Branding and Your Small Business: What You Should Do (and a Few Things You Shouldn't)
In the world of small businesses, branding is about a whole lot more than just a company logo. It's what gives you a major edge, using what makes you unique to your advantage and allowing you to stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace. It's a set of values or ideals that you share with your consumers, giving them something emotional to latch onto when they do business with your company.
It's also something that requires active participation on behalf of EVERYONE who works for your company - from leadership all the way down to that newly acquired hourly employee - to properly execute. If you really want to succeed in terms of branding and your small business, you need to know precisely what to do (and what not to).
Always Give Your Audience Something to Connect With
Again, branding is about giving your audience something to latch onto above all else. It's about creating the type of emotional connection that doesn't just generate a purpose, but that spawns long-term loyalty. To do that, you need to give your brand genuine meaning.
Why did you start your business in the first place? What were you trying to accomplish? How were you trying to make people's lives better? How were you trying to improve your community?
The answer to these questions are the values that act as your business' foundation. They're what makes your company unique from others, even if you offer similar products or services. These are the things you need to be repeating to your audience as loudly and as often as you can.
Always Focus on Your Community
While branding is literally about your company, it actually needs to be more sharply focused on the community you're trying to serve than anything. One of the things that branding is supposed to accomplish is establishing a sense of trust between you and your audience, and the best way to do that is to actively remind your audience that they're always on the forefront of your mind.
Whenever you CAN build an online community, you should. In addition to your website, set up online communities on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. Start a blog. Sponsor local events. Pay attention to the conversations that people are having and try to actively contribute whenever possible. If someone asks a question, answer it. If someone has a problem, fix it.
Don't just TELL someone that you care about them - never forget that SHOWING them is more important.
Don't Forget About Consistency
Brand continuity is essential concerning brand building. Every piece of marketing collateral that you put out into the world - from that blog post you just published to that flyer you just sent out in the mail - needs to feel like it's coming from the same place. If you use one logo on your stationary, another on your direct mail materials and another on your website, people are going to get confused - which is something you do NOT want when the stakes are this high.
Don't Be Afraid to Hire a Professional
As a small business owner, you likely already have a full plate. While the instinct that you can do it all is a natural one, sometimes things are just too important - especially if certain things aren't in your area of expertise. You're a business owner, not a marketer.
If you feel like managing your various branding channels is becoming too taxing, or that you've become a "jack of all trades, master of none," don't be afraid to enlist the help of a professional. Not only can they help guide you in the right direction, but they can also evangelize your brand in a way that you might not be able to on your own.