Is it time to build a brand for your business? Ask yourself the following questions: would you like your customers to come to you rather than you going to them? Would you like your customers to pay a premium for your products or services? Would you like to share an emotional connection with your customers, such that they would be the biggest champions of your business?
If the answer to all three questions is YES, then the solution is simple: you need to build a brand for your small business. Building a brand, however, can be a daunting task. It usually takes months or even years until you see the tangible benefits of a brand. The good news is: the investment of time and money in building a brand is well worth it. Here are a few ways a brand can help transform your business:
- It can increase customer loyalty and repeat business
- It enables you to charge a premium
- It eliminates or drastically reduces marketing costs
Let’s use Apple as an example of a well-known brand. Apple customers are extremely loyal as they tend to buy more than one product from this brand, including the MacBook, iPhone, iWatch, Apple TV, and iPad. I confess, I personally own all these products 🙂 Apple customers, like me, also purchase media from iTunes.
The Apple brand is also a symbol for clean, simple and innovative design with best-in-class hardware performance. For this reason, Apple customers will gladly pay a 25-100% premium for Apple products relative to lower-priced competitors.
Last but not least, Apple customers are the company’s biggest marketers!! How often have you seen someone working from the coffee shop on a computer that shows the iconic image of Macbook Apple? Doesn’t this make you want to buy an Apple yourself?
There is no such thing as being too small, too early, or too local to build a brand. But where to start? Follow the steps below and start transforming your small business.
3 Steps to Build a Brand for Your Business
Step #1: Determine the purpose of your brand
In determining your brand purpose, you need to establish the following components of your brand:
As you build a brand, ask yourself: who will you be targeting? What’s the gender and age of your target customer? What are his/her behavior characteristics? What customer need are you addressing? Once you have good answers to these questions, narrow the answers down to 2-3 sentences or bullets.
Every brand embodies a broader mission. A purpose beyond generating a profit from a product or service. Today consumers are more likely to reward mission-driven brands. Research demonstrates that stock performance of “meaningful brands” generated 206% higher market returns from 2006 to 2016. This also gives an opportunity for customers to create an emotional connection with your brand, which translates into more sales. The same research study states that a “meaningful brand” can increase the share of wallet by up to 9 times.
Here is an example of the mission statement at Camino Financial:
“Camino Financial’s mission is to catalyze economic growth within low-to-moderate income communities by empowering underserved small businesses to create new jobs and grow sustainably.”
Notice that our mission statement, along with that of many mission-driven companies, does not mention anything about the product or services we offer to customers. Whether you mention your product or not, make sure your mission statement focuses on the value you create for your customers beyond a transaction.
Everyone is familiar with the Nike slogan: Just Do It. What is the slogan of your brand? Make sure to keep your slogan short and catchy. It’s a great way to deliver a brief and memorable message to your customers and to build a brand for your business.
The values of your brand are those that you uphold and share with your customers. For instance, financial service companies typically state TRUST as a core value given the high sensitivity of extending financial products and services that best serve your interest. As we will mention in the second and third steps of building a brand, a brand is not only something tangible that people can see and listen to, but it’s also something emotional that you see represented in the shared values of the customers and employees of your company.
Step #2: Create a visual brand and a brand guide
Usually, people think a brand is a logo. We all recognize the iconic logos of Twitter, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, or Microsoft. But the visual representation of a brand goes well beyond the logo. Consider the colors and font type of the brand; all these are a few of several elements that comprise the visual representation of a brand. A brand guide is a brief document that compiles all the visual representations of a brand. Here is what a brand guide includes:
- Brand Purpose
- Color Palette
- Logo Color Variation
Be sure to share your company’s brand guide with all employees and consultants who touch your brand. And most importantly, make sure that you police the appropriate representation of your brand.
Now that you have a brand guide, it’s important to represent this brand with your customers and employees. Here are a few ways to do so that are applicable to all small business owners:
- Branded Paraphernalia: Purchase branded products likes pens, erasers, and USB drives. Send them as giveaways to your customers, employees, and prospects.
- Branded Website & Social Media: Make sure your website represents your brand and values. When posting on social media, make sure these posts are aligned with the values and visual representation of your brand.
- Branded T-Shirts and other Apparel: Give your employees branded clothes, whether it is for recreational or on-site work purposes.
Step #3: Elicit an emotional connection to your brand
Your brand is meant to trigger a set of memories and emotions that ultimately create a relationship, rather than a transaction, between you and your customer. Building an emotional connection with your customer is REALLY hard and takes a long time. It’s going to take even longer if you are not familiar with some effective tactics to do so.
Below are a few tactics on building an emotional connection via your brand:
Tell Your Story
At Camino Financial, Kenny and I constantly tell the story of witnessing our mom lose her chain of Mexican restaurants and how this experience set us off on an 18-year path to start our company.
Small business owners are uniquely positioned to share their story and make sure it’s represented in their brand.
Words of caution: Tell your personal story tactfully. Too often I see small business owners brand their businesses using their personal name. If you’re going to do so, you must have a good reason. For instance, many financial services companies, such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase, brand themselves with personal names since these create an element of trust. I personally recommend going beyond your name because today’s strongest brands do not represent an individual; they represent a community of like-mind individuals who share an emotional connection with the products and services rendered and/or seeking to associate themselves with the broader purpose of a company.
Surprise Your Customers
Do you really want to get an emotional response from your customers? Surprise them!
There are multiple ways to surprise your clients. Maybe you invite your customer for a cup of coffee or give them a few branded giveaways. One of the most effective ways to surprise your client is to give them a product or service enhancement that they did not expect (or pay for).
Let me give you a basic example: one of my favorite Mexican restaurants is called, Doña Inez. The first time I went to the restaurant, I ordered some tacos and an “agua fresca” for pick-up. The owner served me the agua fresca to the tip of the cup without giving me the lid. I took a few sips while I am waiting for my order, and before I left, he offered to top off my cup with more agua fresca and gave me the lid to avoid spillage. This random act of kindness has kept me going to Doña Inez for the last three years. And while it no longer comes off as a surprise, the owner continues to top off my agua fresca before I leave for a warm walk back to my office.
Engage with your Community
One of the strongest brand building opportunities small business owners have is connecting with their local community. It’s very hard for an Apple or Microsoft to create a localized brand. They’re too big, and usually, out-of-touch with local and relevant events in the community.
Here lies a small business owner’s biggest advantage. Small business owners must get involved in their local communities to build their own brand. Below are a few ways to get involved:
- Volunteer and organize culture events
- Attend city and municipal meetings
- Sit on local councils and boards
- Sponsor the local junior sports team
- Get involved with the local chamber of commerce
Building an emotional connection via hyper-localized community engagement is one way to guarantee your customers are buying from you vs. a national or global brand without local relevance.
We hope these steps help you with the resources you need to start building a brand for your business. If you already have your brand, but you are seeking ways to improve it, we recommend you to read this article on how to align your personal brand with your business. You can also discover the reasons why improving your brand will grow your business. And don’t forget to visit our blog for advice on marketing and advertising!