Company branding may seem like an expensive undertaking. In reality, it’s actually pretty simple. It just comes down to knowing what your brand is and communicating it effectively. Follow these tips to get started on building your small business brand.
1. Define Your Value Proposition
As a small business owner, you obviously think that your business has value to customers—otherwise, you wouldn’t be doing it! But do you know why your loyal customers are loyal? It could be price; it could be customer service; it could be that you have a superior product. If you don’t know, find out. Read reviews of your products or services. Send a survey to your loyal customers.
Likewise, if your business is struggling, it’s important to find out why. Are you having a hard time attracting customers, or are you just not converting those who browse your merchandise into customers? Do some digging, and figure out what you can do better.
After you’ve done all of your research, you’ll have a better idea of your unique value proposition: the thing that differentiates you from your competitors and makes you best able to serve your target market. Not only will this inform all of your strategy as you grow your business, but it will make you better able to deliver on your brand promise.
2. Be Consistent in Your Messaging
Consistency is one of the most important factors that will determine the success of your business, and it’s especially important for branding. Think of your company brand as a person, with a unique voice, appearance and language. Here are some ways to keep branding consistent:
- Voice: Every brand needs a voice, and yours should help you to stand out from the competition. More importantly, your voice needs to be consistent across all channels, including your website, signage for a brick-and-mortar store, social media posts, and advertisements.
- Design: Visual branding should be consistent as well. Your logo, brand colors, and fonts should look the same, no matter what medium they’re displayed in. A customer should be able to look at a menu, pamphlet, or web page and recognize your brand.
- Marketing messages: What phrases do you use to describe your products or services, company culture, or mission? Make sure you have a guide for how to talk about important aspects of your business, and that every employee of yours commits it to memory.
3. Be the Face of Your Company
Small businesses have an advantage over large corporations: your face. Instead of a faceless company of thousands, you might be a one-person show, or have just a few employees. Being the face of your brand will make your customers feel as though you’re accessible and trustworthy.
How do you take advantage of this? Author and sign your own email newsletters. Write the “About Us” section of the website in the first person, with a photo. If you don’t have time to write a company blog, hire a ghostwriter to write in your voice. Use “your face” advantage to better connect with your customers.
4. Stand for Something
What is your company’s mission? What problem do your products or services address? Make sure it’s communicated clearly to your customers. Here are some examples of companies that stand for something and communicate it well:
- SY Partners: “We help great leaders build great companies.”
- TOMS: “One for One.” For every one item you purchase, TOMS donates a similar item to help someone in need.
- BRG Sports: “At our core we are sports enthusiasts who see work as a lifestyle and together discover new ways to meet the needs of athletes.”
Your target market will respond to a strong declaration of who you are and what you can do for them.
5. Provide Excellent Customer Service
Zappos doesn’t have the world’s greatest shoe selection or prices, but what they do have is impeccable customer service. Free, fast shipping, no hassle returns and friendly customer service turned the ecommerce company into a giant in its industry. You may not have the resources of Zappos, but there are some basic tenants of excellent customer service that can be applied to every brand:
- Set realistic expectations. Let customers know how long the wait will be for an appointment, when they can expect products to arrive, or how your process works. Then meet those expectations or, better yet, exceed them.
- Listen to your customers. If a customer has complaints, don’t just offer a refund. Make sure you thoroughly understand why he or she is unhappy, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
- Be responsive. You may have a customer care line, but if an unhappy customer posts something on your Facebook page, you need to have a plan to address it effectively (and not by deleting it!) Customers may attempt to engage with your company through many different channels, and it’s important to have a kind and consistent experience across all of them.
Branding isn’t something that has to happen all at once. You can start small and grow your brand over time, as your business grows. But remember that your branding work is never done—as your company and the marketplace evolves, your brand will also have to adapt to meet the changing needs of your customers.
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