What's Your Small-Business Brand Strategy?
Branding is about more than having an eye-catching logo. It’s about the promise you make to your customers to provide a product or service, to do so with consistency and quality, and to do a better job of it than your competitors.
If you have a brand, you need a brand strategy. Here are some guidelines for crafting one — and making the most effective use of your brand.
1. Define your brand. Some small-business owners rush ahead with a great idea and never get around to establishing a distinct identity and a clear purpose. At some point, it becomes necessary to define who you are before you’re defined by the competition. That means knowing the answers to the following questions (and making sure everyone who works you for knows them, too):
- What is our company’s mission?
- What benefits and features do we offer our customers?
- How do we want customers to think about our business?
- What key messages do we want to convey to them?
- What makes us different from everyone else?
Maybe you want to be known as an experienced, dependable business. Maybe your enterprise is focused on offering cutting-edge alternate solutions. Do you see yourself as high-cost and high-quality or low-cost and high-value? All of these considerations go into defining your brand.
2. Promise and deliver. Businesses live and die by the brand promises they make. For example, when you tell customers you offer outstanding service each and every time, they will hold you to that claim. If you consistently deliver, your brand and your reputation are strengthened in your customers’ eyes. That’s why customers become loyal to certain brands — and recommend them to their family and friends.
3. Have a consistent look and feel. Yes, your logo does have a place in your brand strategy. The look and feel you choose for all of your marketing materials should appeal to your target audience. More importantly, you must present yourself consistently across the board. Stick with the same colors and imagery your letterhead, business cards, homepage, social media, brochures, etc. Tinkering with logos or modifying your brand message to appeal to different segments only leads to confusion.
4. Integrate your brand into everything you do. Everything related to your business, from advertising and hiring to distribution and fulfillment, should be part of your overall brand strategy. Whether it’s a direct mail piece, an email blast, or a Facebook update, each customer experience is an opportunity to reinforce your brand promise. The same goes for how employees answer the phone and what salespeople say when contacting prospects.
Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer specializing in the challenges and opportunities facing small business. He is former Senior Writer at Vistage International, a global membership organization of CEOs.