By now you likely understand that investing in a strong brand allows you to charge more for your products or services. The evidence is clear when companies like Rolex, Ritz-Carlton, and Mercedes-Benz command (and receive) a large premium for their products and services. You can bet they aren’t printing their business cards on a laser printer at home!
But as a small business owner, how can you build a brand on a tiny budget? Is it possible to command a premium like these luxury companies do, without a sizeable
As a marketing director at a small regional advertising agency, we had to take very small budgets and make them look like a big player.
Here are a few tips to build a strong brand on a tiny
1) Fewer are better than many.
The big guys don’t spread themselves too thin. They pick a few places to be and they go at it 110%. Concentrate your
brand-building efforts on a few BIG things, not several small things. When you try to be all things to all people in your business (or your personal life) you end up disappointing
everyone. Likewise when you say yes to every marketing opportunity that comes your way, you end up watering down your impact and making a weak impression.
Here are a few examples. Rather than being minimally involved in several charity events, become really involved in just one that best reaches your target audience and you are passionate about. Spend a lot of time and effort making your impression a great one. Even if you don’t have the money to become a
top sponsor, trade for your time or your services to get great exposure.
Or, instead of spreading your marketing budget over many small advertisements with several different media, invest in
one high-impact marketing piece that sets the tone and makes a BIG branding impression. You can distribute this marketing piece via mail, at charitable events, in businesses you co-market with, in person when you meet with clients, etc.
2) Be real.
An advantage small business owners have over big box stores is the ability to be a real person. You aren’t just an
extension of a corporation who may or may not be employed by that company tomorrow. Don’t shy away from opportunities to be real and to let your clients see and experience you.
There are many opportunities to do this that don’t involve being the star of your advertising. When I worked at an
advertising agency, we would get a few laughs at the clients who wanted to use their children or themselves in their ads. Understand that while it’s important to be
known as the owner of your business and associated with your company, you may not be the best person to sell your products and services in advertisements, as your personality or likeness may not appeal to your target audience.
Instead become actively involved in the community with causes that are important to you and your target audience to associate your name with your b usiness. You
can also develop a strong social media presence so you clients have access to you and have a better understanding of the person behind the business. Finally,
make sure you’re regularly seen in your retail location or heard on the phone with clients. These are all ways to associate yourself with your brand without
being the ‘talent’.
3) Get creative.
While it’s tempting to jump on board with the canned materials when vendors pay a co-op marketing fee if you use what
they provide, it’s rarely worth the long-term effect on your brand. And worse yet, if you carry the same products as a competitor, it’s possible that they
may use the same canned marketing piece. Save your money and make a big impression with your own creatively designed piece. It will go much further in your efforts than investing fewer dollars in a canned piece that doesn’t leave any impression.
4) Take advantage of FREE.
There are many free opportunities that can go a long way in helping build a strong brand. Public relations opportunities that explain the unique and
different things you are doing in your community give you great exposure. Build relationships with your local media. Ask them what types of stories they are looking for to interest their readers. Learn how to pitch yourself to the media in a way that they can easily understand how what you’re doing in business is relevant and exciting to their audience. It isn’t as hard as you think!
Free social media tools like yelp, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In can go a long way, too. While you may shun social media, the reality is, you have to go where your customers are spending their time. A recent study showed that 70% of people with assets of more than $5 million are on Facebook. These community-building tools are perfect for small business owners as they help you build stronger relationships with your clients. Unlike big box companies whose employees don’t have a face, you have an advantage of sharing yourself, a major part of your brand, with potential clients. Include nice photography and graphics so that you have a consistent presence.
5) Look professional.
You wouldn’t go to an interview at Nieman Marcus wearing a cheap suit, so why would you present your business to anyone in anything less than the best? Right from the beginning, invest in a professionally designed logo and identity package. If you don’t have the money
to do this, don’t market your business until you do.
If you’re short on funds, look for a professional graphic designer who would consider trading with you if you don’t have the cash to invest in this necessity. Offer the designer a credit redeemable for merchandise or services at your business rather than a cash
If you own an existing business, it may be time to invest in a brand makeover if you find you aren’t attracting the type of clients you once did. Take a hard look at what your ideal client looks like. What colors, styles, words and benefits speak to them? Do you match that or do they look at you like old counter tops in a home built in the 1970s? Your logo and identity is the cornerstone of a strong brand. Don’t skimp here.
It doesn’t take millions of dollars or several years to build a strong brand. While it may be a bit more challenging if you’ve made missteps in the past, it is still possible to build a strong brand for small business. Just follow these simple tips for stretching your marketing dollars and you’ll be on your way.
If you need help developing your brand, check out our JumpSTART Your Brand in 21 Days workbook. With a 45 page PDF workbook and audio lessons to follow, you’ll be on your way to laying the foundation for a strong brand in no time.