Small businesses sometimes underestimate the power of branding, thinking it is only for huge corporations such as Apple or Walmart. However, as a digital marketing agency we know that every business benefits from establishing a strong brand presence, and gaining name recognition doesn’t have to be complicated or costly.
When it comes to effectiveness in advertising, 72% of marketers indicate branded online content is more successful than ad space in print magazines. While there is a place for both types of advertising, when it comes to branding, online content packs more punch on a return on investment basis.
If you’re looking to grow your small business and your customer base, it’s time to start focusing on your branding practices. Here are nine simple techniques for better branding:
Know your business’ purpose
One of the first steps towards better branding is knowing the purpose of your company – Why did you initially start your business? Also keep in mind that branding is more about how others see you, so what do your customers say about your purpose?
Your story is unique from all the other companies out there, and part of what draws people to you.
Set a marketing budget
Once you understand the importance of branding, decide how much you want to invest in marketing and expanding your business’ reach both online and offline.
You don’t have to decide where you’ll spend your money yet, but have a ballpark figure for a marketing budget. Throughout this article, you’ll find ideas on gaining free exposure and branding on a budget. For now, figure out what you can afford, and later decide on specific spending.
If you want to focus your budget on developing more of a local marketing strategy, check out this episode of T-Time with Tillison for advice on all the practices you can employ on a tight budget.
Create an offline experience
Once you have an idea of your brand message, create an interactive experience for those who come into your physical location, especially if you’re a B2C company.
Grabbing users’ interest from that first point of contact through positive engagement creates brand loyalty. Use unique signage and experiential graphics, so customers feel as though they’re entering a new world – creating an interactive environment engages consumers and makes your brand memorable.
Work with social media influencers
Although you can certainly pay social media influencers for exposure, another idea is making connections on social media, sending out free products and hoping some influencers give your brand a shout-out.
Social media interaction is an inexpensive way of gaining promotion and helps with branding because the influencer shares details of what they think about your brand. First of all, develop a relationship with the influencers you’d like to work with by sharing their material and commenting on their posts.
After you’ve developed a relationship, approach the influencer about sending them free products. Don’t ask for a mention in return at this point – they already understand the game and that they should mention your brand if they like what you sell.
Learn Social Media with a Pro
Create amazing content
Another free way of gaining exposure for your brand is when regular people share your content with others. The only way this happens is if you create something valuable.
Content includes everything from articles, whitepapers and how-to guides to videos and infographics. Study what your competitors offer on their websites and social media pages and come up with something unique, but with similar formatting.
Staying abreast of trends in your industry and the world is an essential part of online branding. When you know what’s hot in pop culture, it’s much easier to tie your marketing into those trends and meet the needs of consumers.
‘Trendy’ doesn’t always mean fun or carefree – even tragic situations can speak to your target audience. Be aware of these happenings and ready to speak out and offer comfort and advice, but keep in mind that you don’t want to appear spammy or as though you’re only trying to turn a profit. The idea of someone benefiting from a tragedy doesn’t sit well and may give your brand a bad name rather than a positive image.
Choose a voice
One issue with smaller brands is that their voice isn’t consistent. At first, the business owner may do most of the marketing, so the branding is through their perspective. Later, they hire someone to help, and that person has a different vision. The first marketer moves on, a new one starts and the process repeats.
Avoid this by defining your company and understanding your audience, then choose a tone that remains consistent throughout the life of your marketing. Don’t establish yourself as a fun, energetic brand and suddenly grow serious.
Improve customer experience
Customer experience (CX) – also known as user experience – is one of the most essential elements in your overall brand image. When a customer walks into your store or places an order on your website, do they expect stellar customer service? What is your reputation, and how can you make it better?
Amazon is an excellent example of a brand known for fast, free delivery. They promote their Prime service, which allows for two-day delivery on millions of products. Their shopping cart experience clearly shows when an item arrives with different levels of shipping. Their commitment to their customers is part of the experience of ordering from their site.
If you own a brick-and-mortar store, you can still improve your CX. Think about the process the buyer takes from the moment they walk through your door until they bring an item to the counter and pay for it. Look for areas of improvement and ways of enhancing customer service.
Monitor your reputation
Every brand, big or small, should monitor their online reputation, especially with brand mentions now playing a key role in Google’s search algorithm.
Visit review sites and see what customers say about your products and services. If a customer complains, rectify the situation and implement procedures preventing a similar issue. Remember, the way people see your company is a significant part of brand awareness. Leave them with a positive impression.
Many small businesses have no idea where to start with branding. Stand out from your competitors by focusing on building a strong brand name and recognition in your industry. Little efforts have a ripple effect with consumers, reaching more people than you thought possible. Create a plan for branding in the next year and watch the impact on your growing customer base.
Lexie Lu is a branding enthusiast and graphic designer. In her spare time, she enjoys walking her dog, watching home design shows on HGTV and baking. Feel free to subscribe to her design blog, Design Roast, or follow her on Twitter.