Think an irresistible brand is out of your reach as a solopreneur or small business? Think again.
Branding does not have to be some big expensive effort that only companies like Apple or Nike can afford. If you run a small business, you need to spend time thinking about and conveying your brand as well.
A brand is more than just your logo or slick advertising – it’s your essence, your core. It’s the experience people have with you, the impression you leave in their minds. What do you want that impression to be?
The fact is, effective branding is not about how much money you spend but about how clearly and consistently you communicate the right message to the right people at the right time.
The goal is to understand your brand promise, story and personality and convey that over and over again through every customer touch point: website, sales practices, collateral, copy, emails. These are things you do as a standard course of running your business anyway: the trick is to intentionally communicate this brand message through those actions each and every time.
The best thing you can do to build a strong brand – and save money by ensuring you only invest in the right activities – is to first sit down and create a clear, strong brand strategy. A brand strategy outlines: who you are, what you represent, your ideal audience, your brand personality, the value and benefits you provide, why you are different, your pricing and packaging. This requires sitting down and answering some key questions before you run off half-coked spending money on designer, websites, programs and advertising. Entrepreneurs who fail to do this first end up throwing away money and time – not to mention that their efforts often miss the mark. When you have no destination, every road looks like it will lead you somewhere.
Know thy audience and thy brand and you will be able to laser focus on what to say, how to say it and to whom. Translation: only pay for things that move your business forward with the right buyers.
Here are three important ways to craft an irresistible brand on a budget:
1) Create a strong brand strategy: This foundation will save you time, money and headaches (and countless billable hours) before engaging with a designer, programmer or writer. It also guides your marketing plan, operational decisions, partnership selections and hiring.
2) Define your ideal audience: Put as much precision around who they are, where they live, what they do for a living, what they read, what they value, what clubs they belong to, etc. This may seem frivolous and creative, but fleshing out your target customers in stark detail helps you aim for a target rather than boiling the ocean and appealing to no one. You can sell to anyone who comes to you, but these ideal audience profiles help you invest in marketing programs that get in front of the right people, rather than wasting time and money blasting your message to people who don’t care or won’t buy from you anyway.
3) Leverage free stuff first: We all know about Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn but what about other free marketing opportunities? Resources such as HARO or Reporter Connection offer you free press opportunities by sending you queries via email on a daily basis so you can find reporters looking for sources in your area of expertise. Solicit unpaid speaking engagements at the local SBA or other networking groups for more exposure and to build your brand awareness. Partner with complementary businesses or experts to put on an event or a webcast. All of these are great ways to promote without spending a dime. Also, make sure simple things like your email signature and your outgoing voice mail message are used strategically to further convey your brand promise.
4) Map activities to buying cycle phases: Do more with less by considering the sales cycle: Awareness, Education, Evaluation, Purchase. What information does the potential customer need at each phase? Put yourself in the prospective customer’s shoes and visualize them finding you in various ways. Are they driving in their car when the need for your product arises or do they do extensive web research when buying such a thing? Are they at a trade show when they see your product? For each phase of the unconscious buying cycle, they have a different relationship with your business and thus, different information needs. Target your efforts and plan your marketing activities accordingly to get more ROI.
Make sure you picture that ideal customer in your head and how they will find you before you create everything under the sun and find yourself a year from now lamenting how much you spent on that useless sponsorship or making a trip to the recycle bin with all those lovely pamphlets you never needed.
What other tips do you know about to build a strong brand on a budget? Please share in the Comments below!