Large companies with big budgets can easily roll out major advertising and brand-building campaigns. So how can small businesses, with much lower budgets, compete? Here, we offer a few handy tips on building a winning brand on a budget.
Create a memorable logo
When it comes to branding your small business, a strong, immediately recognisable logo is vital. That’s why design agencies typically charge thousands to create one. But good design ideas aren’t exclusively available through expensive agencies.
Plenty of great designers – often with previous agency experience – become freelancers. And with lower overheads, they can create brilliant logos at a fraction of the price. Or you could save even more money by reaching out to design students working in their spare time. You’ll find peer-reviewed designers on sites like Freelancer and People Per Hour.
Find your voice
While a logo is a vital tool to help customers remember you, so is the way you write and talk about your business. Marketing and advertising agencies call this your ‘tone of voice’.
Once again, you could easily pay several thousand pounds for an agency to develop the voice of your brand, but you don’t necessarily need to. You may well need some help, possibly in the shape of a freelancer, but you can do at least some of the work yourself.
Start simply by thinking about your target customer. Who are they? What do they sound like? What sort of language will they relate to? Once you’ve established this, try to describe your business and what it does in a way that fits your customer. And above all, try to sound a little different from your competitors – make people listen.
Then, when you find your voice, stick to it. Make your emails, website content, flyers, posters and packaging consistent. If your ‘voice’ is familiar to your customer, consistent, and different to your competitors’, you’re well on your way to building an impactful brand.
Stand for something
When we think of John Lewis we think of exceptional service. When we think of Mulberry we think of luxury. And when we think of Innocent Smoothies, we think of fresh, healthy drinks.
All of these businesses may well have spent a lot of money crafting and refining their carefully positioned brands. But at the heart of their success is a lesson any small business can learn from: stand for something.
You can’t be everything to everyone, and creating a meaningful, believable brand is about focusing on what’s special about what you do. Work out what it is that matters to your business more than anything else, and shout about it.
Use social media
Social media is a powerful tool for small businesses.
Some small businesses have based their entire business within a social media platform – finding and selling to customers exclusively through Facebook or Twitter. Put simply, it’s valuable because it’s largely free, and most, if not all of your customers, are on social media.
You might want to pay for the occasional Facebook or Twitter ad or sponsored post to boost your exposure. But mostly, your business can easily grow organically on social media. Just follow and like relevant people, groups and businesses, and share lots of relevant content. Building a brand on social media very much hinges on that much-used expression: you get out what you put in.
Make your customers feel loved
Some things in business never change. We’ll always hate doing our taxes, we’ll always have ideas we never get round to doing anything about, and we’ll always need to make customers happy to be successful.
You can’t put a price on great customer service. And best of all, great customer service has nothing to do with budget. You just need to make sure that every person who represents your brand does so in the best possible way. As ambassadors, if they make your customers happy, and all communicate the same positives messages in the same way, people will remember you for the right reasons.