By Tara Horner, Marketing Expert
|The good news is that reinforcing your brand in the mind of your audience does not have to be a great expense to your small business.|
Creating and then maintaining a strong brand is an ongoing process in the life of a business — whether big or small. Brand identity marketing begins with the visual aspect of your brand, how its look distinguishes it from other brands; and the communication of the brand, why it is different from other brands. The work does not end with establishing these important tasks, however. Now the ongoing task of brand recognition and loyalty begin.
Small business owners often probably do not have a large budget for branding such as big brands do. The good news is that reinforcing your brand in the mind of your audience does not have to be a great expense to your small business. It is of great importance to your small business, though, and has been noted to be a key difference between a successful small business and those that are not. Begin with yourself and your employees; make sure your brand is well defined. Exact color, logo, font, and tagline should be consistent in use throughout your printed and digital marketing.
Articulate Your Value
Another important aspect of brand that starts with you and your employees is the ability to express why someone should use your brand rather than your competition. This is often formatted in a mission statement, but do not let that scare you away from initializing this task. Simply sit down and brainstorm about why your brand is distinct from others, note feedback you have from customers and employees, and then make up a more formal list.
With this list, you and your employees should be familiar with these topics and be able to express them fluidly in conversation. This is where brand loyalty begins. This list should be the basis of what you aim to communicate throughout all of your marketing including print material such as business cards and brochures, as well as digital material like a website and Facebook page.
Speaking of Facebook, creating a social media account for your business is a great low cost idea. You love your business and want to talk about it, you have your “mission statement” done, so you already know exactly what to talk about on a business Facebook page or Twitter account, etc. More than likely, you already have a captive audience of followers among friends and family through a personal page, so ask them to take part in spreading the virtual word about your brand page by liking, following, commenting, and sharing with their friends. Let various employees take part in posting about different aspects of your business.
Just remember that people will not be able to share your sales pitches. Create valuable content in the form of how-to guides, infographics, and other content that people would want to share with their friends. Social media is no place for back-patting.
Good old fashioned word of mouth is a great marketing tool in and of itself. You can incentivize it by offering a discount or promotional item to friends, family, or customers who refer your business. Give them a few business cards to hand out when the occasion arises. They can write their name on the back to track where the card came from.
Leaving business cards at other local businesses, with their cooperation, is also a great way to spread the word. A friendly discussion with the business owner can create a mutual exchange of details about your respective businesses that will help each to recommend customers when a customer says “You know, I’ve been thinking about ____. Do you know where I can get that?” They will be ready with your card or you with theirs, and your customer will find out that you are able to help them with one more aspect of their job.
Free Posting Services
Another low cost method of spreading the word about your business: post an online ad with a local service such as Craigslist. It is free, many people already go there to look for what they need, and it could not be more easy to do. You can add a link to your website, Facebook page, or Twitter account as well. It's cheap as free and gives you a great way to keep your brand in front of potential buyers.
Postcard printing and other physical advertising is still a great, inexpensive way to get your brand in front of people. Just make sure you choose a very focused geographical area in which to send your materials as this will cut your costs way down and give you a specific set of people for which you can develop your marketing materials.
A strong brand requires a consistent projecting of values and visual elements. As a small business owner, it can be difficult to find enough time to get all of your business tasks done. Getting your employees or even a sub-contractor involved and indoctrinated into the brand is a critical way to make sure the values of the brand live on. Then it's just a matter of leveraging inexpensive resources to get the visual version of your brand in front of customers. The key is consistency - in projection of values, visuals, and frequency of contact with your brand. hp: 1/13/14 Add: 1/14