Retailers and consumers have a very different relationship than they did a decade ago. Especially with social media and e-commerce, communication with buyers no longer starts and ends at the time of purchase. And as giants like Amazon and Walmart continue to own the retail space, it’s more important than ever to make your small business stands out. Enter: building a small business brand.
So, what is a brand? At the most basic level, a brand is how customers recognize and experience a business. It should tell buyers what to expect from your products and services and convince them why to choose you over your competitors. Ultimately, your brand should answer the question “how do I want customers to perceive my business?”
Developing a strong brand can be huge for both your customer base and your bottom line. Recognizable, consistent brands have credibility in their marketplaces, which helps establish trust among buyers. In some cases, well-known brands can even charge more for their products, as customers are willing to pay for quality.
You may already be familiar with certain parts of your brand, like your logo and products. However, have you ever thought about your brand’s key messages? How about if where you advertise actually reaches customers who want to buy your products? These are just a few of the many aspects that separate good brands from great ones.
Fortunately, developing and improving your brand doesn’t require a team of experts or a big marketing budget! Here are a few steps to help build a small business brand you can be proud of.
Define Your Brand
This is potentially the trickiest, but most important, step to building your brand- figuring out WHO you want to be. To begin, start by asking yourself a few “self-discovery” questions, such as:
- What is my business’s mission?
- What are the benefits of my products or services?
- How does my business stand out from my competitors?
- What do my current and prospective customers already know/think about my business?
- What do I WANT current and prospective customers to know/think about my business?
As part of this process, consider doing some research about your current or desired audience. If you have an email list, send out a survey asking subscribers what they enjoy about your business or how you could improve. You can also use free market research tools to learn about the buying trends and behaviors of customers you want to reach.
After completing research and your own business “self discovery,” it’s time to define your brand. Be sure to use all the information you’ve gathered to make the best decision. Balance your values and who you want to be with what your customers are seeking out. When done well, this exercise can result in an effective, genuine brand that you can stand behind.
Create a Logo and Accompanying Visuals
Once you’ve decided who your brand is, it’s time to carry out that identity in a way customers can see it. This is first and foremost done by creating a great logo.
Though it doesn’t entirely make up your brand’s visual identity, a logo is the most recognizable part of your brand. Therefore, it should represent the business values and messages you previously defined. For example- if you want to appear the established, reliable choice, you probably don’t want to pick a big, brash font or overly bright colors. Your logo should be able to give customers a basic idea of what you offer without visiting your store.
Your logo is only the first piece of your brand’s design puzzle. Once it’s been created, every other visual part of your brand should fit with and tie back to it. This includes all communication with customers, social media posts, and even shipping packaging. A cohesive visual look is key to building a brand that customers will recognize, even when they’re not seeking it out.
Now that you’ve created your brand, it’s time to share it with your audience. However, no matter how many buyers you speak with or platforms you advertise on, the experience with your brand needs to be consistent.
To begin, write down a few key messages you always want to convey. Then, think about a brand “voice” or way of speaking that matches these messages. If your brand is relaxed, you can likely use more casual language than a brand that’s luxury or high-end and vice versa.
Once you’ve decided on your voice, make sure you carry it through every touchpoint with your audience. How your brand sounds in emails shouldn’t be drastically different than its advertising or social media posts. Just like with your logo and design, your communications should all “fit” together, as if customers are all speaking with the same person.
Meet Customers Where They Are
You’ve created a brand that meets a market’s needs and represents your business’s values- it’s time to buyers about it! But, before you start blasting your brand across the digital universe, figure out where your target audience is likely to see it.
To begin, refer back to that customer research you completed when defining your brand. Oftentimes, this information will share valuable insights about how a particular audience interacts online or with other brands. You can also use demographic information, such as age and location, to determine where these customers can mostly likely be reached.
Emailing previous customers is one of the easiest ways to communicate with an audience that’s already engaged with your brand. Since they already have basic knowledge of your business, consider sharing information that expands on what you have to offer. This can include promotions, a further description of a few of your values, or a selection of inventory that highlights your understanding of their needs.
If you want a surefire way to get eyes on your brand, advertising is a great option. Though it requires some knowledge and a little investment, digital ads can guarantee specific audience members see what you have to say.
Before you break out your budget, look at your customers’ buying habits and where they typically discover your brand. If many customers found you during an eBay search, you’ll probably want to allocate more money eBay advertising than another similar platform. Remember – just because buyers are seeing your ads, doesn’t mean they’re necessarily clicking on them.
Social media is an incredible (and free) method of connecting with your buyers. Not only can customers learn about your brand, but they can also share direct and indirect feedback about their experiences that you can use to grow.
With the number of social media platforms growing by the year, it may be tempting to put your brand on every one available. However, as with advertising, you’ll want to focus on the places your customers are most likely to spend their time. If your audience trends a bit older, you may want to launch a Facebook page, which 68% of 50-64 year olds report using, rather than Twitter, which is used by a much smaller 17%.
Building a reputable small business brand takes time, work, and patience, but it’s well worth the effort. The power of customers instantly recognizing your business and its values is immeasurable, and will help you stand out from the retail crowd.