Maintaining a quality brand image is not only important for larger businesses, but smaller businesses as well. Many times, the brand image a small business creates acts as a powerful and often inexpensive 'tool' to compete against big businesses with big budgets.
Establishing a solid brand is one of the best ways to get consumers to relate to, connect and engage with your business - and ultimately create enthusiastic, loyal fans.
A brand is more than your logo and business cards; it's everything your business is about and every touchpoint you have with individuals, from the mission statement and the company culture to the customer service, social media message and end product/offering.
Ultimately the brand image is the impression of your company held by your prospects and customers. So, while you don't have directly control over your customers' minds, you can influence how they feel toward your business by creating a consistent, powerful brand.
Creating a powerful brand image
The first step to creating a positive brand is to root it in your core values. When done right, those values should be aligned with your target audience. Setting this foundation helps your customers identify that they're a good fit for your business and creates a more immediate connection with your brand. If you value what they value - how could you not be a good fit?
Second, your brand communication plan should be clear and benefits-oriented. Albeit tempting, avoid a feature-focused communication strategy. This clarity and value-based communication helps customers understand what your business is about, what they can expect from you, and why they need you.
The brand you establish should truly tell the story of your business (tying in business origination details is a bonus!) and highlight key benefits that your target audience would value and appreciate. The best way to really understand what these are is by asking your prospects and customers.
Once your business’ brand is established, understood and consistently communicated by all involved within your company, recognition for your brand will grow.
A well-developed brand will help your business be perceived as reliable, experienced and customer-centric. A positive brand image will flourish within your ideal market's minds, and brand loyalty will be born.
Brand loyalty is oftentimes the reason consumers choose one product or service over another, and the reason your business will be their first choice. The lifetime value of loyal customers is far higher than non-loyal, and the cost of keeping customers is always less expensive than acquiring new.
Creating brand-loyal customers should be the goal for any small business, especially when working with small budgets - where every dollar counts.
Social media is a great place to communicate your brand message and stay connected with customers, reinforcing the value you're providing and maintaining that brand loyalty. For tips on using social media to build your brand online, read our post on the 16 rules to build, engage and convert your social media audiences.
One of the positive outcomes of developing a strong brand image is the creation of brand advocates and word of mouth referrals.
Although brand advocates may not necessarily have as high of a direct lifetime value as brand-loyal customers, they play an important role in recommending your brand and products [simply because they believe in your brand] and ultimately bringing in new business. According to Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know when choosing a brand.
Word of mouth is one of the strongest forms of marketing for small businesses. It is often the number one source of new clients for health & wellness brands. When someone is loyal to, or an advocate of, your business they are more likely to spread the word!
When planning your business' marketing strategy, include your brand plan and goals. One of the first steps in developing your strategy is determining your target audience and their pain points & goals.
Applying that focus to your small business’ brand campaigns, communication, and identity will attract relevant audience(s) who are most likely to convert into paying clients.
Branding should be incorporated into every aspect of your business, such as slogan, colors, mission statement, marketing, in-office setup and much more.
Brand Tool: Brandify is a free online tool to help you determine where your online brand currently stands. The information from this can help you decide where you’d like to focus your online branding efforts.
There is never a better time than now to to evaluate your business' brand and ensure your strategy aligns with your values & your Brand Soulmate's values and that you're communicating that brand through all of your interactions.