Small Businesses

Branding for Small Businesses

As a business owner one of your top priorities is how your company is perceived to your prospective clients.  Careful crafting of your brand matters, no matter how big or small your business is.   You could have the most innovative service or product, but you need to make potential clients aware of it before you can turn it into a success.  Unfortunately marketing your business isn’t as easy as just placing your logo and a sales message on a postcard or flyer and mailing it to prospective clients.  Marketing is about branding your business so potential clients have an idea of what your business is about, what it may be like to work with you, and how you are different from your competitors.

Simple Works How is your business different from your competitors?  What makes your services or products unique and original?  What aspect of your business is the most attractive to the client?  These are just a few of the questions that should be addressed by your brand.  It should be conveyed in a smooth, easily understood, uncluttered way that is tailored to you audience.  Simple and direct.

Give Your Words a Voice Often times communicating with your prospective clients is done through a series of direct mail pieces, emails, newsletters, or your very own website.  Creating a unified “voice” that can deliver your message in addition to producing an overall image for your company will set you apart from competitors and take your communications from passive to active.  Aligning your message and brand across all channels such as print, website, blog, and social networking will further strengthen your voice.

Consistency is Key Sometimes a small tweak in your overall image is necessary to get a buzz going.  Changing a font here, a color there, or a new image to represent your brand could all help in highlighting your business in new, exciting, and different ways to the same audience, or help in attracting a completely new one.  Once you have identified which tweak or series of tweaks generates the biggest response stick with it and modify all your communications and client accessed websites to reflect that voice, message, and image.  Committing to the change once it is made is the most crucial step.  You may not get the desired results immediately, but scrapping all the work you’ve put in will only be a waste of your time and money, as well as confuse potential clients.

Building your brand can be a labor of love.  If you put in the work and let your individuality pour into your business and let it shine through your communication pieces this will truly set you apart from your competitors.  Your current and potential clients will see your products and services as genuine and attainable.  Branding is all about perceptions, so build the perception you want them to have!

Five Social Media Mistakes Small Businesses Make

Social Media is everywhere you go and try as you may, you just can’t seem to get away from it. It seems everywhere you turn there are people posting, liking, tweeting, connecting and following. With all the attention it enjoys, small business owners can start to feel pressure to conquer the social media world. And, while social media provides an excellent opportunity to reach customers, sometimes small business owners make serious mistakes that can cost them followers, likes, connections and even customers. Here are five common social media oversights for small businesses.

1. Giving Them the Hard Sell Small business owners can get into the rut of believing that if their promotion is not selling something, it is not valuable. However, in the world of social media, making content all about “The Sale” can be very detrimental. Social media is about building relationships and trust. This means interacting, teaching, asking questions and most importantly becoming a trusted resource. While there is a time and place for blatant sales pitches on social media, these should be carefully interspersed with other content that shows your personality and demonstrates your care and concern for the customer.

2. Making it All About “ME" There are two types of people with whom most people do not want to be stuck talking. One is a depressed person and the other a narcissist. What both of these people have in common is total focus on themselves, their problems, their interest and their concerns. This leaves little room to build a relationship and creates a very one-sided conversation. The same principle holds true in social media. People do not want to hear all about you…they want you to demonstrate your concern and a willingness to get to know them. Social media is about conversation – two way conversation. People want to know that their opinions, thoughts, concerns and ideas are important. They want you to ask them questions and demonstrate that they are valuable. This means that you need to take time to engage with people who post comments on your wall and recognize that sometimes it’s better to talk less and listen more.

3. Being the Life of the Social Media Party Just because you are starting to utilize social media in your marketing campaign does not mean you have to use all social media tools available. There are two things that small businesses need to consider with regard to social media. First, there is always something new and better and second, you do not have the time or budget to be in every new venue. It is better to concentrate on one or two social media sources and do those well than to be everywhere. In order to choose the most effective method for your business, consider your customer and determine the best place to reach them. Pick one or two vehicles and commit your time and energy to doing those with excellence.

4. Keeping Up With the Big Boys Being the littlest kid on the block can be difficult, however, as the smallest, it is important to remember that if you try to compete with the big kids, you could get hurt. The same is true in business. It is crucial to keep in mind that as a small business you do not have the same budget as the big guys. And, you don’t have to! Instead of trying to keep up, learn from them. See how they do things and try it on a smaller scale. You don’t need a huge budget to be effective, you just need to speak to your customer’s needs and be true to yourself.

5. Thinking Social Media is Free While you don’t have to spend money to be a part of a social media site, it would be foolish to think that this form of promotion is free. It requires time and attention to be effective – and your time is worth something. While it is one of the most cost effective ways to reach a large audience, it has a significant value and price associated with it. Factor this into your ROI to make sure you are getting the most accurate picture of the cost of your campaign.

In the end, Social media is an excellent way for small businesses to connect with their customers. But in order to have the best chance of success, it requires a plan, consistency and a willingness to listen.