Get the Basics Right
I already mentioned logos, website, signage, etc. These are the
foundations of your brand and it’s very important to establish brand
guidelines that stipulate how these elements are used. For example,
applying rules around brand colors, use of your logo, images and fonts.
Don’t forget to register or trademark your logo too.
Brand guidelines also apply to your “voice,” i.e. the tone your
business adopts. For example, a software company that sells to other
businesses might want to adopt a voice of authority, expertise and
trust. While a software company that markets software apps to consumers
could adopt a more conversational voice in its marketing materials.
Capture Your Value
Above all, make sure your brand elements reflect your company and its
value proposition. Not to be mistaken with price, value encompasses
what you do, what business problem you solve, how your business is
different and how you make your customer’s life different after doing
business with you.
Use clear language to communicate your value. Don’t be so vague that
your message is meaningless. Use simple, clean imagery that resonates
with your customers, and use a tagline that succinctly sums up not who
you are, but what you do for your customers.
For more help developing your marketing voice and message, read 7 Tips for Getting your Marketing Message Right or watch this on-demand webinar: Practical Marketing – A Five Step Marketing Program for Small Business from National Small Business Week.
Let Your Customers Get to Know the Face Behind the Brand
I have a favorite restaurant; the food and service are great, but
something is missing – the owner. Despite being a frequent diner, I’ve
never had a single interaction with the owner and, for small businesses,
this is a huge mistake. Customers want to feel that their business is
appreciated and they want to connect with the face behind the business,
especially if the transactions are frequent or substantial or one, such
as a home renovation project.
This doesn’t mean you have to be on-site for every meeting or visible
100 percent of the time, but ask yourself if you’re really getting to
know your customers. Are you responsive and in-tune with their needs?
What do they really think about your business?
If you know what you want your brand identity to be and have invested
in building it, make sure you’re out there maintaining its integrity.
Small business owners need to be just as much an advocate for their
brand just as Steve Jobs was for Apple.
Use Social Media to Help Your Brand Shine
Social media has changed the way brands connect and engage with their
prospects and customers, opening up new opportunities to talk directly
to and with them in real-time. While your basic brand guidelines should
apply to the foundation of your social media pages, there are lots of
other quick and easy ways to use social media to grow your brand. Anita
Campbell of SmallBizTrends suggests 12 ways to get started. Read part one of “6 Ways to Use Social Media for Branding” and part two here.
Get Involved in your Community
What better way to get exposure for your brand than giving back and
getting involved in the community. Sponsor the local 5k marathon or
participate in fairs, farmer’s markets or events – all of these can help
build community and extend the trust you’ve earned for your brand.
Become a Trusted Advisor
Becoming a trusted advisor to existing customers and prospects is a
great way to differentiate and build your brand. Think about what your
business does and the challenges your customers have. Host workshops or
webinars and write blogs that offer advice and tips for overcoming these
challenges, without plugging your own product or services (use
follow-up emails and calls to attendees to do that).
Winning new business becomes a lot easier if customers already know
that you’re an expert at what you do (and that you’re excited about
Police Your Brand’s Usage
So you’ve decided to advertise your business – always make sure
whoever designs the ad adheres to your brand guidelines. If not, the
power of your brand starts to get slowly diluted. Make sure that
partners who use your logo or company messaging stick to those
Likewise, be on the lookout for trademark infringement or any
potential copyright theft by competitors. For instance, a competing
business could lift copy from your website and use it, unchanged, to
promote their business.
Don’t forget employees and if your brand extends to how they greet
and interact with customers. Monitor and coach them regularly to ensure
they’re upholding your brand values.