Is your brand recognizable? More importantly, how is it perceived?
No doubt, aesthetics are one of the most important features of a business. After all, a logo equals a thousand words in the business world. But, looks are just a part of your your brand identity. There is so much more.
Apple and Zappos for example, are two brands that have created identities for themselves, which customers not only recognize but enjoy doing business with and are invested in thanks to brand strategy. Small businesses can replicate this through seven simple steps:
Right from Square One
Logos, websites, signage, etc. are the bedrock of your brand. Inconsistency with these brand identifiers can confuse and ultimately turn away potential customers. You can easily prevent this by creating a set and consistent pattern that your colors, logos, images and fonts must follow. Registering or trademarking your logo is also absolutely imperative for obvious reasons. You don't want someone claiming your cool logo as their own after you paid good money to a graphic designer or spent hours creating it yourself.
The "voice" of your business is another fundamental to consider. For example, a software company that sells to other businesses might adopt a tone of authority and expertise, while a software company that markets software apps to consumers should adopt a more conversational voice in its marketing materials.
Project Your Company's Values
Most importantly, everything associated with your brand must reflect the value proposition of your company. In other words, avoid vague mission statements. Instead, use a tagline that briefly summarizes the what you do for your customers rather than who you are.
Make sure to use simple, clear language and imagery that reminds your customers of the unique service you provide or the business problem your company solves and how it makes their lives better.
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.
"Pay no Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain!"
If you are a small business owner, do not make the mistake of running your whole show from backstage. Customers want to know their business is appreciated and therefore want to connect with the face behind the operation, especially if their transactions are frequent or substantial.
This doesn’t mean you have to greet every single customer that walks in or introduce yourself as the owner but it doesn't hurt to be on-site once in a while just to get to know your customers and be in-tune with their needs. It's an easy way to see what people really think of your business.
Small business owners need to be an advocate for their own brand just as much as their most invested customers, especially if they want to maintain the integrity of their brand identity.
Social Media is the Future
I'm going to let you in on a not so secret little secret...social media is an absolute necessity for all businesses. It doesn't matter how well you've performed without it and it doesn't matter who told you it's not necessary, despite their credentials. Social media is the king of business promotion tactics. It allows brands to directly communicate with customers in real-time.
There are lots of 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.
Give and You Shall Receive
One excellent way to build trust and a positive image for your brand is to sponsor or get involved in community events such as local 5k marathons, fairs, farmer's markets, etc.
Give Credit to Your Credentials
If customers are already aware of your expertise in your industry, winning over new business gets much easier. You can easily demonstrate your knowledge by hosting workshops, webinars, and/or writing blogs that offer advice and tips to existing customers without pushing your own product or service. This will not only differentiate your brand but ensure that word of your company gets passed on to new potential customers.
Consistency, Originality, Potency
As mentioned earlier, it's important to maintain consistency within your brand elements. If you decide to advertise your business or partner with another organization that wants to use your logo, make sure the ad designer and your partner adhere to your brand guidelines otherwise the originality and potency of your brand begins to fade.
Also watch out for trademark or copyright infringement by competitors. A business can actually use your brand materials to promote their own.
Last but certainly not least, your customers associate your brand most with the service they receive. As such, it's important to monitor and coach your employees regularly to ensure they uphold your brand values.
By: Kevin Hickman
This article was re-blogged from the SBA's blog contributor Caron Beesley