You may not think that branding is important to a small business, but I am here to tell you, branding is crucial to every business no matter what size you are. Yes, even for you home based businesses. Everyone should develop a brand identity for their business early in the stages of business development. You may be thinking that branding is the same things as advertising, but there is a huge difference. When you advertise, you are trying to show what you have to offer and of course beat out your competition. When you are building a brand, you are defining your business and getting your clients to see you as the only possible solution to their needs. This is done through name recognition and having a consistent look to identify yourself as the provider of a particular service or product. There are so many fly by night companies out there, but what companies do we know that have stuck around? Walmart. Target. Sears. JC Penney. Borders. People like to shop where they feel safe and where they know if there is a problem, they can come back later and still find you. Having your brand identity developed will build that credibility you need to ensure your clients trust you to do business with. Not sure where to start? You can follow some basic guidelines to get headed in the right direction.
Define who you are – To build a brand to gain your client’s and prospective clients’ loyalty and trust you must start by identifying everything about your business that your client’s will see on a regular basis and then use that information consistently. Start a branding notebook to keep track of everything to ensure that you maintain consistent information. Using your notebook will help you to keep track of where you are in the branding process but there are other areas to consider as well. In your notebook answer questions such as:
-What is your business’s slogan or tag line?
-What do you specialize in?
-Who is your target market?
-What words do people use to describe your business?
-What is your unique selling position?
-Have you had a logo professionally designed?
-What need do you fill that others don’t?
Develop your physical identity – Your brands packaging or what I call a physical identity is also another integral part of the branding process. As a small business this is especially important because we don’t have the customer base of the large retail chains to back us up. Your packaging will be the foundation for your product delivery and may be a determining factor in your brands perceived value. But packaging is more than just tissue paper and boxes with your logo on it. You must also consider your business cards, letterhead and even your website. Every part of your packaging has an impact on your brand. You must use your company choices such as logo, colors, slogan, etc. on a regular and consistent basis in all marketing efforts and packaging. Determine the most professional way to do something and do it. Find out if your choice will strengthen or weaken your brand identity. And most importantly, how will your customers feel about your decisions. In the end, they are who matters most.
Solve a problem – Focus on a particular niche in your industry that is unfulfilled by your competitors and fill it! Become the absolute best and ONLY solution to a problem that your customers are facing and your identity and income will soar! Over time as more and more customers find out about you and the solutions you are providing, you will be seen as the expert in your field and the one everyone calls to when they need their own problem solved. Effective marketing and communication with your customers about what you can do for them will help to simplify their decision making and realize that you are the only real choice for them.
Get up close and personal online – Blogging is the new revolution in the marketing and branding world. It allows you to get in your customers homes for practically nothing. They come looking for you! You can use your own blog to build your brand identity and maintain customer loyalty at the same time. Through your own blog you can utilize various marketing tactics to continue building your brand identity. You can hold “give aways” on your blog for merchandise featuring your logo, offer free advice to build credibility and use it as an online presence to distribute information about your company. Many blog readers become faithful readers for as long as you are providing them with good information (and not just a sales pitch) that they want to hear!