By Heidi Cohen
8 Small Business Branding Tactics Without A Big Budget
Small businesses can learn from the oil lamp at the heart of the Chanukah story that despite having only enough oil for one night, burned for 8 days.
Small business face equally difficult challenges since roughly 50% of them fail in the first 5 years according to the SBA, often due to a lack of resources.
To get your business on track when you’re strapped for resources, build a brand that keeps people coming back to purchase from you. In addition to establishing a position in your customers’ minds, you build equity in your business.
Contrary to the idea that only big companies have sufficient resources to develop brands, small businesses can leverage the power of consistency and personal touch to build an engaged customer base around their brands.
Small business branding creates an emotional bond between your business and your prospect based on your product’s or service’s promise of quality. Brands encompass the entire customer experience with your firm and its goods and services.
8 Small business branding tactics that don’t require a big budget
1. Define your brand.
What does your company stand for that sets your products and services apart from those of your competitors? You need to give your customers a reason to buy from your business and feel good about their decision.
Understand your prospects and their needs. Most customers buy products because they solve their problems. At the same time, you must understand yourself and your team. What can you do to deliver on this promise? Since at its core a brand is a promise.
Strong brand can trump price. This is particularly important for smaller businesses that may not have the same leverage over their suppliers to enable them to offer lower prices. Instead, customer loyalty will sway them to buy from people they know and like.
2. Choose the right name.
To this end, it’s critical to have a good business name that’s easy-to-spell, pronounce and remember. Before you dive in, check that it’s not already being used by another business. You don’t want to be involved in a trademark dispute just when your business is taking off.
Of course, don’t forget to verify whether the related domain names, URLs and social media handles are available. Also consider close spellings in case prospects don’t hear your name correctly. (Note: This is why many companies have strange names with unconventional spellings.) It can be worth your investment to buy a few URLs to ensure that you’re able to use the best one for your company. Over time, you need to think in terms of investing in these domain names.
Ask some of your trusted friends and advisors what they think of your name. You can be looking at it for so long that you may miss something obvious. You want to see what they think the business does.
3. Tell your business’s story.
Stories make your business memorable. Your story should make your prospects and customers cheer for you to succeed. People remember stories not products or facts.
Blendtec made their blenders memorable with their “Will It Blend?” videos. Whatever you want ground up, a Blendtec blender can handle it. It’s an old story line reminiscent of the door-to-door vacuum salesman.
4. Analyze your competitors.
Many businesses, including big ones, underestimate the power of this step. They take a very myopic assessment of potential challengers for their prospects’ money. Your customers will define you in terms of your competitors and near substitutes.
Don’t say, “We don’t have any competitors.” Unless you’re the next Steve Jobs with the newest Apple product that no one’s ever heard of before, chances are you have competitors. Consider the tradeoffs that your potential buyers are making. It will help you be prepared to better sell your product.
Also, assess the major players in the field even if they’re not selling your product now. Amazon, a non-computer company, introduced the Kindle and changed how we buy and read books. Similarly, Apple has become one of the top retailers of music.
5. Design your brand’s visuals.
Consistency is at the heart of branding. Presenting your potential customers with the same product and message build trust. Take the time to think about how you’re going to present your brand. Consider the name, colors, typeface, words and images you’re going to use.
For most small businesses, this gets down to a typographical treatment of your name. Make sure that it’s readable for your target audience. This is important if they wear reading glasses.
6. Incorporate your brand everywhere.
With limited resources, you have to be creative and think through how to leverage every investment. Don’t think that anything is too small to consider. When you’ve got a small business, every decision counts since you’ve got a limited amount of resources to go around. Therefore everything you do must do double duty.
When you start to think this way, you’ll find new opportunities to show your brand. If you have limited funds, think in terms maximizing what you do with each element of your business, regardless of whether it’s business cards or product packaging.
But don’t be so focused on costs that you overlook important elements. While this may sound elementary, I’ve got clients that overlook the basics like putting up a sign so potential customers can see their place of business from the road.
7. Be consistent.
Especially with a limited budget, it’s critical to represent your firm in a constant way everywhere since it takes multiple impressions before prospects and customers recognize your brand.
Your brand and related images must be the same and stand for consistent values for people to recognize it.
8. Represent your brand.
Give your brand a human touch. Extend the values you want associated with your brand in how you treat your prospects and customers. Small businesses can take a page from larger franchises like McDonalds where employees all dress the same.
Take time to work with your staff and colleagues so that you all present a consistent image to the public. Even if your business is just you and a partner, think through how you’ll handle client meetings, work assignments and deliverables.
Building a brand enables your small business to shine a brighter light and stand out from the competition. Don’t skip this critical building block to creating an enduring-business.
As a small business, how have you developed your brand and what has been your experience?
What other points would you add to this list of brand attributes and why?
Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.
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