A brand is your business identity. It is the sum total of the memories consumers associate with your goods or services. The process of creating a brand is the same whether you have a lot of capital or a little. However, when it comes time to market, you should seek out low-cost alternatives to running television or print advertisements.
EditComing Up With Your Brand
- Identify your company’s mission. What problem has your business concept been created to address? For example, a fashion designer who makes maternity clothes is probably trying to provide stylish clothes to expectant mothers, which is an underserved market.
- Based on this example, you can already see the outlines of a brand: stylish, relatively young, and feminine.
- Describe the benefits of your goods or services. What are consumers taking away? On the one hand, they get a product or service. However, try to identify any other intangible qualities.
- For example, women who buy stylish maternity clothes feel comfortable and sexy at the same time.
- Ask customers how they see your company. Every company has a brand, whether intentional or not, because consumers already associate emotions and values with your company. Ideally, you’ll build on top of your current brand, but you need to find out what it is. The easiest way is to ask current customers to complete a survey.
- A cheap survey method is to use Survey Monkey. On your receipt, you can print the URL for the survey so customers can complete it.
- Ask consumers what words they would associate with your business.
- Also ask what frame of mind they are in when they visit your store, and how they feel when they leave.
- Identify the qualities you want to convey. It’s one thing to find out how your current customers see you. However, you might want to be seen differently. For example, a designer of maternity clothes might want their clothes to be seen as sporty, not sexy.
- Identify the cluster of emotions and sensations you want clients to attribute to your goods or services.
- Research your clients’ habits. Your consumers reveal a lot based on their buying behavior. For example, if you sell wine online, your clients might buy it before buying expensive or cheap items. This buying behavior can tell you how they view your brand.
- If you create a website, you can see which websites people visit directly before and after yours.
- Alternately, you can ask customers in a survey what other stores they regularly shop at.
EditBuilding Your Brand
- Create a logo. A vivid logo will easily identify your company in the marketplace. It should also advance the emotions or ideas you want consumers to attach to your business. For example, the Nike “swoosh” suggests energy and speed—attributes a sportswear company would want clients to associate with it.
- A graphic artist can help you come up with an effective logo. Although you don’t have a lot of money, ask if you can barter your services. Also look for cheap designers on websites such as Fiverr.
- If you use your logo in commerce, then you should trademark it. In the U.S., you can trademark a logo for a few hundred dollars.
- Write a tagline. A tagline is a brief sentence that captures the essence of your business. Your tagline should complement your logo. If you use it as a trademark or service mark, you should register it as well.
- For example, Nike’s “Just Do It” perfectly complements its swoosh logo. Both promote movement, athleticism, and speed.
- “Just Do It” also encourages couch potatoes to get up and get moving, which creates a larger pool of potential consumers.
- If you run a massage parlor, you might have a pair of hands as your logo. Your tagline could be, “Give yourself the gift of rest….” With this tagline, you are reaching out to people who might feel guilty about splurging on a massage.
- Establish a branding voice. The tone you use in communications also conveys your brand. For example, if you’re casual and breezy, you can write in an informal style. Your sales people should also speak in this voice.
- If you’re creating a more academic brand, then you can use more elevated language—though you should strive not to sound snobbish.
- Brand across all written materials. A brand is more than a logo. Instead, you express your brand each time you interact with the public. For example, your marketing materials should have the same logo placement, color scheme, and feel.
- Select appropriate spokespeople. If you have enough money to afford celebrity spokespeople, make sure they align with your brand. For example, a business catering to white collar men probably shouldn’t use a teen X Games champion as a spokesperson. Instead, the local golfing pro might be more appropriate.
- If your brand is young, fresh, and irreverent, then younger celebrities are probably effective.
- Train your employees to communicate your brand. The public associates your employees with the company. For this reason, you should train employees on how to communicate your brand. For example, you might want to script sample conversations they can have with customers. You might also want to set a dress code that reinforces your brand.
- You must follow anti-discrimination laws when hiring, so don’t exclude workers on the basis of race, sex, religion, or age. In some situations, the line is a little blurry. For example, if you’re selling sex appeal, you can hire only men or women, depending on your target clientele. However, you should probably consult with an attorney if you have questions.
- Avoid imitation. You shouldn’t try to look or sound like a big chain competitor. Instead, find your own unique style and voice. Many large chains are now trying to brand as smaller independents, so you have an advantage.
- Stay consistent. You’ll muddy the waters if you aren’t consistent with your branding. For example, don’t use a breezy style in your advertisements and then suddenly become serious. Your consumers will be confused.
- You’ll also dilute your brand if you begin advertising to different market segments. For example, a clothing brand that appeals to pregnant women will probably lose customers if it introduces a line of sexy lingerie. In that situation, you’re mixing your message, and your branding efforts will fail.
- You are at greatest risk of undermining your brand when you try to introduce new products or services. You can certainly do so if they align with what you currently offer clients. However, consider starting a second company if they don’t.
EditMarketing on a Shoestring
- Use social media. Social media is a pretty cheap way of staying engaged with your consumers. Create a Twitter account and a Facebook page, at a minimum. You can also create a Facebook group around a theme instead your business. For example, a massage parlor might start a Facebook group on “Relaxation Tips for Men.”
- Remember to use consistent branding on your social media accounts. For example, your logo should be your profile picture on Twitter. Also put your tagline in your bio.
- Whoever handles your social media accounts should understand your branding voice.
- Create a website. Websites aren’t free, but they shouldn’t cost a lot. You’ll probably pay a couple hundred dollars a year. You can either design the website yourself using Wix or similar programs, or you can hire someone.
- On your website, you can post client testimonials that support your brand. For example, a massage parlor can have clients testify about how relaxing the massage was.
- Your website design should also complement the design scheme you use on printed materials.
- Blog. Blogging is a great way to build company loyalty. Your blog should provide value for consumers, such as “do it yourself” articles. For example, if you run a massage parlor, you can upload a video showing people how to give their spouse a massage.
- Don’t blog unless you can upload content regularly, which is key to establishing loyalty.
- Host events for customers. Avoid only communicating digitally. Instead, host events for your customers that help further the brand you are creating.
- For example, a designer of maternity clothes can host a baby shower for a group of customers. You’ll only pay for snacks and possibly rental space. At the event, you can also hand out gifts—perhaps, your new clothing line for babies.
- Help out a reporter. As a business owner, you’re already a semi-expert in your industry. Reporters constantly need people to give them quotes to use in stories, so you should cultivate these relationships. A mention in a newspaper article will increase your brand’s visibility.
- Sign up at helpareporter.com. At the website, you’ll enter your information as a possible source reporters can contact.
- Also be proactive at making contacts. Read stories about your industry and send emails to the reporters congratulating them on their great article. They’ll remember you.