Building a brand is one significant aspect of running a business. And if you think that it is only for the big boys, you are mistaken. Creating a brand image is equally, if not more, important for a small business. Before you take a step in this direction, you need to get a clear idea about what a brand implies. It isn’t just the logo of your company or the representatives working there, it’s everything that the business represents – its values, its philosophies, its visions.
Your brand is the identity of your business. It’s about what you do, how you do it, what you say, what you look like, what message you convey, how you connect to customers, and every little detail associated with your business.
Let’s take a look at the Ten Commandments of brand creation for your small business:
Commandment 1: Thou shalt be definitive. A brand is not only about the logo or the products (though these are important too); it’s a sum total of the experiences your business offers for the customers. You need to pay attention to every crucial point at which your business comes in contact with customers. Be it the visual impact (insignia), the auditory impact (a help desk call) or any other aspect, each needs to reflect your brand identity. Commandment 2: Thou shalt be distinct. What makes you different from your competitors? If you cannot identify it, you cannot benefit from it. You need to incorporate it into your brand building efforts. Take Subway for example. It’s a fast food chain, but it creates a unique identity with its message of delivering healthy fast food. And with its selection of fresh sandwiches and healthy salads, it delivers too. Commandment 3: Thou shalt be consistent. Building a brand involves using numerous channels. But it won’t be of any use if you convey different messages across different channels. Consistency is the key to success here. Chrysler created one of the best ad campaigns featuring Detroit as the motor city. But things got messy when a negative tweet about the city ruined the effects of the campaign they had so effectively put together. Commandment 4: Thou shalt be innovative. Be it in the development of the product or the ways to market them, it is essential for a small business to bring some originality into it. And it’s easier for them, as they aren’t hindered by the layers of bureaucracy. As a small business, you don’t need to get past numerous hurdles to make a decision; therefore, it is easier to be flexible. This also makes it possible to experiment with new ideas or come up with novel solutions in a short span. Commandment 5: Thou shalt be coherent. It is important that the messages you convey are clear and consistent. But that doesn’t mean they have to be repetitive. Instead, focus on how you can transform the units to make up a coherent whole. You need not put up a newspaper ad to let your Facebook fans know about an exclusive offer only for them. They will get the details from Facebook. But you can put up an ad of an offer available for online and offline customers on the newspaper and Facebook too. Commandment 6: Thou shalt be recognisable. What’s in a name; apparently quite enough to make it important. Therefore, it is essential that you get the name of your business, as well as the insignia right before you begin to build your brand. An appropriate name and easily identifiable logo can make it easier to make people remember you. Doesn’t the ‘Swoosh’ remind you of Nike every time you see it? Or, the ‘bitten apple’ reminds of Apple? Commandment 7: Thou shalt be reliable. Small businesses wanting to carve a niche for them often rely heavily on referrals. But if you cannot keep your promises, you won’t have many satisfied customers. And they are the ones who give you referrals. It is also easier to make a second sale to a satisfied customer than to make a first one to a new customer. So, whether you promise to deliver a package within a day or provide a service within a budget, make sure you stand by it. Commandment 8: Thou shalt be worthy. It is easier to boost your sales with lower prices and serious discounts. But make sure this doesn’t dilute your efforts to create a successful brand image. While it can be a good idea at times, incessant discounts may make your business, and your products and services, seem unworthy in the eyes of customers. You cannot afford to create such an image. Commandment 9: Thou shalt be present. The best advantage of being a small business is that you can keep in touch with your customers directly, unlike the big players. The presence of the owner and direct access to them often makes interaction easier. At the heart of a small business is the way you treat your customers. When a person, and not an automated voice, answers a help desk call, a customer feels that someone is there for his/her help. And this works to your advantage. Commandment 10: Thou shalt be cooperative. Gone are the days when an entrepreneur needed to be a salesperson to get business. Nowadays it is all about consultative sales. And the way you handle a customer says a lot about your brand. Though you need to have the skills to make a sale, it is more important to have the traits of a consultant. A customer relies more on an advisor who listens to them, understands their problem and presents a solution. It isn’t difficult to create your brand; you just need to take it one step at a time.