Branding has become one of the most important aspects of growing a small business today. Have you ever heard people say, “Please pass me a Kleenex” instead of a “tissue”? How often are photo copiers referred to as “Xeroxes”? Creating a strong, consistent brand image is crucial for companies like Kleenex and Xerox, who have made their worldwide products synonymous with the industries they serve. For small businesses, entrepreneurs can also take advantage of branding their companies to create loyal customers and long-term profits.
Create a Consistent Brand Image
Small business owners need to define their specific target market and what their product needs are. For example, my company, Transon Media, markets to small business entrepreneurs who are looking for a strong digital presence. Therefore, we want to focus on creating a brand image that communicates to such individuals that we are more than capable of addressing their specific digital marketing wants and concerns. Understanding core elements of your audience is crucial to establishing a brand; some of the questions that need answering include:
- Which demographic is most likely to buy your product or service, and what do they value?
- Who comprises your current customer base?
- Who are your competitors and whom are they targeting?
When the target market is clearly identified, it is much easier to cater to the right audience and consistently align your voice and design to the company’s intended message. This reliability across various channels and time will build trust among your target market, which will enable you to integrate your organization into their everyday life.
Maximize Your Logo’s Reach
Now that your company is projecting a uniform message, it is wise to find a logo that summarizes these components. Though this may sounds like quite a complicated process, avoid the temptation to make your design overly complicated. Spending the extra funds to work with a talented designer is worth it, as we have consistently see great logos propel small businesses forward.
Having invested in a superior logo, it is your responsibility to get it in the public eye as much as possible. An example of an efficient use of logo branding is Dropbox, an online file-sharing platform used by millions of individuals and companies. Their logo, a sketched open cardboard box, is on everything that is published and sold by the company. As a result, the brand and its associated logo is almost universally known among their target audience.
Another company who goes above and beyond to promote their logo is ZenDesk; the smiling, happy-faced Buddha that represents their company is used on their customer communications, marketing materials online and billboards.
Consider selling or gifting merchandise to your loyal fans because, every time their friends see them sporting items with your logo, the viewers will interpret this as a vote of confidence for your business; companies like Pinnacle Promotions offer branding options outside of the traditional t-shirts and pens, so exercise some creativity when determining your promotional products.
Grow a Community
One way to grow a community of dedicated followers is to give away something in return for their email or liking you on Facebook so you can continue to grow the relationship. If the business sells informational products, perhaps a free video, webinar, or bonus chapter can be given away. Downloadable discount coupons can be given away if a physical product is sold. With services sold, an eBook or PDF can serve as the giveaway.
Small businesses can use software to help them manage their email marketing lists and giveaways. Digioh provides one such tool. Once the user uploads an eBook or PDF to Digioh’s website, a link is given that can be used on sites, blogs, and social media pages such as Facebook. When customers click on the link, an email address is requested. The email address can then be added to a marketing list.
By fostering strong relationships with your consumers, this will fortify their positive conception of your organization and allow it to enter their dialogue with others, raising brand awareness.
Develop an Awesome Niche Blog
It’s a great idea for small businesses to develop a niche blog for their specific industry to provide customers with ongoing news and dialogue. It’s much better for your small business to create a blog that provides free and valuable information for your target market rather than simply promote your business’ product/service, as people do not read blogs for the objective of being sold. Your niche blog will allow your business to grow loyal readers, develop a sense of community, and build credibility. One of the most successful niche blogs is Digital Photography School; with over 846,000 subscribers, it provides valuable insights about digital photography instead of merely focusing on the school. Your blog is a conduit through which you can stress your values and culture, so make sure to take full advantage!
Be Dependably Active on Social Media
Once considered innovative, social media is an integral necessity to any business now. Regular usage is vital, and companies should, as in with their blogs, shy away from self-promotion by only focusing on their own achievements 20% of the time. Have Google alerts set up for various topics relevant to your industry, so you can be among the first to break the news to your readers; inquire about the opinions of your followers to create discourse; give followers a peek into what your working life is like; and always respond to social interactions in a timely manner.
There are different types of software available to manage and track social media activity. Since small businesses are usually trying to avoid spreading their employees too thin, it is a wise idea to use software to help manage the different platforms.
SproutSocial is a social media management software. Small businesses can program SproutSocial to automatically post to Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. They also provide analytics, monitor keywords, and manage contact records. A variety of content experts provide small businesses with niche-specific support. Sprout Social is best for companies looking for strong analytics and monitoring of interactions.
A similar company is web-based HootSuite, which allows businesses to manage multiple social media sites as once. Messages and tweets can be scheduled to post at the most opportune times. Analytics are also available, as well as tracking of the number of company mentions on Twitter. Hootsuite is best for companies looking to schedule mass-posts at once with low interaction management.
An all-inclusive software package for social media management is SocialOomph. In addition to providing analytics and tracking and posting Facebook posts and Twitter tweets, SocialOomph also promotes your profiles, helps shorten URLs, and schedule blog posts.
Small business owners today have more opportunities than ever to create a solid, consistent brand image. Implement these steps to see how your business can grow in 2013.