What does it take to generate powerful brand recognition? Small businesses don’t have millions of dollars to invest in branding campaigns, yet they need brand awareness in order to have staying power.
Luckily, there are ways to brand yourself successfully on a shoestring budget. Take a look at these five inexpensive strategies:
1. Know your audience. The first thing you must do before making any attempt to brand yourself is to develop a comprehensive understanding of exactly who your audience is and then define your messaging. “Before you spend a dime, it's important for you to determine who your clients are so you can optimize your efforts and any money you may be spending,” explains Jason Robbins, CEO of ePromos Promotional Products.
2. Give away your expertise. “Whether it's a company blog, white papers, e-books or a series of webinars, producing exceptional content is an effective way to build your brand," Robbins says. "It doesn't take a huge budget, but it does take time and a commitment to deliver content that's truly valuable to your target audience.” While it sounds contradictory to the idea of making a profit, that small amount of effort can reap big rewards by positioning your brand in the minds of your target audience.
3. Capitalize on social media. Everyone’s talking about the power of social media marketing, and for good reason—it’s free. There are a lot of social media platforms out there, so it’s important to find out where your target consumers are spending their time and focus your efforts there.
The key to social media success is consistency and engagement, and that means staying active, participating in conversations and offering unique content that grabs your prospects and customers' attention. “By reaching out to your followers and engaging them, some of them will share your content with their connections, thereby allowing you to reach a greater audience,” says Ian Aronovich, president and co-founder of GovernmentAuctions.org.
4. Put a new spin on traditional PR. The public relations field has changed dramatically with the rise of digital media. Although it’s easier to identify and reach out to relevant journalists thanks to services like Help a Reporter Out (HARO), it’s a lot more difficult to actually get coverage simply because there are thousands of other businesses vying for the same media mentions.
Capturing the attention of a niche journalist is a combination of luck and skill—it means delivering a compelling message at the right time. Building a relationship with relevant journalists can increase your odds of getting coverage, but it will take a bigger time investment. “If they choose to use your content, you'll likely get links back to your business site," Aronovich says, "which is great for SEO and also [provides] new content you can use to engage members of your social media networks.”
5. Use promotional products. Promotional products printed with your logo may seem gimmicky, but it can be an affordable and highly effective way to brand yourself. The key, again, is being in the right place at the right time. Offer something incredibly useful in a unique situation to make it memorable.
Paul Brocky, co-founder of The Road Code, found success using water bottles—and disposable bottles at that. “We hit charity races and outdoor competitions this year and gave away ice cold water bottles with our own custom label that proudly displayed our logo and website," he says. "The cost was 14 cents a bottle. This included the labels that we had printed at a local copy store.”
This effort was successful because it met a need during an emotional high point. People tend to retain contextual memories better when they’re experiencing strong positive emotions. Analytics and website visits jumped in correlation to the days Brocky’s team handed out water bottles, a good indicator that the tactic was effective.
The recurring theme here is that to effectively brand yourself on a shoestring, you must be in the right place at the right time. But don’t leave that to chance. Do your research, know your audience, and use a little creativity to ensure your brand message has a lasting impact.
Angela Stringfellow is a freelance writer, social media strategist and complete content marketing junkie obsessed with all things Web, written word and marketing.
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