Develop a Powerful Small Business Brand - dummies

By Barbara Findlay Schenck

Developing a small business brand requires hard work, but the payoff is increased sales. Your small business may not have a globally recognized “power brand” simply because you don’t have the marketing muscle that would fuel that level of awareness. But you can be the most powerful brand in your target market. All it takes is

  • Knowing the brand image that you want to project

  • Developing a distinct point of difference that’s relevant and beneficial to your target audience

  • Having commitment and discipline to project your brand well

  • Spending what’s necessary to get your message to your target market

  • Managing your marketing so that it makes consistent impressions that etch your desired brand image into the mind of your target prospect

Add horsepower to your small business brand

Branding expert Liz Goodgold knows what it takes to power up a brand. She’s done it for herself and for her business, Red Fire Branding. The result: features on more than 500 media outlets, including ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNBC, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.

Her branding advice includes these steps:

  1. Set a goal and follow your passion.

  2. Start your brand-building effort by developing a core competency.

  3. Find and leverage your “cool quotient,” the aspect of you or your business that’s unique, memorable, and interview-worthy.

    If you’re not sure about your “cool quotient,” Goodgold recommends duplicating the successes of huge brands to build your own branding success story. As examples, she turns to celebrities in this five-question brand-strength quiz:

    • Do you have street cred? Do you have depth in your field and knowledge of key trends? Are you continuously improving your expertise and offerings? Becoming a brand without any core competency places you in the category of Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian.

    • Do you have je ne sais quoi? Simon Cowell might call it the “X Factor”: the unique brand DNA that makes you interesting, exciting, and unforgettable. Carrie Underwood and Josh Krajcik definitely have it.

    • Do you have a signature phrase? If you cook with “EVOO,” exclaim “Bam” after adding an ingredient, or conclude your show with “that’s a good thing” or “semi-homemade,” you’re on your way to a proprietary brand vocabulary.

    • Do people know you by a single name? Is your moniker so unique and known in your arena that using your full name isn’t necessary? Examples: Seal, Bono, Beyoncé, and Adele.

    • Is your brand visually consistent? A unique and consistent look builds brand recognition. People want to know that what you look like today you’ll look like tomorrow. Bruno Mars, for example, isn’t putting away his fedora any time soon.

Take six steps to manage your small business brand

Building a well-managed brand follows certain steps:

  1. Define why you’re in business.

    What does your business do? Or, if you’re building a personal brand, what do you do? How do you do it better than anyone else? Put into writing the reason that your business exists and the positive change you aim to achieve.

  2. Consider what you want people to think when they hear your name.

    What do you want current and prospective employees to think about your business? What do you want prospects, customers, suppliers, associates, competitors, and friends to think?

    You can’t be different things to each of these groups and still have a well-managed brand. For example, you can’t have an internal company mind-set that says “economy at any price” and expect consumers to believe that no one cares more about product quality and customer service than you do.

    Figure out what you want people to think when they hear your name. Then ask yourself whether that brand image is believable to each of the various groups with whom you communicate. If it isn’t, decide how you need to alter your business to make achieving your brand image possible.

  3. Think about the words you want people to use when defining your business.

    Ask your employees, associates, and customers this question: When people hear our name, what images do you think come into their minds? If everyone says the same thing, and if those words are the words you want associated with your name, you have a well-managed brand. If gaps occur, you have your brand-management work cut out for you.

    List words that you want people to link to your business and be certain that you live up to that desired image. Then lead people to the right conclusions by presenting those characteristics — that brand image — consistently and repeatedly in your marketing communications. Choose messages and graphic symbols that support the image you want to project.

    For example, to etch its image as a brand for middle America, Conseco Insurance features a daisy rather than a rose, a golden retriever rather than a poodle, and a comfortable loafer rather than a stiletto heel. Rolex maintains its luxury brand image by featuring a crown as its logo and by giving its signature watch collection the name Oyster.

  4. Pinpoint the advantages you want people to associate with your business.

    Figuring out these distinctions leads to your definition of the position you want to own in consumer minds.

  5. Define your brand.

    Look at your business through a customer’s or prospect’s eyes as you define your brand. What do people say and think about your company and the unique benefits they count on it to deliver? Why do they choose your business and prefer to buy from you again and again? How would they define your brand and the promise it makes?

    Boil your findings down to one concept — one brand definition — that you honestly believe you can own in the minds of those who deal with your business. Following are examples of how three widely known brands are generally perceived by the public:

    • Volvo: The safest car

    • CNN: The all-news channel

    • Google: The top Internet search engine

  6. Build your brand through every impression that you make.

    To build a strong brand, project a consistent look, tone, and level of quality through each point of customer contact, whether in-person or through marketing and whether online or off-line.

    Audit your brand’s impression points points at which customers form impressions of your business. Rate whether each impression enhances or detracts from the brand you’re building, depending on how well it projects your brand with clarity and consistency.