What comes to mind when you think of the word “brand?”
- Most likely you are imagining the world’s most famous logos- the swoosh, the golden arches, that shiny, bitten apple. Brands, and branding, are ubiquitous in today’s world. “Big Brands” are powerful, and they are worth untold millions of revenue to the companies that own them. They also have personalities that evoke strong emotional responses in consumers- including deep loyalty and love.
- But is branding just a game for the big boys? How can small businesses hope to compete in such a brand-saturated market?
- Many small business owners don’t even make an attempt- they view brand as an afterthought. You’ve built it (your business)- so now they (the customers) will come. Right?
- Wrong. The first step to converting “them” into your customers is to communicate who you are, and why you are exactly what they need. Think about the window of opportunity that you have as a small business owner hoping to capture attention. Where will your potential customers encounter your company or product for the first time? Whether it’s on an online directory, your storefront window, social media or a business card- one glance must get a positive reaction in order to get a second look.
- So how do you create an effective brand? To work well for you business, your brand should truly reflect your offering. This means that before you create your brand, you need to be very clear on THREE VERY BIG THINGS:
- How is your product unique relative to the competition? Some businesses emphasize only one point of difference (“We’re cheaper!”) while others focus on a cluster of features (“We have better service, we’re environmentally friendly and we’re higher quality!”) If your offering is in fact quite similar to the other options available, you can choose to promote one aspect that you do very well, or create a style of doing business that sets you apart. Maybe your product is the same, but you are the business that makes the product in the most cheerful, or most passionate, or most compassionate way. Perhaps its the niche you target, or the fact you can back up your claims with a powerful guarantee- whatever it is, make sure your differentiation is not only distinct, but real.
2. Your target market:
- Selecting a target market does NOT mean you are rejecting potential customers- it means you are creating a marketing plan that has a much greater chance of success! You can’t please all of the people all of the time- and you can’t know all of them either. But you can know a lot about one segment of the market- the segment you can reach, the segment that needs you, the segment you will strive to satisfy: your target market. Who are they and why do they need your product? How does it benefit their lives? Make a list of the relevant questions and find the answers.
- How do you want to be perceived in the minds of consumers? What are you doing, and for whom, and why? This is your positioning. To really get clarity on this, try crafting a positioning statement: “We are the community minded, health-conscious quick-service restaurant for busy families and working people who don’t want to compromise nutrition for convenience.”
- Your positioning is where your brand should come from. Communicate your positioning through your brand, and your audience will both listen and understand. And if your product and target market are a true match, your brand will genuinely resonate with consumers. In other words, brand is the symbol of the relationship between your business and the people you serve.
See how that works? product + customer = brand!
Want more specific help? Read Branding for Small Business Part 2 here!
(Or find me on Facebook at Erica Jane Consulting, follow me on Twitter @erica_ericajane. Happy to help!)