When many small-business owners hear the term "branding," they envision long, complicated projects and expensive consultants. While a complete branding exercise can be extensive, there are also many inexpensive ways that you can contribute to your branding efforts without breaking the bank. Here are seven economical ways you can help your brand stand out.
1. Give something free to your target customers.
Think about your potential customers and brainstorm about items that they would appreciate or put to good use. Robin Samora, president of Boston-based LetsMakeYouShine, says the company came up with a creative way to reach an audience being sought by a law firm. They targeted construction sites and gave construction workers free coffee with the law firm's logo on stickers on each cup. They would also hand out postcards outlining the firm's services targeted to construction workers. “This is an informal way for an attorney to meet construction workers, who may need consultation or have workers' comp or personal injury questions,” says Samora.
2. Thank your customers.
It is much easier to get a current customer to become a repeat customer than to bring new people through the doors. Think about a creative way that you can express your thanks to each customer while promoting your overall image and brand. Lynn Jawitz, owner of Florisan Wedding and Event Design in New York City, bought rolls of pre-printed ribbon with the words “Thank You from Florisan.” She cuts a length of ribbon and ties it to delivery bags for both wedding flowers as well as personal floral arrangements. “I feel good knowing that my customers know that I value and appreciate their business,” Jawitz says.
3. Partner with organizations and businesses for events.
A time-tested way to increase your exposure is to partner with other businesses or groups with the same target market. “For my first book, which came out in 2008, this approach contributed to the creation of more than 100 events around the world, which really helped fuel book sales,” says Lisa Alcalay Klug, author of Hot Mamalah. Take this concept to a new level by coming up with a creative event that will draw people and exposure to your company. Think about what your brand represents and what your target audience is interested in. A company that sells gourmet pet treats might host a dog play date in a local dog park with contests for best dressed or most creative trick. Similarly, a spa could partner with a yoga studio to offer a morning of relaxation for free with prize drawings for current customers who bring a friend.
4. Design a creative business card.
When you hand someone a typical business card, they usually put it in their pocket and mostly don’t look at it again. Take this opportunity to turn something boring into something memorable. Samora helped the law firm use fake folded million dollar bills as calling cards with the back side of the bill with the attorney’s photo, contact information and a call to action. Who wants to throw out a million dollar bill?
5. Let the customers get to know you.
Many people choose a business because they trust the owners and believe in the company. Consider using yourself as the face of the brand and letting customers get to know you. VivoPools stopped using their “Vivo” man character on their website and other ads and replaced the cartoon with a picture of the CEO. The company also added the words “locally owned and operated” in all marketing campaigns and materials. Additionally, CEO William Johnson began sharing the story about how he didn’t like his previous pool company to help relate to potential customers and also began writing a column to customers in the newsletter.
6. Make a video.
If you own a smartphone, you can make a simple video at a very low cost and then share the video with your social media networks for free as well. The trick is to create content that is both useful, interesting and innovative. And even if you are going low budget, be sure that the image you project is professional and consistent with your overall brand. A company perceived as traditional should carry this image through in its video while a more modern business can use music, clothing and background that is more “hip.” Nancy Stampaher adds to her brand Life in Nancy’s Kitchen by creating videos of herself cooking in her kitchen to show her passion and personality.
7. Generate creative content.
Common advice for content marketing is to blog and write articles about your industry to gain a reputation as an expert in your field. Instead of simply taking this advice at face value, brainstorm about ways that you can make your content original. A great way to do this is to create content from a unique point of view, such as a toy company creating blog posts from a child’s perspective. You could also start an advice column in your newsletter that mixes humor with practical advice. Have a brainstorming session about ways that you can twist the typical content marketing in a way that will gain the attention of your customers and potential customers.
Read more posts about branding your small business.
Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a journalist with over 17 years professional writing experience. Jennifer blogs via Contently.com.
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