… But Branding is only for big businesses
Practical methods for branding small businesses.
Philip O\’Brien Creation Media Updated 30/08/16
About 6 months ago I had a conversation with a business owner. The company has been established since the eighties. and recently expanded to a second location.
She said she wanted marketing. I explained that marketing is a collective term. There are many diverse elements. Finally I asked what issue faced the business.
She wasn’t sure. However she referenced another business and expressed a desire to emulate their business marketing. After some gentle digging, we concluded what her business needed first of all was branding. Her competitor’s clear, clean branding was what she wanted most in her business.
And she was right. She did need branding.
After a long time in business the owners and staff could not take a piece of paper and identify what that business represented.
What it stood for. Because if the business owners don\’t have a clear idea then how can customers be expected to know?
Branding begins at the beginning. Begin now!
Branding is critical to every company large and small.
Businesses are focused (understandably) on the bottom line revenue. On products and services which attract customers to achieve this revenue. However clear branding is the very element that differentiates your business against similar competitors.
Branding, very simply, is knowing who you are as a company and how others perceive you.
Below I’ve detailed a few of the basic branding steps that any business can apply.
Know your business. Knowledge builds brands.
First of all what does your business represent? Or what would you like it to represent? Write all the attributes down. These should effectively communicate what your business does, how it differs from competitors and what values your business represents.
A business may be known for selling ethically sourced products. Brands like Ben & Jerry’s began as small businesses with big ideas and a clear understanding of what they represented. To achieve success in branding you must understand your business sector. You must know your competitor’s relative strengths and weaknesses. And crucially the target audience which you want to reach.
To build a brand you need an audience.
What need or problem are you solving for your customers?
Your product or service must provide a solution to a customer problem.
The product or service itself may not provide what is termed POD (Point of Difference). But your business may provide another element which becomes part of your brand.
So your POD may become a lower cost for the same product or service. It may be better service. Or a more satisfactory after care process for customers.
The Premier Inn hotel group advertised the quality of their mattresses in a 2014 campaign. They realised that the main POD which mattered for their customers was a great night’s sleep. They provided top quality mattresses to customers and room occupancy rates rocketed.
Your business brand can be formed to some degree without your input if you let it. However rather than having a brand known for rude staff, you can control this element by retraining staff. You then control this specific input into your brand image.
Do your staff know and live your brand?
So you need to know your business, your market, your competitors and your POD to build a brand.
Great! But do your staff? The faces on the front line must fully understand what the business stands for. What customers know the company for and why.
The smaller the business, the greater the opportunity for a brand to connect with customers. There are generally fewer staff and therefore more “touch-points”.
These are times when the consumer comes into contact with the company. Brand messages should be clear and communicated properly to staff. Consequently the company must adequately train and resource staff to embody the brand.
If the company is known for high service levels there must be clear policies on for example, handling complaints. Trained and empowered employees will effectively represent the companies brand values through their actions and conduct.
If this sounds a bit like common sense instead of “high powered marketing advice” then that’s because it is.
If the basics are right then you can build and begin to make sure your positive brand messages reach the customer.
Living the brand. Actions speak louder than words.
The phrase \”living the brand\”, essentially means that you must be what you say you are. So the brand image of a youth brand will be fun, lively, funky. This would be reflected in the content and communications platforms which are selected.
How you communicate the brand positioning in every interaction is crucial.
Every action and company system influences how customers evaluate the company.
Employees must understand how to deal with situations and standardised responses must be provided to maintain the brand integrity. Again training is key. Enabling staff to represent the company values is achievable by developing templates. These will contain key phrases and responses.
A word of caution. While its important to provide information to staff and equip them to effectively communicate, you don\’t want robots. Nothing infuriates a customer more then a standardised meaningless response.
Branding. It’s all about the community.
So if a company successfully connects with enough customers the brand becomes viable.
Think Apple or Coca Cola. Why do these brands inspire such loyalty? These brands have what are termed “acolytes”,
These are customers who form communities based on their love of a product or service. Furthermore they act as positive spokespeople for the company. While this has many advantages you must be aware of outside influences on the brand. If possible monitor all messages for consistency.
Monitor fan pages or social media comments on the company. You need to maintain control of the brand message. Most of all reward communities which reinforce the values and messages selected.
In conclusion, branding is necessary for almost any and all businesses. As a result you need to understand and communicate what your company represents. What is especially relevant to your customers? Enable your staff to also to this and in addition reward customers who become acolytes for the company.
Finally, branding is not rocket science. But it does require a clear vision, good communication and training, patience and some good ol fashioned TLC.
Image Credit: Forbes