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10 Tips to Help You Build and Grow a Stand-Out Small Business Brand

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10 Tips to Help You Build and Grow a Stand-Out Small Business Brand

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: July 29, 2013 Updated: July 29, 2013

The United States loves small businesses – it’s official! That’s according to a survey by the Pew Foundation (reported here on SmallBizTrends) which found that 71 percent of Americans view small business more favorably than any other institutions, including religious organizations.

Why is this? Well, small businesses are seen as a positive influence “on the way things are going in this country.” But it’s more than that.

Small businesses are in a unique position to create valuable customer experiences. Their products and services are often niche; the target customer is very defined; and business operations are agile and unconstrained by corporate rules and processes. Small businesses are also trusted for their integrity, community engagement and customer service. When was the last time you called a small business and got put through to an automated call center? These seemingly small things come together to create a hugely competitive value proposition – and are the lynchpin of your brand.

But what can you do to leverage these experiences and grow the appeal of your brand – without breaking the bank? Here are 10 tips that can help:

  1. What is Your Brand?

First, it’s important to understand that your brand is much more than your logo, merchandising or products. As I mentioned above, it is about the sum total of the experiences customers have with your business. This includes the visual elements of your business, but it also includes what you do, how you do it, what your customer interactions are like, the type of information you share in your marketing and on social media. All these elements help establish the trust and credibility of your business.

  1. Stand Out

Standing out means being different. If your brand is going to be strong, you need to be able to pinpoint what it is that makes what you do unique. What differentiates you from others in your industry? Read 5 Tips for Using Competitive Differentiators to Build Your Business Brand. Don’t forget to weave your differentiators into your company’s messaging and marketing. Here are some tips for doing that: 7 Tips for Getting your Marketing Message Right.

  1. Have Great Products and Services

Word of mouth is often a small businesses greatest lead generator, so having great products and services that people talk about is a critical part of your brand and why you are in business.  Even the most outgoing and charming small business owner is not going to succeed in bringing customers back, unless the product or service they provide delivers and exceeds expectations. Don’t lose sight of your product – keep refining it, testing new offerings, and making sure you always put product first, not the money it brings in.

  1. Make Sure Your Customers Know the Face Behind the Product

One of the biggest reasons that small businesses fail is because of the persistent absence of the business owner. You only need to look at a few episodes of business makeover TV shows like Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and Tabatha Takes Over to witness what can go wrong if a business is left to run itself. Without an actively engaged owner, employees lose motivation and structure, which can quickly lead to sloppy service, a poor product and customer churn. Yes, your business needs to be able to function without your constant presence, but it’s important to strike a balance – find ways to make sure your customers know you and connect with the face behind the business. Businesses really thrive when the energy of the owner is there.

  1. Get Your Name and Logo Right

This is essential to brand recognition and it’s important to get it right the first time (changing your name and logo can be costly down the road). Your logo and name should be easily recognizable and reflect the nature and tone of your business as well as appeal to your target market. I’m a dog owner, and two of my absolute favorite small businesses cater to pet owners – Woofies (my local provider of dog walking services) and Doggone Natural (a healthy pet food store). The names and logos of both these businesses reflect the personality of their brands, what they stand for, the products they offer, their market (people and their pets) and the overall tone of their businesses. When I see their logos, it makes me feel good; I feel an affinity with them – and that’s what you need to shoot for.

  1. Have a Distinct Voice

A great way to ensure your distinct brand message is delivered consistently across your business is to focus on how you and your employees interact and communicate with customers – in-person, on the phone and on social media. Not sure what your “voice” should be? Look to other brands. What do they do that you’d like to emulate? How do they greet and interact with you? What is it that they do that makes you feel good about doing business with them?

  1. Build Community Around What you Do

A successful brand is one that is trusted and respected by customers – building a strong community online and off can help you achieve this.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to do this. In fact, many successful brands concentrate almost exclusively in online and offline community building as opposed to traditional advertising. Facebook and Twitter are great outlets for this, as is your blog. Offline participation in community activities such as local events, fundraisers, charities, as well as hosting your own events such as workshops or loyal customer events, can all help you build community and extend the trust you’ve earned to your brand.

  1. Be an Advocate for Your Business – Not Just a Salesman

You don't have to be the greatest salesman to succeed in business. Selling takes many forms – and being a brand advocate gels them all together. For example, many small business owners strive to be the number one salesman, the number one cheerleader, and the number one fan of their own business (you’ve got to be excited about it if you want others to be excited too). If you are passionate about your business, be an advocate for it. Use many of the tips in this blog to make sure people understand what you do, the story behind your products, what your products have done for people, your methods and mission, and all that good stuff. Invite people in!

  1. Be Reliable

Letting your customers down by failing to live up to your own promises and brand standards can be particularly harmful for small businesses that depend heavily on referrals. The foundation of brand loyalty lies in great service – a happy customer is a loyal customer. So make sure you aren’t making promises that you can’t keep – whether you run a pizza business and pledge to deliver within 30 minutes, or are a painting contractor who promises to start a job on a Monday at 9:00 AM sharp. Stand by your promises.  

  1. Have a Value Proposition

Value, not to be mistaken with price, can help define your brand and differentiate you from the competition. This goes back to my second point about standing out. What niche do you serve? What do you do well in that niche that makes you different from everyone else? What are the emotional benefits of what you do? The answers to these questions will help define what your value is to your customers – it could be your great customer service, product quality, innovation, or any combination of these.

About the Author:

Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Comments:

This is a really great article. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
This is definetely a great article outlining what small businesses need to focus when getting started and even when they are already established. Something to highlight is the value proposition this is what makes a real difference in real business life. Being ahead from the pack and challenging the status quo is what makes businesses grow exponentially.
I meet many small business owners who have no idea what their value proposition is or what makes them different from their competitors. This, in my opinion is key thing business need to focus on. The second thing is "who is their target customer". Many people give little thought to that. If you can put these two things together, you'll grow a strong business.
Great article! The biggest takeaway was the fact that your brand needs to stand out. It is quite important that small businesses hire a professional to help with branding, as it can be difficult to evaluate your brand. It is always nice having an outside-looking-in view. The ability to communicate 'your' brand in a digital world, isn't as easy as some may think.
Great article. To be a new startup now adays, you have to hustle. You have to be willing to do it different and market that difference. As entreprenuers we all see gaps in the market place. Thos gaps are more often than not the seeds to the ideas that we develop into a new company or product. I have been working away at this for the past few years and the things that make us successful are the ones we come up with on our own and work our tail off to provide!!!
...Letting your customers down by failing to live up to your own promises and brand standards can be particularly harmful for small businesses that depend heavily on referrals. The foundation of brand loyalty lies in great service – a happy customer is a loyal customer.Definitely correct!!!
Great article! We're definitely trying to incorporate everything mentioned here as we grow. One tool that has helped my company out a lot is a solid workflow email strategy. It takes time and testing to develop properly, but can pay big dividends!
My problem with SEO is that Google keeps changing it's algorithm. My site http://halifaxwebsolutions.com was on Page #1 in recent weeks and for some reason has dropped to about 60th place? Any comments or suggests are helpful at this point. One note it that I have tried creating fresh new content on a regular basis but I guess the big guys have more bucks to throw around for SEO campaigns than I do. Thanks. tom Social Fans Expert Halifax, NS
Things seem to be turning around a bit for "halifax web design" website. The reason it took a dive recently was most likely due to bad backlinks. Tip for losing Page Rank with Google: When I say bad links I mean those with "PR0" or "N/A" PAGE RANK. What I need to do is login to webmaster tools and click on the area to "disavow" all my bad links. It will take some time but eventually Google with de-index all your bad links leaving you only high quality "PR4+" backlinks pointing to your main website. There are several videos on this subject by Google's Social Marketing guru Matt Cutts. This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you. Halifax website Design Services is a full services company that can give you the complete package of products and services all in one place. Web Design Halifax is your one stop web design shop for all your online website needs and is here to help you build a new website, a website re-design or add-on or even monthly maintenance services.
I would add a few tips from Gary V's book Crush It: Start a blog, develop a social media presence with fan pages related to the blogs you start, start a YouTube channel related to the blog, and eventually start a podcast. Finally, link all sources of marketing and value back to the blog for traffic generation purposes and make sure you know exactly who your audience is to best figure out how to monetize your blog.

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