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How to Build a Brand if You’re a Small Business

It’s easy for Coke. It’s easy for Nike. It’s easy for Starbucks. Brand-building—that task that sets a business apart from the crowd. You can hum the jingles in your sleep.


For a small business? Not so easy, one might think. But think again.


At one time, each of these big companies were once small businesses, trying to find a way to make their mark in the world. And they succeeded—big-time. Here are some tips that can help any small business make their own impact on their slice of the market:


First, Define the Company Identity


Take a hard look at the company’s products and services. What market do they serve? How does it meet its customers’ needs? How did the company start? Find the story behind the company, and form the company’s identity out of those stories. Make it relatable. As Dan Einzig, the CEO of a top British branding agency, puts it, “think of it as a person.”


Next, Define the Company Culture


What does the company hold as its core values? What is its mission? Look at these goals and ideals, and a brand image will start to emerge. Think in terms of emotion during this step. What drives the company? Think of logos and slogans that will best illustrate both the company’s identity and its mission.


Build Relationships with Potential and Current Customers


Scuttle the hard-sell and work on building long-term relationships instead. Offer helpful content on the company blog. Create an email list so the company can keep these key players in the loop when a new product emerges or when the company’s in the news. Instead of self-promotion, offer value. That does two things: builds the company’s credibility as an authority in its field and creates trust in the minds of its customers. These are the ingredients necessary to building a brand, especially for small businesses.


Stamp Everything with the Brand Identity


Einzig speaks of this as a “consistent tone of voice,” but it goes well beyond simply one’s blog posts and other written communication. Everything from labels to the sign outside the building should communicate the brand’s identity. Stress to employees the importance of maintaining the company image both on and off the job. Doing so will set the company apart from its competition by its constant reminder that it offers a unique value proposition. That’s key in building a brand image that lasts.


Stay True to Both the Brand and Its Promises


When a company promises goods or services to its customers, it must deliver them on time and on budget. Broken promises smudge the brand reputation the company has worked so hard to polish. There will be times a company will have to “take one for the team,” incurring small losses to serve the greater good of maintaining its reputation among its target customer base.


When a company follows these basic principles, it may not grow to world recognition overnight. Yet if it stays the course over time, it may find that its customers, just like those of the big guys, hum its jingles as they go about their daily routine.

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