When we think of brands, we tend to picture the big ones. We forget that a powerful brand can be important to every company and especially small businesses that hang their hats on customer loyalty.
According to a recent survey by Rosetta Consulting, engaged customers (those who are strongly attached to a brand) buy 90 percent more frequently, spend 60 percent more per transaction and are five times more likely to indicate it's the only brand they would purchase in the future. All these factors can lead to engaged customers delivering three times the value to the brand over the course of a year.
I talked with three small-business owners with experience in creating a memorable brand: Deborah Peters, founder of the Neuro Engineering Institute in California; Aalap Shah, co-founder of SoMe in Chicago; and Jason Zickerman, president of The Alternative Board (TAB) in Colorado.
How would you describe your brand?
Aalap Shah: The SoMe Connect brand is open and honest with clients and infuses a mix of heart and soul into our creative and copywriting, delivering online community engagements that matter.
Deborah Peters: Our brand is unique, evoking feelings of stability, groundedness and timeless wisdom.
Jason Zickerman: Our brand promise is that joining a TAB Board will help a business owner achieve their personal vision of success and run a better business.
What was your process for developing this brand?
Zickerman: A brand is defined by customer experiences. Our brand image was developed by gaining an understanding of what our members felt, what they believed and what they had to say about us.
Peters: There was a great deal of introspection. I bought several feet of art paper and colored sharpies and pastels. I designed a flow chart for my business, including who we would reach/teach/coach, what media we would use and how it would all eventually have an impact.
Shah: We started with internal brainstorms on our core values and offering to see what our internal stakeholders thought and felt about our brand. We asked our clients how they'd describe it. We then developed a brand description to inspire our team and clients.
What activities did you undertake to promote the brand?
Peters: Thanks to social media, the brand is everywhere now, and we continue to up-level our avenues to ramp up awareness. We are finding that joint ventures in which we cross promote and cross leverage our offerings is extremely powerful. It’s a win for everyone.
Zickerman: In our industry, 50 percent of business comes from word of mouth, and our brand expansion strategy takes that into account. We encourage our corporate team and franchisees to promote our brand through personal interactions and relationships, providing business advice and insights, and consistently delivering value to their TAB members and referral networks. We also take an exclusivity approach to our membership. Not every business owner is a right fit for a board, so we direct our brand promotion to business owners who are.
Shah: Our largest efforts are around our SoMe Insight series—a monthly lunch and learn series that promotes both our brand and also open communication. We bring in industry leaders to lead a conversation for 30 to 45 minutes around topics like “building online communities,” “creating an offline/online brand,” and “how to find your golden purpose.” The discussion and content that flows afterward is invaluable for both the attendees and the community and helps us convey what we do and how we can execute on these ideas.
How has the brand positively impacted business results?
Shah: Our mix of heart, soul and transparency has helped us attract clients that are interested in more than just being on social media. Rather, they are looking for holistic success on multiple platforms—and this goal allows us to expand the scope of our business.
Peters: Within the construct of our brand, we've taken companies with no systems in place and structured them so they had a sense of congruence and continuity to their operations. By emphasizing the wisdom and stability of our brand, we show that we live what we recommend and that it makes a difference to our business just like it will to the client’s.
Zickerman: What started as a single advisory board in Missouri has grown to an international franchise representing over 3,000 business owners worldwide. Thanks in part to branding, TAB has become known as a go-to small business resource.
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