Investing in a strong brand allows you to charge more for your products or services. Just look at brands like Rolex, Ritz-Carlton, and Mercedes-Benz.
But as a small business owner, how can you build a strong brand on a tiny budget, and is it possible to command a premium like these luxury brands do without a sizeable marketing budget?
Absolutely! Here are a few tips to build a strong brand on a tiny budget.
Concentrate on a few big things, not several small things.
Don’t spread yourself too thin. When you try to be too many things, or to grab every marketing opportunity that passes, you end up watering down your impact and making a weak brand impression.
Rather than being minimally involved in several charity events, become really involved in just one. Instead of spreading your marketing budget on many small advertisements, invest in one high-impact marketing piece.
One advantage that small business owners have over big box stores is the ability to come across as real people. Take advantage of any opportunities to let your clients see you as a person, rather than a corporation.
Many small business owners use their children or themselves in their ads. While it’s important to be known as the owner of your business, you may not be the best person to sell your brand in advertisements. Instead, become actively involved in your community, develop a strong social media presence so your clients have access to you, and make sure you’re regularly seen in your retail location or heard on the phone with clients.
It may seem tempting to jump on board with the canned materials that vendors offer when you use what they're services. However, this is rarely worth the long-term effect on your brand, and it’s possible that your competitors may use the same canned marketing piece. Save your money and make a big impression with your own creatively designed piece.
Take advantage of FREE.
Free public relations opportunities that explain the unique things you are doing in your community can give your business great exposure. Build relationships with your local media.
Free social media tools like yelp, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In can go a long way, too. These community-building tools can help you build stronger relationships with your clients.
You wouldn’t go to an interview at Nieman Marcus wearing a cheap suit, so why would you present your business to anyone in anything less than the best? Right from the beginning, invest in a professionally designed logo and identity package.
If you don’t have the money to do this, don’t market your business until you do. Or, look for a professional graphic designer who would consider trading with you. Offer the designer a credit redeemable for merchandise or services at your business rather than a cash payment.
If you own an existing business, it may be time to invest in a brand makeover. Take a hard look at what your ideal client looks like. What colors, styles, words and benefits speak to them? Do you match that?
It doesn’t take millions of dollars or several years to build a strong brand. While it may be a bit more challenging if you’ve made branding missteps in the past, it is still possible to build a strong brand for small business.
Time for a brand makeover? Learn more about how your brand can represent – and shape – your business in the Project RE:Brand webisode series by American Express OPEN. Project RE:Brand follows five small businesses as five creative agencies help them re-envision their brands.
Erin Verbeck is the Chief Joy Officer at The Joy of Marketing (www.thejoyofmarketing.com) where she teaches small business owners how to compete with the big boys without discounting. She cut her teeth as marketing director for a top regional advertising agency helping small business owners get more bang for their marketing bucks. After earning her MBA from one of the top business schools in the country, she became a brand manager at Sabre Holdings, the parent company of Travelocity.