When it comes to the word branding, many small businesses mistakenly think that it is only important for larger companies. Branding is the true essence of marketing for all businesses. Until and unless you brand your company and product properly, you cannot expect to attract the right audience or differentiate yourself from the competition. And you also don’t need a big budget to start creating your brand strategy. Here are some tips to help you get started today:
1. Define Your Value Proposition
Give people a reason to buy your product. Highlight the unique selling points (USPs) of your business that makes it stand out from the crowd. It may be easier for businesses with bigger marketing budgets to develop a well-defined value proposition based on primary research and focus groups, but that shouldn’t stop you. You likely have a good sense of who your customer and the competition is, and how you can position your business so that it is both different and compelling. Once you’ve defined your value proposition, use it generously throughout your marketing messages and materials. Reflect it in your tagline, elevator pitch, boilerplate, and the intro paragraph of your company description. This let’s people know right away why they should consider doing business with you. The value proposition also serves as a guage to measure your products and services against, so that if you are considering to add more offerings, you want to ensure it aligns with it.
2. Package Your Brand
From logo to website, to point-of-purchase materials, ensure your brand is visually clean and consistent across all your touch points. Adhering to this simple discipline will go a long ways to generating a positive and professional brand perception in the marketplace. You don’t need a big budget to do this, just a conscious effort. Create (or get outside help) a company brand book that outlines your value proposition, USPs, company description, key messages, correct logo usage, brand colours, and font set. Then, use it to guide anything and everything you message out to the market – this isn’t the time to get lazy with your marketing.
3. Use Multiple Marketing Channels
Public relations, social media, search advertising (PPC), SEO, event marketing/sponsorships, and traditional advertising are all marketing channels available to you. Your annual marketing budget will determine which channels you can engage effectively. For most small businesses, traditional advertising like radio and print ads are expensive and hard to measure. My suggestion is to focus your budget and efforts on these three channels before engaging the others:
Social Media (Twitter, blogging, LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook) – blog often, with information that your audience would find useful in the form of tips, how-tos, trends, and product updates. DO NOT use your blog for sales messages, or any social media outlet for that matter. Social media is a dialogue and when used correctly, can engage you with a growing audience potentially interested in your product. It can also help you be seen as an expert in your field. Use Twitter to share your blog posts, as well as any other helpful information consistent with your brand. Similarly, creates videos with helpful content and post it to YouTube where it can be found by others. A study by Zoomerang suggests that out of 751 small companies surveyed, almost 89 percent are interested in investing their marketing budget in social media; while a quarter of them are planning to increase this budget up to 30 percent in 2011.
Public Relations – PR is often overlooked by small businesses, and yet, it is one of the most powerful brand building channels out there. Nothing holds more credibility in the business world than third-party credibility in the form of positive press coverage and word-of-mouth. Today, the average person is exposed to 5,000 advertising messages a day as compared to 500 messages in the 1970s. PR can help your rise above the clutter and help you be seen and heard.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Along the same lines of third-party credibility, having your company website appear in the top 5 position of page 1 on Google from an organic search, tells people that you are important, relevant and worth checking out. It also drives a lot of qualified traffic to your website at no cost. Implementing good SEO practices doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money. In fact, you can achieve some excellent SEO success with no budget at all. There are three key tactics to helping search engines find you – a clean website that Google can crawl, continually adding fresh content that includes your most important search keywords, and in-bound links to your site. The first two you have control over, while the last will come as a result of how well you do the previous ones. I recommend WordPress as your website platform. Out of the box it’s incredibly SEO-friendly, it’s easy to use, and it’s free! For fresh content, blog regularly. The content you generate here can have a dramatic impact on your overall SEO.
4. Hire Service Obsessed People
Most people hire for skill, I hire for attitude. Skill-set is important, don’t get me wrong but it alone is not what makes for a great employee. Service and expertise are currency in business today. Sharing expert knowledge freely (through your website, events and social media channels) and delivering exceptional service at every interaction will get you a lot of new and repeat business. Having the right people to deliver that service is critical – getting customer service isn’t good enough, it needs to be a personal passion that drives the right behavior. This means don’t just consider the IQ of candidates, but also the EQ (emotional quotient). you can teach skill, you can’t teach attitude.
Rajan is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BIG Marketing for Small Business. He's an award-winning marketing strategist who is passionate about branding, digital marketing and social media. He spent nearly a decade as the marketing executive at global IT firm Peer 1 Hosting and was instrumental in their explosive growth.