Big is not so fashionable any longer. There are plenty of customers today who look specifically for small brands for a variety of reasons. Some have the express intent of supporting small brands against corporate giants. Some prefer the personalized experience that a small brand offers.
Whatever be the reason, small is beautiful, indeed, and trending right now. If you are starting a small business brand today, the market scenario is just right for you.
That shouldn’t make you feel relaxed, though. There are other small brands starting too. In other words, you have competitors even within the domain of small business. It is critical for your small business brand to carve out its own niche, therefore.
Big or small, brand building is vital to making any business a success. Branding for a small business is that much tougher. Your big brothers can spend millions on publicity and you cannot.
Disheartened? Don’t be. Here are 10 tips for small business branding that will surely give your brand a big push towards success.
Tip # 1: Identify a Need and Disrupt the Market
Disrupting a market means introducing something so radical that it changes the character of the market altogether. It starts with the identification of an unmet need. Think of Uber in this context.
In 2008, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp had great difficulty finding a ride on a cold December evening in Paris. That set them thinking about the luxury of ordering a cab from their smartphones.
March 2009, San Francisco, Camp and Kalanick translated that idea into a reality. They developed a smartphone app that made it possible for people to get a ride at the tap of a button.
It is not that people did not travel by cabs before. Nor is it that Kalanick and Camp were the first people in the world to have trouble finding a cab when they needed it.
What was different, then? They identified an unmet need and developed a solution to that. And, bingo! The cab market transformed forever from what it was before.
If you have an idea that offers an unprecedented solution to a loophole in the market, go ahead and launch your small business brand.
Tip # 2: Be skeptical about your grand idea
So, you think you have a great idea. Probably you do. But to build your brand, you need to start by being skeptical about it.
We are not suggesting that you lose faith in your idea. We just mean that you need to do a feasibility check. Here’s a real life example to illustrate what we mean.
Heard about Baron Fig notebooks? “Tools for Thinkers” is their tagline. The company started with crowdfunding support from Kickstarter and has emerged as an iconic success story.
Founder and CEO Joey Cofone had this sudden brainwave in a university design class. He looked at the identical laptops and the varying notebooks on every desk. And he wondered: authors, scholars, artists and other thinkers would surely love to have a notebook/sketchbook with specifications of their choice.
But he did not take his brainwave for granted. He spent time searching out 500 “thinkers” and their emails. He emailed them with a simple question: What kind of a notebook/sketchbook would you like? Expecting a few responses, Cofone got 400.
That is just what we mean. Once you have a grand new idea, go ahead and do a reality check. Source your target customers and get your idea validated. That is the essential first step in your small business branding.
Tip # 3: Use that First Contact to Build Your Potential Customer Base
When you start questioning your own idea and proactively reach out to your targeted customer group, you actually do yourself a great service. You establish your first contact with your potential customer base.
Cofone got 400 responses to his first 500 emails. You might get 50. Go ahead and shoot another 500. Even if you have just about 150 responses after writing 1000 emails, so be it.
Keep in regular touch with those 150. Take their ideas seriously. Design your product around those ideas. Share your progress and keep these initial respondents eager and excited about the product. You will be taking the next important step in branding for a small business.
Tip # 4: Be Flexible with Your Idea
That should be clear by now, right? If you have to accommodate the suggestions and preferences of your respondents (your first potential customers, really), you may well need to modify and adapt your own initial thoughts.
More importantly, this is not just for the beginning. This adaptability to incorporate customer needs and suggestions should continue to be the culture of your small business brand throughout.
Remember: this participative space is what endears a small business brand to many customers.
Tip # 5: Make Sure You Grab Attention
From the name of your company to the logo and the tagline, you simply have to stand out. In other words, all three of them have to be catchy for your target consumers.
Think of the name, logo and tagline of Apple. There is an obvious connection to Newton and the apple falling on his head, whether Steve Jobs thought of that or not. The idea of innovation captured in the name.
That gets reinforced by the simple tagline: “Think Differently.” Then there is the rainbow colored apple with a slice bitten off as the logo. It can communicate varying meanings to different people. But some connections are obvious.
The rainbow color: a clear symbol of respect for diversity. Steve Jobs may or may not have thought of it. But it’s there. And the bitten off slice: Eve eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. Breaking a taboo and beginning something new.
That is how beautifully all three tie up.
But one word of caution: the attention span of an average human being is fairly short. So, keep your tagline simple. Focus on just one thing that you think is unique about your product.
Tip # 6: Ensure Your Digital Presence
Whatever your product and wherever you are launching it, digital presence is crucial for your small business branding. Whether you choose to participate in the online marketplace or not, you have to be visible in the virtual world.
And, not just through a website. Having a website is the basic minimum. Fortunately these days it’s not a problem at all. Go even further. Grab the social media platforms. Make them an interactive space for your customers.
Tip # 7: Be the Face of Your Brand
Be present wherever your small business brand is. Help your customers put a face to the brand.
That does not mean you have to beat the laws of quantum physics and find some magic pill to be present at different spaces simultaneously. Nor does it mean your face needs to be on the product label or something like that.
It just means, take ownership of your brand. Remain engaged with it. Interact with your customers directly as you build your business. That is critical for small business branding.
Tip # 8: Philanthropy Goes a Long Way
Consumers are an increasingly discerning lot today. More and more people are concerned about the environment. About social justice. About a number of humanitarian crises that rock the world.
That also means they care for businesses that show the same values.
Be engaged in philanthropy from day one. No matter how small an amount you can afford to direct towards your philanthropic efforts. Just do that.
And make that part of your brand’s identity from the very beginning. That will give your brand a competitive edge. Your potential customers will have an added reason to choose your product.
Tip # 9: Be a Storyteller
This is a vital part of building your brand identity. Tell your story. Let people know how and why you started your small business brand.
Share anecdotes. Bring some humor into your stories. Remember social media presence? Your stories there will keep your customers engaged. It will also attract more clientele.
Invite your customers to share their stories about your brand also. Make them your brand ambassador through their own narratives.
Share stories of change from your philanthropic efforts. That will inspire consumers to choose your product.
Tip # 10: Authenticity Pays and Saves
This is the most critical aspect of small business branding. Be authentic and stick to the truth. Deliver what you promise and promise precisely what you can deliver.
That extends to your product description. Write what is real about your product. No false claims please. Remember that cola giant Pepsico had to shell out $9 million in damages for making false claims about the health benefits of its Naked Juice products.
$9 million may be a pittance for Pepsico. Would it be for your small business brand? More importantly, would you want that negative publicity even as you are just breaking ground?
So, go ahead and make your small business branding an authentic and innovative experience for yourself and your customers. All our positive strokes for you!