There are some things that are essential no matter the size of your business. One of those things is a strong, recognizable brand.
Developing your brand identity goes beyond designing your logo and drafting your marketing materials is a good start, but that’s just the first of many steps. If you want a strong brand, you’ll need to form deep connections with your audience and build emotional experiences for and with them. As entrepreneurs know, ideas are a dime a dozen. The ones that stand out from the crowd, the great businesses, are the ones that execute their ideas skillfully and with passion. You want to transfer the same excitement for building your business over to building your brand.
Your brand is the experience that customers have with your business. A brand should show these customers what you do and how you do it, while also establishing a foundation of trust. Your brand affects everything in your business and the way that you communicate with your customers – it colors your in-store experience, the way your website looks, what you post on social media, the types of images you share, and the tone of your marketing messages.
Small businesses might feel uncertain about competing with larger brands. After all, these mega corporations have almost limitless resources at their disposal. Can a mom and pop shop really compete?
Of course! (But you knew that already, didn’t you?)
When it comes to building a strong small business brand, it can be beneficial to narrowly focus in on what the business does best and what separates the company from the competition. A small business can cater to the one difference or need that the customer base really cares about and knock it out of the park when it comes to solving customer pain points. Once customers learn that a business produces a superior experience, trust in the brand grows.
How can small businesses translate this trust into a strong brand? Here are five ways to start building a strong small business brand:
Know your message.
What message do you want to convey to your customers? What do you want to pop into your customer’s head the moment she thinks about your company? It’s important to determine what your message is early on so that your company and all its employees can live and breathe it. You’ll use this message to focus your customer interactions and help your audience understand what your brand stands for and why they need it. A sharp focus will help you reach your core clients, and in turn these customers will reward your attention with brand loyalty. Brand loyalty comes from showing, not telling. As a small business you’re in an enviable spot – you can take advantage of the personal relationships you’ve built with customers and turn them into strong brand experiences.
A brand is about more than just the price of a product or service. A strong small business brand will demonstrate what makes the business unique in a way that customers can easily understand and appreciate. The more you interact with your customers, the more you’ll learn about their needs and how they see your brand fitting into their lives. Use this information to develop truly original ways to do things that others in your industry aren’t. Embrace what sets you apart and create marketing materials that express what makes you special.
Build a community.
Did you know that the number one reason people write about brands is to share experiences? (Other reasons include writing about brands to share advice, praise a brand, ask advice, and share opinions, among others.) Do you know where your customers are talking about your business online? You can build an online community that lets your customers interact with each other as well as your company. Encourage them to share their thoughts and be responsive when they contact you. When customers trust your community, they’ll also trust your brand. Focus your attention on the most relevant social networks and invest your time building your community there. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin.
Also remember that today’s customer wants a personal, human touch. They’d rather interact with a real person than a faceless brand profile, so make your messaging as personal as possible.
Once you have decided on the tone and direction of your messaging, remember to stay consistent. If you have decided on a no-nonsense, professional tone in order to reinforce your brand as an expert that your customers can trust, you won’t want to post “Wacky Wednesday!” animal videos on your Facebook page, for example. You don’t want to confuse your customers about what your brand is. A strong brand will be consistent. Yes, you can occasionally surprise your customers, but your tone should remain steady across all your messaging. This will allow your customers to become intimately familiar with your brand, which will then breed trust.
Define your values.
What does your brand stand for? Customers want to know your principles. For example, today’s teenagers (who are tomorrow’s customers) care more about making the world a better place, and want the brands they engage with and buy from to share their view. They want brands to be genuine, original, and offer high-quality products and services. Start to think about what is important to your business and your brand.
When working on your small business brand, remember that emotional experiences are the most powerful. Tap into the emotions of your customers and let your strategy flow from there.