Take Action to Brand Your Business
This article is provided by the Greater Scranton Area SCORE Chapter.
Some small business owners believe they can stand out with just a great product and exceptional service, and that they are too small to create a “brand.” But to set your business apart—no matter how small—branding is a vital strategy in today’s competitive marketplace.
Buyers have short attention spans, so you need all the tools you can get to help them remember who you are. Every business can benefit from branding, right down to the independent contractor working alone.
In fact, some marketing experts say that branding and marketing go hand-in-hand. “If you can build a powerful brand you will have a powerful marketing program. If you can’t, then all the advertising, fancy packaging, sales promotions and PR in the world won’t help you succeed,” says Laura Ries, president of Ries & Ries, an Atlanta-based marketing firm.
Almost anything can be branded, including you. But branding is complex and involves the customer’s total experience with you, your product or your service. The most effective branding combines both online and off-line elements. The Web offers tremendous opportunities for promoting your brand, through low-cost search engine ads or interactive features on your Web site.
Keep in mind that the best brands tend to tap emotions and appeal to a person’s natural need for involvement. Be original in identifying your brand identity—the thing that truly sets your small business apart. Everybody touts quality and service, for example, so look for something that’s really different. If you are having trouble pinpointing a branding message, try asking your customers what they need from you the most. Then base your brand on that.
Your brand should also last a long time, so avoid elements or catch phrases linked to trends likely to disappear or become outdated. Simplicity is also a virtue in your branding message. Buyers are overwhelmed by excess information. Too much information confuses your brand message.
The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by market guru Al Ries and daughter Laura is a smart and accessible book on branding that includes 11 Immutable Laws of Internet Branding as well. Another helpful book is The Brand Called You by Peter Montoya, which offers ideas and advice on how entrepreneurs can promote themselves, personally, as a brand. In addition, a Web site created by branding expert Martin Lindstrom has an extensive library of branding articles. Visit www.martinlindstrom.com.
To learn more about branding and other marketing matters for your small business, contact SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” SCORE is a nonprofit organization of more than 10,500 volunteer business counselors who provide free, confidential business counseling and training workshops to small business owners. Call (570) 851.1608 or visit www.scorescranton.org to contact the Greater Scranton Area SCORE Chapter.