For any business to achieve long-term success, it must first develop a strong brand. At times, this effort might appear to defy the logic of marketing’s textbook cornerstones: price, promotion, place, and product. In practice (and the digital marketplace), marketing your business is less straightforward and much more subtle than ever before.
What allows large companies with a similar offering such as Uber and Lyft to successfully compete among overlapping audiences and price points? The answer to that question is the brand itself. To stand apart from the online noise, your small business will need to identify and successfully communicate the lifestyle your company emanates, its mission and values, as well as its abstract promise (not just the logical solution). Strong and intentional branding should be the foundation of your small business’ marketing campaigns and strategies. Taking the time to build such a foundation will shift your ideal customer’s perspective from seeing your brand as a mere answer or fix to see your business as the only offering that will meet their needs, tangible and intangible. With the following four points in mind, your small business will be able to cultivate a living, breathing brand that can’t be denied.
No. 1: Personality. In order to reach new customers and sustain relationships with returning ones, your business will need to occupy more than just their rational minds. Defining your brand’s personality traits will help your small business relate to the values and culture of your target audience(s), which will, in turn, foster an emotional connection with consumers over time. Start out by paying attention to the personality qualities that are already present within your brand that audiences expect and respond to well. Then, focus on the traits that either aren’t present or fully communicated that you can develop to strengthen the overall brand and its offering.
No. 2: Purpose-built. In order to successfully message and position your small business’ offering, it will need to be clear that your product/service is serving a direct need or answering a relevant question for your intended audience(s). Your brand will need its purpose to be obvious, so you don’t have to resort to describing features and functions rather than the true value of your offering. Ask yourself (and your entire team) the following key questions to define a crystal clear purpose.
- Why do customers use your product/service?
- What are specific cases in which your product/service is needed?
- What are 2-3 areas of business that are impacted by your brand’s offering?
- What are your brand’s unique characteristics directly related to business impact?
- What are 3-5 core company assets that differentiate you from the competition?
No. 3: Promise. Although your small business should expend time, money, and energy into acquiring new customers, it will also be crucial to build trust (and revenue) with your existing customer base. To do this, your brand will need to continue to make, meet, and keep its promises with your audience of satisfied customers. When making promises, remember that no brand or company can be everything to everyone. Go back to your purpose and continue to deliver on your clearly outlined core offering. This is where communication and transparency are key. Do not promise anything that is outside your offering, as this will cause not only confusion but overall dissatisfaction. The biggest and most successful brands are able to build huge, trusting followings because they continually deliver their promises without pretending to be something they aren’t.
No. 4: Patience. Building and maintaining your small business’ brand is an ongoing creative process that will require dedication and flexibility. Keep in mind that the overall progression will occur as an arc over a period of time. The goal is to expose your audience to your offering in a way that influences purchase behavior. The more in sync your brand’s offering and promises are, the better your customers will trust your business. This in turn will generate better feedback that will demonstrate social proof and attract new buyers. All of this takes time and the process is comprised of various cycles. A brand can’t be built overnight.
Blog by Melissa McElhose, the NALA staff writer