Build A Brand for Small Businesses

Branding is just as important for small businesses as it is for big names. Indeed, many corporate brands try to look more like small firms in order to appeal to consumers that prefer to support independent brands. 

Many small business owners I talk to already understand that branding is essential to their business, but a surprisingly high number of them don’t really know why.

They recognize the link between successful businesses and strong branding and aspire to build a brand that emulates similar success for themselves. And they understand that branding is not just a logo or how their business is perceived externally. But too few realize that successful brands have this branding at the heart of the business. So much so that in many ways you could almost substitute the word brand for business.

marketing-branding-advertising emineo mediaBranding is a way of defining your business to yourself, your team and your external audiences. It could be called the business’ “identity”, but only on the understanding that it embodies the core of what the business is and its values, not just what it looks and sounds like. Customers of all sorts of businesses are so savvy today that they can see through most attempts by companies to gloss, spin or charm their way to sales.

The benefits that a strategically defined brand can bring are the same as when people fall in love with each other. When customers connect emotively — because they share the same values and beliefs of a brand — it leads to higher sales and better brand differentiation. It also leads to loyalty, advocacy and can even protect your price in times when competitors rely on promotional discounts to drive sales. It can also give you the ideal platform from which to extend your offering or range.

Here are ten tips on how to successfully implement branding for your business.

1.   Start by defining your brand.

Review the product or service your business offers, pinpoint the space in the market it occupies and research the emotive and rational needs and concerns of your customers. Your brand character should promote your business, connect with your customer base and differentiate you in the market.

2.   When building your brand, think of it as a person.

Every one of us is an individual whose character is made up of beliefs, values and purposes that define who we are and who we connect with. Our personality determines how we behave in different situations, how we dress and what we say. Of course for people it’s intuitive and it’s rare that you even consider what your own character is, but when you’re building a brand it’s vital to have that understanding.

3.   Consider what is driving your business.

What does it believe in, what is its purpose and who are its brand heroes. These things can help establish your emotive brand positioning and inform the identity and character for brand communications.

4.   Aim to build long-term relationships with your customers.

Don’t dress up your offering and raise expectations that result in broken promises, create trust with honest branding — be clear who your company is and be true to the values that drive it every day.

5.   Speak to your customers with a consistent tone of voice.

It will help reinforce the business’ character and clarify its offering so customers are aware exactly what to expect from the product or service.

6.   Don’t repeat the same message in the same way over and over again. 

Alternatively, aim to make your key messages work together to build a coherent identity. 

7.   Don’t try to mimic the look of chains or big brands.

Try and carve out your own distinctive identity. There is a big consumer trend towards independent establishments, and several chains are in fact trying to mimic an independent feel to capture some of that market. Truly independent operators can leverage their status to attract customers who are looking for something more original and authentic, that aligns with how feel about themselves.

8.   Be innovative, bold and daring – stand for something you believe in.

Big brands are encumbered by large layers of bureaucracy, preventing them from being flexible and reacting to the ever-changing needs of their customers. Those layers of decision-makers can make it hard for them to be daring with their branding.

9.   Always consider your branding when communicating with customers.

Don’t lose your pride or dilute your brand positioning with indiscriminate discounting. Try offering more, rather than slashing prices. Promotions are an opportunity to reinforce your brand mission.

10.  The old way of stamping your logo on everything won’t cut it.

The future of branding is fluid and engaging — respect your customers’ intelligence by not giving everything away up front. Generate some intrigue and allow them to unearth more about your brand for themselves. This is the way to foster ambassadors who revel in telling other people what they have discovered.

Source Marketing Donut

5 Tips for Using Competitive Differentiators to Build Your Business Brand

Are you effectively using competitive differentiators to stand out from the crowd and win customers? Can you or your sales team clearly explain to customers why your build-brand emineo mediabusiness is different from the competition and why this should matter to them (i.e. the “so what” factor)?

Here are some tips for incorporating your differentiators into your sales and marketing strategy.

1.  Examine Your Differentiators and What They Mean to Your Customers

Very few businesses can sell and survive on a price differentiators alone. And even if your business operates in a saturated and highly competitive market, there are always facets of your business that can make you stand apart from your competition.

For example, consider the service contractor market. If your customers live in a town, city or suburb, then there’s a good chance they have plenty of choice when it comes to painters, landscapers, plumbers and so on. And while price is important, it’s important to be clear on what else you have to offer.

How can you really help your customers? Are you consultative? Can you advise them on the best solution for their needs rather than always trying to upsell unnecessary work? Is there a product that would be a better fit for their needs than the one they’ve requested a quote for? Do you have a strong reliability record? Do you supervise all work? Are you a good communicator?

Then ask yourself what these mean to your customers – what is the “so what” of your approach? Is it money-savings, quality workmanship/products that will last, etc.?

This is just the first step, and you may find your differentiators vary depending on who your customer is and what they need. But the important thing is they are starting to emerge; next you’ll need to define these differences in the contrast to what your competition is doing.

2.  What is the Competition Doing and How Can You Sell Against Them?

To help refine your differentiators, it’s important to identify the differentiators your competitors are claiming for themselves. Competitive weaknesses are just as important as strengths, so try to uncover your competitors’ vulnerabilities too and where your strengths come into play against these.

Ask around, ask your customers and check online reviews (Google+ Local, Yelp.com, Angie’s List, Service Magic and community discussion forums). If you lose a deal, ask why.

3.  Which of Your Differentiators Matter to Your Customers?

What matters to you doesn’t always matter to your customers. Listen to your customers’ needs, survey them or post a poll on Facebook asking what they value about your business. Use what you find out to further refine your differentiators.

4.  Integrity Matters

One of the most important distinctions between small businesses and larger companies is the role that the small business owner plays as a brand advocate. As a small business owner, the reputation and success of the business hinges on you. So be true to your business values as you work to define and communicate your differentiators. Avoid glibness, have integrity and be honest. Be prepared to explain why you are better than the competition without walking all over them – define your positives in the light of their negatives and back up your claims with customer testimonials and references.

5.  Ensure Everyone is Singing off the Same Hymn Sheet

To help you really define your differentiators, write them down. Prepare an elevator pitch and consistent marketing messages that can be rolled into your web copy, emails, phone calls and so on.

Source SCORE

7 Tips for Getting Your Marketing Message Right

How do you describe your business to the world? What words sum up your brand identity and what you have to offer? Are you clearly explaining your business value?

It takes a little time and thought to get your marketing message right, which is why so many small businesses fall back on their “About Us” page or product descriptions to describe what they do and for whom. The problem with this approach is that this message is always about the business itself, and not about those you are trying to connect with – your customers.

Getting your marketing, positioning, and brand statements right is an essential step to building your overall business identity.  In marketing circles, it’s called the “marketing platform,” and here are some tips to help you get it right.

1. Understand Your Target Market and Niche

If you want to connect, you have to know with whom you’re connecting. For this, you need to determine your niche. Ask yourself what you are selling and to whom. Are the benefits of dealing with your business clear and are they aligned with the needs of your target customers? Answering these questions will help you focus your messaging and play to your strengths in that niche.

2. Think About Pain Points, Challenges, Needs and Desires

Every business, product, or service responds to a customer’s pain point: a need, a problem, a desire, or a challenge. How you address these “pain points” is critical to your messaging. For some businesses, like a plumber, for example, these needs seem obvious. For others, pain points may be a little harder to define. For example, an upscale seafood bar and restaurant in a suburban community may or may not be addressing a problem or pain point. But you can certainly weave a benefit statement around the fact that it’s helping residents enjoy a taste of big-city dining right on their doorsteps and meets an emotional need for good times close to home!

3. Tell People About your Product – Succinctly

Products are a key part of what you do, but they are not everything. Your product or service should only be a small part of your overall message.  Yes, it’s what you bring to your target audience, but you are offering more – customer service, agility, convenience, reliability, experience, etc. So consider all these issues in light of what they mean to your customer. What’s the “so what” factor? What benefit does it realize for them?

4. Add Proof Points

A proof point backs up what you have to say about your business. Think of it as a “don’t just take our word for it” statement. Proof points include customer quotes, success stories that you write, case studies, and references. They’re important because they show how your business has solved the problems of others. A few words or paragraphs can convey the customer’s challenge, the solution you delivered, and the results they gained.

This is a great exercise because it focuses you on the customer experience. Use these as stand-alone messages or incorporate the common themes you see into your messaging.

5. Figure out how you are Different

What makes you unique in your niche and to your target market? You’ve outlined your product and you know your customer, but how are you different from the competition? Try to tie those differences to perceived value – i.e. why should your customer care about what you do or provide?

6. Decide on a Messaging Platform

What you are aiming for is flexibility. You want to be able to slice and dice your messaging to suit your audience, your collateral, a promotion, or a sales pitch.

A common approach is to create 25-, 50-, and 100-word versions of your message. The shorter version can be used in advertising copy, elevator pitches, or sound bites in marketing materials. The longer versions give you more flexibility to add specific services, benefits, and value statements, backed up by proof points, about why customers should do business with you.

7. Use Your Messaging Consistently

Once you have your message developed, make sure everyone is singing from the same song sheet, from your sales people to your front desk and across your website and marketing pieces. The more your customers hear it, the more likely it will be to resonate and stick.

Source SBA