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The Ultimate Guide to Branding Your Business
Your brand is the feeling your buyers get after making a purchase. Your brand is the way you present yourself on social media, on your website, and in person. Your brand, at the very least, is who you are as a business. Though the concept of branding at first sounds scary and expensive, there are ways to achieve this small business feat easily and on a budget. This comprehensive business branding guide will provide you the tools you need to woo potential buyers and turn your business into a household name.
Reconsider who you are to others.
You are no longer Jack or Jill Smith, parent, college student, free-time baker or dabbler in the arts. You are now Jack or Jill Smith, the business owner who sells fine gluten-free desserts, offers affordable mural designs for other businesses, or organizes tax information for independent contractors. When people ask what you do and what you enjoy, you must include your business in your response; it affects others’ perceptions of who you are and glues your status as an entrepreneur to their conscience. When they’re looking for gluten-free cupcakes for their kids’ birthday party or doing their first 1099-MISC form, they’ll likely go to you. A great way of beginning this process of personal rebirth is by designing business cards with your name and title. When someone asks you for your contact information, they’ll receive the bonus of understanding what you do and what types of products or services you provide – and they’ll have no reason not to reach out to you, since your information is right in their hands.
Many mass-printing websites, including Printastic, allow new customers to order 100-250 free business cards.
Create and maintain a company website.
Your company’s website is a simple, ‘round-the-clock way for potential customers or clients to learn about your business. After setup, it doesn’t require any immediate response on your part for a visitor to figure out your business hours, product or service information, and additional methods of contact – you can even write a FAQ to deflect simple, repetitive questions. Your website is also a way for viewers to get a sense of your business’s purpose and build a first impression, so pick your website’s “theme” wisely; it may be in your best interest to have a professional design the site in the first place. Once your site is published on the Web, make sure you update its information regularly. Did your brick-and-mortar site move? Change the address on your website. Have you changed your restaurant’s menu to reflect seasonal palates? Your website should reflect that as well. If your site includes a blog, make sure you write a new post for it regularly, or outsource the work so it’s done and out of the way.
Matt’s Big Breakfast in Phoenix, AZ does a great job of providing easy-to-read location information on their website.
Begin marketing on a local scale.
Local advertising is cheaper than state-wide or national advertising, and local buyers are easier to reach through networking and word-of-mouth. Sometimes it’s as simple as adding locals (as well as other nearby businesses) on social media, a topic we’ll get to shortly. Other times it’s a matter of passing out those business cards and offering those you know a sample of your work so they can spread the word to friends. Small advertisements can be published in your local newspaper, city magazine, or neighborhood Nextdoor page for little to no cost. On weekends, you can tuck flyers into people’s doorjambs or tack them up on corkboards in local grocery stores and cafes. On November 26, 2016, take advantage of Small Business Saturday, a newer “holiday” sponsored by American Express, during which consumers are encouraged to buy even the most common goods from independent storefronts. Conquer your local customer base first, then expand into a larger circle.
Cultivate a friendly social media presence.
On average, Americans spend 1.72 hours visiting social media sites every day. It would be ill-advised to skip social media as a part of your marketing scheme, especially because most, if not all, social media accounts are free. Because Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube dominate the list of most commonly-used social media platforms, it’s best to start there. Best of all, these platforms are incredibly easy to use and all of them have mobile applications, making it easy to update your pages on the go.
Your social media activity should frequently involve your audience. Don’t just throw a status onto the Web and assume it’s enough to keep friends, followers, and fans engaged; ask them questions, re-tweet content relevant to your business, and generally involve your company in their lives. The more personable your social media presence is, the more memorable you are, increasing your chance at receiving business from your following later on.
Moikit, the company who created a revolutionary interactive water bottle, uses Facebook to advertise their Indiegogo campaign.
Display a clean logo.
Any business’s logo should be easily recognizable; it’s a simple way of hinting at your product or service and personalizing your marketing tools. Ensure your logo is clean, time-withstanding and perceptible in both black-and-white and color. Avoid presenting multiple logos for the same company; it will confuse your viewers and dilute familiarity with your brand. Attach your company’s logo to its website’s home page, its social media pages, your business cards, your stationery, and any other products and services you use to market your business.
Keep customers and clients updated.
This can be easily done via social media, but the use of platforms like Facebook and Google+ require a buyer’s presence on that platform in order to be seen. Every now and then, it’s a good idea to send out newsletters via snail mail or email. Don’t spam your following – they’ll start automatically throwing your newsletters into the trash, virtual or otherwise – but provide them with updates once every couple weeks or even once a month, just to keep their perception of your business fresh. Topics to include in your newsletters include new team members and what they bring to your company, new products or services, outstanding buyer testimonials, recent trends in your business’s industry, charity involvement and more. If you’re worried about your efforts being ignored, follow in the footsteps of companies like Bath & Body Works or Live Nation, who include coupons in many of their snail mail and email updates.
Bath & Body Works puts coupons and sale notices in their email newsletters to grab readers’ attention.
In that vein, offer rewards in multiple areas of your business – not just your newsletters. Businesses within the food and drink industry make great use of loyalty programs and stamp cards, which allow frequent customers a free item or a certain dollar amount off their tab once they’ve purchased a set number of meals, snacks or drinks. Hundreds of newer companies offer product giveaways on Facebook or their official websites in return for future reviews and the free advertising it generates via social media. Businesses that have gained a bit of a following host drawings for one free product or service to those who subscribe to their mailing list or, again, share information about the business online. Any kind of business, regardless of industry, can provide some type of free sample or consultation to potential buyers. Not only are incentives a great way of getting past and potential buyers involved, but it’s also a method of convincing those who were on the fence to purchase your product or service.
It’s easy to betray a former patron’s trust when you provide service unlike what they’re used to. The way you piece together your products or services, the methods in which consumers are allowed to pay for them, and even the way your employees interact with others are all a part of your brand. Once you establish a rapport with your customer or client base, stick to it. If you must make changes to the way you interact with buyers, don’t just facilitate those changes without warning; explain the reason for each change before putting them in place. Newsletters and social media are a great way to accomplish this.
Emphasize what you do differently.
Sure, there may be a thousand canvas shoe companies out there, but do all of them give a pair to a child in need for every pair purchased? TOMS, a shoe company that does just that, blew into global recognition just a year after establishment by emphasizing to potential customers what it did differently from other shoe companies. By showing off what your business does differently from the rest, you give potential buyers an extra reason to make their purchase with you. Maybe your restaurant only buys fresh ingredients from local farmers, or perhaps your computer software business donates 5 percent of proceeds to high school STEM education programs. No matter what it is that sets you apart, make sure you identify it to those who are listening.
Network with others in the industry.
It’s easy to view those in your industry as enemies and competitors, but in marketing, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Those within your field are people to form alliances with, to share ideas with, and to market with. Support businesses like yours by sharing their social media content, and they’re bound to do the same in return. Connect with professionals in your field to brainstorm product and marketing ideas or overcome industry hiccups together. Everyone you meet will know something you don’t – sharing your knowledge and receiving some in return can only feed the growth of your business.