Getting Started With Branding a Small Business
After sales, shipping and other operating essentials, figuring out how to brand a small business and craft a strong company identity should be the top priority.
Products and services can get copied quicker than ever, and those with better unit economics diminish margins. Competition for user attention is incredibly stiff in the digital age.
The only reliable way to build a robust and profitable business now is to have people searching for and choosing your brand specifically, which means you can’t just randomly push content out there and cross your fingers that people will see it and fall into a sales funnel.
Despite our path toward digitalization, us humans still mostly prefer to deal with real people and more ‘approachable’ businesses, not faceless conglomerates. This means that building a brand that’s relatable, trustworthy, and genuine can be a major game-changer for setting yourself apart and securing loyal customers.
Consequently, thoughtful branding of your small business is the ultimate key to larger profit margins and market share.
Developing a Value Proposition
The first step in crafting a solid brand for your business should be coming up with a value proposition.
Follow a three-step process and keep it as simple as possible. You need to cut right to the core and convey in as few words as possible what you do, who you do it for, and the results you’ll get.
For example, here’s our company value proposition:
OOTBI does ROI-focused SEO for companies involved in solar, windows, and safety training. This also means tracking, reporting, and demonstrating the results.
Rather than going into all the types of digital marketing services we do, various kinds of companies we can help, and the niceties of the jobs we do, we just get straight to the point. This makes it memorable, digestible in half a second, and it doubles as an elevator pitch.
With a value proposition like this, prospects will instantly have an idea of whether you’ll be a good fit for their needs. The follow-up questions can come afterwards, once interest has already been sparked.
Get Seen at the Right Time
The average company in most industries isn’t that savvy with nurturing its online presence, and that means they’re missing out bigtime on hooking in new customers and retaining old ones.
We’ll be the case study here. We provide conversion rate optimization, web design and analytics services, but the focus is on revenue-driven SEO. A website redesign or a content marketing campaign can be a rare one-off event for a client. At the same time, our competition constantly sends spam emails offering similar services as us.
So, the difficulty we face is being on the clients’ radar right when they want to invest in their website. When we contact people, it’s common for us to hear ‘not at the moment’ or pick up the pieces after a low-quality job has already been done by charlatans who managed to snipe them when their need was urgent. You no doubt face similar.
There’s no universal solution for this, but again, a strong, trustworthy brand and online presence for any small business will go a long way. By marketing with a consistent voice across multiple channels (social media, website, emails, etc), you’ll stay in people’s minds and hugely increase the odds of them actively coming to you when they need something. This definitely beats having to rely on constant outreach and just crossing your fingers that you hit upon someone looking for what you’re offering.
The Key to Successful Branding for Small Businesses
The most crucial factor in successful branding is positioning yourself correctly in your market. Depending on what exactly your business does, there will be areas where you simply can’t compete, such as for bulk-buy pricing or getting to the first page of Google with competitive keyword terms. As such, it makes sense to really narrow your focus down to a small segment of the market with less contextual competition.
Once you have identified your target audience, you’ll want to try to reach them as directly as you can, bypassing gatekeepers and stymying systems wherever possible.
Being the Face of Your Company
Being the face of your business can be an easy way to keep the human element and lend instant credibility to your propositions, but it’s wise to build a brand image simultaneously in case you want to sell the business off or diversify in some way someday.
Use your own name often, but brand your website, products and so on with a company name. The hope is that the brand of your small business outgrows you, but you want to create a brandable company name that will be easily transferable if you decide to exit.
Being the well-known ambassador and champion of your company but maintaining the company’s separate identity when you’re branding your small business means you get the best of both worlds.
The Human Touch
Offering clients a personal one-on-one connection with the owner or founder of the company they’re dealing with is an advantage that many businesses are either unable to or uninterested in offering.
Our own clients at OOTBI benefit from dealing directly with our founder. We supply web design, SEO, and marketing services for companies in specific industries, so when clients find our company, they see the advantage that we only work with clients just like them. Once they get in touch, our founder interacts with every client throughout the process, even if much of the work is done by other employees or freelancers.
Key people like founders and owners sit at the top of the business structure and thus have the most at stake when it comes to the success or failure of client projects, so clients can feel more confident about not being fobbed off when given a direct line to them.
Having the chance to build working relationships with owners etc is also flattering to the people the business deals with, making them feel like they’re being given special attention from important people.
Protecting Your Online Brand
You need to stay one step ahead with managing your reputation – you don’t want to be caught out when a problem occurs.
Sometimes, companies will have to deal with bad press surfacing in the top ten search engine results. When that happens, they’ll usually be caught out and switch right into disaster-aversion mode. The biggest problem they’ll face is that bad press or reviews and reports can attract unflattering backlinks, then the problem snowballs as problematic pages become more authoritative and harder to beat.
One tactic you can use to pre-empt this issue is capturing the first couple of search pages in advance. Set up some rock-solid social media profiles, get quoted and mentioned on powerful industry and news websites, start on PR and SEO immediately, and you’ll be well positioned to sit far ahead of future bad reviews and press in the search engine rankings.
The Importance of Personal Branding
Personal branding has never been so important, and at the same time, it’s never been easier. This is thanks to a combination of globalization, the internet, and massive demographic shifts.
And why is it now so essential? Because we have moved out of the industrial age and are now wading neck-deep into the technological age, where people consume information and make choices in a totally different way.
Job security is far from what is once was, and people will now not only have more jobs but more full-scale careers over the course of their lifetimes. Now that the average work stint is coming down to only a few years, and the average person will have 12 jobs, everyone has the possibility to become a serial achiever.
For many, the most prominent way that their serial achievements will be chronicled and presented is through their social media presences and blogs. The age of a dry black-and-white corporate-focused resume with a handful of references is over. Who would you prefer to employ: someone with just a good CV and solid references, or someone with those as well as a high-traffic blog in a relevant industry? What if this latter person also had hundreds of thousands of social media followers and could lend some of their branding to your company, all on top of doing the actual job role you’re hiring for?
Creating a strong personal online brand can be the path to opening doors that would never have even existed in the past, let alone been accessible! We can see this in action with YouTube and Instagram ‘influencers’ moving into acting, comedy or singing – Justin Bieber was one of the first examples of this, having been accelerated to global stardom after being discovered through YouTube.
With the power of the internet and these universally accessible platforms, anyone can start making a name for themselves at zero person cost and without the need to ask permission from anyone, all from the comfort of their own bedroom (if they so choose!).
Building an Online Reputation when Branding a Small Business
Unfortunately, despite the practically non-existent barrier to entry, carving out a real successful space for yourself online is easier said than done. There are no shortcuts to fame unless there’s already a good reason for you to have a high profile online, such as if you’re a legitimate industry leader, sports personality, politician, whatever. In these cases, you’ll draw attention effortlessly upon creating accounts, but for the rest of us, there’s a bit more legwork to be done in getting noticed.
To deal with that potentially long and arduous journey of getting your initial followers, you’ll need to cultivate the right mindset. One basic but incredibly important thing that shouldn’t be overlooked when trying to brand your small business is your choice of industry/niche. You need to choose something in which you’ll be happy to spend your life. Also, realize that as soon as you begin, you’re already years ahead of the swathes of daydreamers who haven’t even (and may never get) started.
The Best Way to Improve Your Online Presence
We see people making plenty of mistakes that stem from procrastination and an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude. This means things like building an online presence upon shaky (if not outright crumbling) foundations, and then sitting back and waiting until the need for reform becomes critical to take action.
For example, when someone finally loses their job, they’ll go to dust off their dated resume and update a long-neglected LinkedIn profile. Likewise, many hopeful new business owners will wade into the start-up and entrepreneurial worlds with a new venture whilst have little to no online presence to launch themselves from. Starting a new business is hard enough without also having to haul yourself up from the first rung of the internet ladder!
As with so many other things in life, getting ahead of the curve and being proactive pays dividends. With tenure rates decreasing, job security plummeting, and swathes of people juggling multiple careers, it’s time to be dynamic.
So, for maximum adaptability and insurance, it makes sense that everyone creates three websites:
- A personal blog. Regardless of your industry, this will give insight into your character and act as a showcase for who you really are, what you’ll be like to work with outside of the cut-and-dry business grind.
- A professional blog. This will showcase your expertise in your current industry and can easily be converted into an almost ready-made business website with content, backlinks, age, and authority in the search engines in the future if necessary.
- Finally, a passion website based around a hobby, interest, or worthwhile cause. Depending on your theme choice, this website could later become a money-maker through affiliate marketing.
No need to do all three all at once, and go for quality over quantity. If you think you can only maintain one really good website, then pick whichever will be most useful to you and get to work.
One benefit of creating these long-term internet platforms is that unlike social media pages, you’ll really own these. Whatever you post, you won’t run the risk of being censored, banned, or the website closing down (taking your content with it!).
With extremely approachable software solutions like WordPress and Squarespace now mainstream and the costs of hosting so low, there’s never been a better time to get started.
Takeaway for Branding a Small Business
At the end of the day, the only reliable way to build a robust and profitable business now is to have people searching for and choosing your brand specifically. Branding for a small business that’s relatable, trustworthy, and genuine can be a major game-changer for setting yourself apart and securing loyal customers, and there are multiple ways to go about doing this – the tactics mentioned above are just a few options!