Five Surefire Branding Tactics for Small Businesses
You’re ready to dive into the day’s workload, but you need a quick pick-me-up first. A rush of caffeine, that savory taste of the perfect macchiato. You need coffee. So, where do you go? Starbucks, right? Why? Because of branding.
Starbucks has branded themselves so effectively they have positioned their business as being the go-to for their target audience: Coffee drinkers.
So, when someone thinks about coffee, that distinct green logo is the first one that pops into their head. By having solid branding, Starbucks has created a loyal, extensive following.
Coffee drinkers are hesitant to go elsewhere, because they know their expectations will be met every single time with Starbucks. Plus, the drinks, atmosphere and design are always the same, regardless of the location. This consistency continues to build up Starbucks’ reputation and keeps their customers loyal to the brand.
Many small business owners are under the assumption that branding is just a more expensive form of marketing, separate from their core business strategy. They believe branding relies on having a big budget that pays for an advertising agency to create campaigns and build their brand awareness.
Now, having a big budget is definitely helpful, but branding goes beyond campaigns and logo designs. It’s more than color schemes and pretty websites. Branding encompasses all aspects of your business operations, including positioning and reputation. By implementing strong small business branding tactics, you stand to develop a loyal customer base and lower the risk of losing them to one of your competitors.
Here are five surefire small business branding tactics to boost your marketplace reputation and get more customers:
Serve as a Resource for Your Target Audience
This isn’t anything new: You must provide value for your audience. One of the first steps to take is to identify the unique value your business offers, and create a unique value proposition around that.
This statement is basically the summary of the core benefits your small business has to offer to its customers. It demonstrates how you provide viable solutions to customer needs and problems, showcases you industry authority, and gives customers a solid reason to choose your business over someone else’s.
Before you can convert your visitors - whether it be foot traffic or digital traffic - you need to answer the “what’s in it for me” question that remains at the forefront of consumer minds. What do they get out of choosing your brand?
You can demonstrate this benefit to your audience by following the 5 main steps that go into creating an effective unique value proposition that positions your brand the way you want to be perceived:
1. State the features and benefits that make your product or service unique
- Turn to your ol’ friend, Google, and do a search for your competitors. Compare your product or service with your direct competitors. List the benefits that set you apart from them.
2. Determine the core needs of your target audience.
- Think about your product or service from the consumer’s perspective. What needs are specifically met by the products or services your brand offers?
3. List the features your competitors cannot possibly imitate.
- Identify the aspects of the products or services your brand offers, and determine which of them cannot be easily copied.
4. Use steps 1-3 to create a list of phrases about your brand
- What words come up over and over during steps 1-3? Use these words to create clear, short, and concise phrases about the unique products or services your brand offers.
5. Identify what the customer gets out of it.
- State the benefits your customer will receive by choosing your brand over someone else.
Consider these phrases from popular brands:
- Viggle: “Watch Live TV. Enjoy Streaming. Get Rewards."
- Wal-Mart: “Shop Everyday Low Prices.”
- Home Depot: “More saving. More doing."
- Target: “Expect more. Pay less."
- FedEx: "When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight."
These all showcase their unique benefits, showing customers why they’re better than their competitors. Once you have determined your unique value proposition, it’s time to incorporate it within your website.
Include your unique value proposition on the homepage of your website, and on your landing pages. Have a blog in place, and regularly publish value-driven articles that prove your brand is a resource and not just a business focused on sales. For example: If you are running a paint company, you would want to have articles that give customers tips, educate them on various techniques or paints, and keep them abreast of industry news. If writing isn’t your forte, you can always hire an experienced freelance writer.
Reputation is an essential part of your small business brand. Providing value and educating your audience shows you care about your customers as people, rather than just as customers.
Build Consumer-Brand Trust
You want to create a lasting relationship with your customers and that relationship, just like any other type, requires trust. Think of your go-to brands for certain products or services you use most often. What is it about them that really stands out for you?
Quality of products, attention to detail, easy ordering experiences, and customized packaging are probably up there on the list of reasons.Those brands have done extensive research to position their brand in the exact way they want their customers to perceive them. Trustworthy. Reliable.
Examine Your Fulfillment Tactics
Improving your brand’s fulfillment tactics is one of the most effective ways to build customer loyalty, which is essential for building your brand and its reputation. With so many different shopping channels available these days, customers won’t come back if the product you are offering is lacking in quality. Even worse, customers may very well take to social media to give negative feedback and leave bad reviews.
This can be avoided by following customer order fulfillment tactics that enhance customer experience. You may want to consider outsourcing some of the order fulfillment as a way of making your job easier and ensuring everything is all about quality. Hire an independent contractor to send out confirmation emails after purchases are completed, and to make follow-up or appointment phone calls.
Work with an experienced graphic designer for memorable, branded package inserts, or contract with a reputable fulfillment service for shipping and storing your products.
Include Custom Packaging
It’s great to surprise your customers by over-delivering on the quality of your product, timely delivery, and the ease of purchasing, but you can also take it one step further with custom packaging. Let’s say you’ve got a customer who is very particular about the treats they give to their dog. They look for the highest quality of ingredients, the way it’s made, and want it to be local.
They go online to buy their dog treats and come across your brand, which offers quality dog treats that have been veterinary recommended and are locally produced. After purchasing that product, it arrives in a beautifully designed package, complete with a handwritten note and a branded label. The treats look exactly like they did on your product page, and they did not arrive broken or damaged.
You’ve just offered that customer a personalized, quality customer experience. You’ve got your branding honed down to the most minute details, just like the product you offer. This positions your brand in a way that shows you truly care about your customers. If you take the time to create a personalized experience, there’s a great chance your product is just as quality as your packaging. This will keep your brand in the forefront of your customer’s mind when they need more of that product, so they will likely return to your store and not go somewhere else.
Create a Consistent Web Presence
Consistency is key when it comes to branding. If your web presence is disjointed and inconsistent, it won’t be immediately obvious that the content is yours and the message is the same. It’s hard to establish consumer-brand trust and create a connection with your target audience if you are not consistent.
All of the selling points and channels for you business should reflect the unique style of your brand, so you can stand apart from the competition and boost your website traffic.
Consistency should carry over into the following aspects of your branding:
- Brand identity: Typography, design, colors, graphics, etc.
- Copywriting: Product descriptions, tone, wording, categories, topics, etc.
- Images: Camera angles, attributions, lighting, filters, backgrounds, etc.
Think about how you will present your business on various web platforms, especially social media. How will you go about handling content, curation of third-party content, and social commentary? How will you create consistency without duplication?
Establish social media guidelines for employees to follow, including:
- The use of your business logo
- The tone and wording of comments and posts
- How customer comments (including complaints) will be responded to
Branding humanizes your business. It shows who you are as a business owner, and that your business is more than just a faceless organization.
By creating consistent branding, you give it a familiarity your target audience and customers will notice and can relate to. It sets you apart from the other businesses in your industry, helping you to boost sales and gain more customers.
What are your top branding tips for small businesses? Share them in the comments below!
Alexia P. Bullard is an overly caffeinated freelance B2B/tech writer. With a wealth of experience in digital and traditional marketing, she has worked with many businesses to help increase their website traffic and boost their sales.