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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:

Great Article. Branding is very important for small business when starting out. Having a key differentiator and a value proposition is essential and will help you stand out amongst the competition
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
In building a small business, in choosing what products or services to offer it must be in line with what you really like. In this way you can explore more because you love what you are doing. Like in real estate, you will never be a great agent or broker if you don't love what you are doing. If you are doing it because it is your job then you will soon get tired of it. Unlike when you really love what you are doing you will never get bored or tired, in fact you will enjoy the things you are doing.
As a small business in a very competitive industry, we made a conscious effort when we were formed in 1996 that servicing our customers would be our "brand". Now, every business, both large and small, say that they are devoted to customer service but how many times have you left a store or website and said to yourself, "I'll never do business with them again"? If you're like me, probably quite often, which is why very few businesses really, truly care about service. That's why we instituted two companywide work policies which we try our best to adhere to in a never-ending effort to provide good customer service; (1) Always get back to the customer the same day or, if that's not possible, make sure to call the customer before the end of the business that to let them know what's going on. (2) Always give each customer as much time and as much consultation as they require in order to use our products the way they are intended. We call it ABP; Always Be Patient. We are not the first company to do t this, to be sure, but we have been told repeatedly over the years that our customers like the fact that we have these two policies and that we adhere to them as it makes our customers feel respected. BTW, there was an even better show than Gordon Ramsay's that I encourage every small business owner to watch and that's "Profit" on CNBC. I really learned a lot since I started watching the show two weeks ago.
Great tips. #2 offer something different or a unique turn on a product and # 9 be reliable! Deliver on the promises you make and exceed expectations. Follow these two tips and they will lead to great success!
Caron, Great article. Credibility, relevancy, good service & product are all important to build your business. Never stop showing Gratitude to those that support your business. We find that to be very important in our business. Be supportive, yourself; BE THERE physically is utmost important. Anyone interested in helping business marketing online, visit me atThis 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.
Thanks Caron for that post. I think it's importatnt not to pic a few of those tips but use all of them.
Very good blog. Tips are very useful to maximize success
Great tips! For some reason, many small biz owners I meet don't think of their company as a brand. I hope more will come to the realization that every business is a brand regardless of its size. Tip #7 is really key in my opinion, and it's the one where small biz owners tend to struggle. Community building through social media shouldn't focus on direct sales. The goal should be to unite based on shared interests and values; sales should be seen as a secondary consequence of an active online presence.
Caron, All your tips are worth reading especially this one, "Be an Advocate for Your Business – Not Just a Salesman"

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