3/16/2013 9:59:00 PM Branding tips for small businesses
By EDDIE LEONARD SCORE Counselor
Question: Competition is always something I have to consider and recently two more businesses have opened providing the same services I offer. Can SCORE give me some pointers on how I can stand out from the crowd?
Answer: What you are asking about is termed "branding." Far too often small business entrepreneurs think of branding as something done only by very large companies, like McDonald's, Microsoft or GE. But regardless of size, branding is done by all companies. The difference is in how they do it.
For small businesses it is vital to take an active approach to branding, especially during a tight economy or where competition is stiff. Gemini Babla, current director of marketing, brand and advertising at Qualcomm Inc. and past director for marketing at Sony Electronics Inc., says, "A brand is the set of impressions people have about a company that they may have gained through its advertisements and other communications, the experience of buying and using the company's products or services, and the interactions they have with the company itself. Companies manage their brand through careful presentation of an image to create a favorable perception and to differentiate themselves from their competitors."
These are suggestion for small business to implement consistency and effectiveness in branding:
Define your brand
Write out a one-page description of your business. Don't be afraid to get an outside perspective to accomplish this. Understanding how your clients and vendors perceive your business will help you to define it more accurately. Ask people how they would describe your business. What do they think you do? What do they like about it? How do you compare to competitors? Are there things your company could improve? Then, write out your one page description. "This is your value proposition. You need to make it your brand mantra," Babla says. Coming from a family with several members who own businesses, Babla relates to a small business owner's needs. Her father is a SCORE counselor, and her parents own an art gallery. "They're known for exceptional service and a specific style of art. Those things don't change. What defines your business shouldn't either."
Conduct a brand audit
Once you've defined your brand, examine each component of your brand; these include, but are not limited to, your logo, business cards, signage, website, on-hold messaging and email signature. Every element should be consistent with what you want your image to be. "Sony places heavy emphasis on consistency," states Babla, "because that consistency creates credibility in the mind of the consumer."
Keep your brand at the top of your customers' minds
Especially in a down economy or in an area where there is a lot of competition it is important to re-affirm your value proposition with your customers and prospects. "Keep your company and brand top of mind. ... you want to be the first choice when they're ready to buy," Babla says.
Use Web 2.0
What is Web 2.0? Today it is social media. A Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0, states, "A Web 2.0 site may allow users to interact and collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators of user-generated content in a virtual community, in contrast to websites where people are limited to the passive viewing of content."
Branding and Web 2.0 go together as branding is reinforced through social interaction. Use such formats as blogs, forums, wikis, etc., to create a conversation with consumers or key stakeholders, and to demonstrate the unique value your business provides. But "don't just talk about yourself," says Babla. "Let the content be user-generated. Blogs enable dialogues, which tell companies what to change."
To further explore effective branding and logo options for small business, Northern Arizona SCORE will conduct the Business Logos and Identity Workshop at the Adult Center of Prescott, 1280 E. Rosser St. on Saturday, April 13, from 9 a.m. to noon.
This workshop is designed to provide to small business owners a broad overview of the importance of a well-designed identity for their business. The presenter is Miriam Glade, an internationally trained and accomplished graphic designer, currently working for Prescott College and in her own design studio, Blue Bird Design.
Register for this SCORE Workshop at http://northernarizona.score.org/localworkshops.