Branding a small business isn’t like branding a cow. It’s not something that you do once and then everyone understands what your business is, what makes it important, and whose ranch this cow belongs to. Branding is not the way you market yourself, but rather the way everyone else perceives your business.
For us small folks, it’s a bit harder since big companies get a lot more exposure. Mo’ People. Mo’ Money. Also, Mo’ Problems.
What This Means for You as a Business Owner
(yes, this is a numbered list)
- Your brand is personal. While your advertisements and messaging may say one thing about your business if you can’t back up all of your marketing messages with each individual consumer, they may leave an interaction with you believing you are dishonest, inconsistent, or mismanaged. A quick way to improve on this is to think about all the interactions you have with your customers. Face-to face is the easiest, but a good example I see often is bad reviews on Google Maps which often affects service and mom and pop shops in small communities. Customers are shouting out to the world about businesses (for good or bad) and they don’t respond this is a missed opportunity to show you care or right wrongs.
- Be distinctive and memorable. You don’t always have to be the most professional to sell the most products. Some of the best marketing campaigns come from simple but unique messages. Got milk? Dove: Real Beauty. Where’s the beef? Each of these are zagging when most people zig and offer a compelling message to attract customers all without amazing design or mega-expensive animated ads that melt your face off. Sometimes even a boring message for some people can be just what your consumer base desires if it focuses on the thing your target market needs to hear most.
- Consistency means focus. When you are everything to everyone, you are nothing to no one. The more you refine your message and interactions to tailor to your target market, the more traction you will receive as a result as your message will become even more powerful to that consumer. Since a typical consumer will only ever have a few interactions with you consistency at all of these touch points is imperative to a positive and memorable experience. To be honest, this is something I am trying to get better at. I am confident there are moves I can make to offer more tailored options to our target market and more direct messages I can portray. Mental note, “Do this”.
3 Steps to Brand Your Business on a Budget
So, what can you do with this information as a small business owner? Here are 3 steps you can take to apply them today.
- Define your target market. Who is in the most need of the services your company sells. Get in the head of this person. What are their biggest needs, desires, and frustrations? How can you get them excited in your product? Ex. Your customers spend a large portion of time attending unnecessary meetings and responding to unimportant email. Show them what it feels like to attend 25% less meetings “Slack” style. Once you have this model, write it down and refer to it for all your marketing decisions.
- Craft your message. Your message is the like the North Star for all communication between you and your customer. It doesn’t always have to be the same words every time, but it must appeal to the same need. Keeping with the Slack example... their purpose may be to revolutionize how people communicate as teams with software, but they may say their software is “Where Work Happens”. Come up with a stupid simple message that clicks with your customer’s needs. Text it out on a few customers or your mom and ask for feedback.
- Go where your customer is. At this point you should have a good idea of who needs your product or service and how to talk to them, but now you will have to politely shove it in their faces. This can be displaying your message in your stores more prominently. Look at a Starbucks interior some time. It’s fantastically designed and on point with their brand message! Every chance your customers come to you is another chance to affirm their (hopefully positive) view in their mind. Also, find the places your ideal customers love to go. This is easy to do on the internet with advertisements, but can also be done by partnerships with brick and mortar stores or local new outlets. So, make a list of potential partners and come up with a win-win deal to get your brand/product/message in front of their customers and to the benefit of all parties.
Tailoring your message to be an emotionally charged bullet that hits your customer’s needs can redefine customer perception and reaching out to your customer’s beyond what the norm is can make them customer for life. That said, go forth and brand like a champion.