Five Tips for Building your Small Business Brand Using its Best Advocate - You!
by Caron_Beesley, Community Moderator
- Created: March 23, 2010, 11:45 pm
- Updated: November 9, 2011, 11:17 am
Big brands have a lot going for them; their logo is instantly recognizable, their products and packaging are familiar, and they often have a brand advocate who-represent- the brand in its marketing outreach.
Sometimes these brand advocates are the business owners themselves (think Steve Jobs of Apple), but, more often than not, they are paid representatives of the brand (think Howie Long for Chevrolet, or Valerie Bertinelli for Jenny Craig).
And brand advocates do't just belong in the realm of big business, they can be equally valuable for small business, if not more so. And you do't have to pay someone to do it for you' your greatest brand asset is you!
Case in point, small business success story: CakeLove*.
Owned by Metro D.C. Small Business Person of the Year 2006, Warren Brown* (pictured right), CakeLove is a successful retail bakery with seven thriving locations across the metropolitan Washington D.C. region.
A former litigation lawyer turned entrepreneur, and now somewhat of a superstar in the cake business, Warren Brown is a hugely successful brand advocate for his small business.
Here are Warre's five tips for small business branding success:
1. Make sure your Customers know the Face Behind the Product
Invariably one of the biggest reasons that small businesses fail is because of the persistent absence of the business owner. Whether you own a bar, a hair salon, a gift shop, or a landscaping company - the brand experience starts and ends with you.
You only need to look at a few episodes of business makeover TV shows like Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares* and Tabatha's Salon Takeover* - 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.
And while it's true that a business owner needs to build a business that can function independent of its owner's physical presence, when it comes to building the heart of your brand, you have make sure your customers know and connect with the face behind the product - and that means being there.
As CakeLove's Warren Brown has learned: The business really thrives when the energy of the owner is there.
2. Find the Right Balance Between Being There and Having the Business Run Without You
While inserting yourself at the forefront of your business is something to strive for, it can also work against you. What happens when you are not there? Will the customers still come? Will your staff still function? How can you grow when you can't let go of the reins?
As Warren Brown explains: My father used to run a bar and he would be there and be successful, but then he could never leave the bar because the customers would come in, and, if he wasn't there then they'd leave and the bar would just kind of collapse.
At the end of the day it's about seeking balance. How?
One of the factors that has been key to CakeLove's incredible growth is that its business processes have been documented and are replicable across its seven outlets. With these simple and repeatable methodologies in place Brown doesn't need to be ever-present and can leave the day-to-day execution of his business to his managers and employees, when he can't be there.
But Brown also insists on finding time to strike a balance and be seen to be the owner of the business (something that gives so many small business owners an edge): ...people want to see me there, they want to know that I am intimately involved with the business, that I'm doing something everyday -whether I'm baking the cakes, or frosting them, or answering the phone.
3. Be an Advocate for your Business not Just a Salesman
You don't have to be the greatest salesman to succeed in business. As the CakeLove business model shows, selling can be done in many different ways.
As the owner of the business, I realize I have to be the number one salesman, the number one cheerleader, the number one fan of the business to make other people excited about it. But I never think as myself as a salesman, I just want to think of myself as an advocate for the business, explains Warren Brown.
And for Brown selling can take many infectious forms: I want to make sure people understand what we do, I want to educate people about our products and our methods and our philosophy, and all that stuff. I want to invite people in.
4. Provide a Product that is as Good as it can Possibly Be
Completing the brand experience is an excellent product, which is something the team at CakeLove knows only too well. 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.
5. Focus on the Product First, Money Second
Focusing on the product, as opposed to the money it brings in, sounds obvious, but while money is an integral part of the business, the product drives it. While you have to make a profit to stay in business, money is not the focus, the focus is the cake, and this business is in business to make excellent cake!...And the money will come as long as the product is as good as it could possibly be.
- Watch the CakeLove Profile of Success Video on SBA.gov.
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General small business tips and tricks.