but rather one that represents your businesses and consistent across all of your customer touch points. It’s proven that having a distinctive font is better for brand recall which is what every business is aiming for.

Playing it safe with colour 

98% of small businesses only use one colour in their logo and 46% of small businesses use the colour blue in their branding. When designing your logo and website, think about which colours are in line with your brand values. Do you have a brand colour? Colour plays a large part in evoking emotions for a potential customer, and many companies use a consistent colour across their marketing collateral to be recognisable. With colour choice, it’s more important to choose colours through the lens of customers rather than a favourite or ‘safe’ colour.

Some businesses may be tempted to play it safe with fonts, descriptors and colour choice but it so important for them to harness their individuality. With small businesses playing such a vital role in economic growth in the UK, it’s important we continue to empower them with knowledge which allows them to harness their unique qualities and be the best they can be.

Jake Amos is Head of UK Marketing at Vistaprint