As a marketer you don’t have a choice. Your small business WILL be something in the minds of customers or potential customers. In other words, you will have an image whether you like it or not. You can either choose to develop your image consciously, or you can let the marketplace choose it for you.
You definitely want to choose the former — building your own image — over the latter — letting the marketplace do it for you.
If you are a new business and if you are lucky, you can move into an unoccupied niche in the marketplace. If there is no unoccupied niche, then you will have to try to dislodge a competitor from an existing niche, which is very hard to do.
If you’re an existing business, you can either defend the niche you presently occupy, or you can try to move into another niche, in which case you are now acting like a new business.
As new business, it is very much to your advantage to move into an unoccupied image in the marketplace, rather than try to replace someone already occupying an established image. It is both easier to establish a new identity and much less expensive.
As an existing business, your first choice should always be to defend your present image. If your business has an established place in the marketplace, then you, in effect, control the marketing high ground versus your competitors. It is both easier and far less expensive to be the defender than the attacker.
The most dangerous position of all for the owner of an established business is to not know what image your business occupies. Then you are vulnerable to having a new business in effect take that image away from you in the minds of consumers without you even knowing it.