By Maria Thimothy, Sr. Consultant at OneIMS, helps businesses grow by creating and capturing demand and managing and nurturing relationships.
To many small businesses, the idea of branding may seem out of reach, like something that only large companies with huge budgets can afford to do. More often than not, small or medium-sized businesses of all kinds think that if they have a name and a logo, then their branding is done. However, branding is not something that can be simply summed up by a company name and logo in the same way that your name on a mortgage application isn’t enough to get you a loan. The bank will want to know a lot more about you and your “brand” before deciding to lend to you or not. Consumers are no different — they also want to know all about your company before choosing to spend their hard-earned cash with you. Today, with clients regularly doing extensive online research prior to making a purchase, you cannot afford not to brand. Whether you are a niche company focusing on B2B or a small business offering products DTC, you absolutely need to focus on branding, even if you have a limited budget.
You Already Have A Brand
Whether you think so or not, you already have a brand. Simply having a functioning company means that you have a “footprint” as a result of your business activities. In other words, you are establishing a reputation, i.e., a brand. Aside from your name and logo, there are many other elements that go into building your brand — everything from the way your website is laid out, to how you handle business calls, to whether or not you show up in a company-logoed car, to how you dress when you meet clients, to what clients are saying about you to others. All this adds up to an impression of what your company does and how it does it. This should serve as a reminder that branding is not all about spending lots of money on websites and marketing. Instead, this illustrates that there are many branding elements that you can control (e.g., delivering projects by the deadline, calling clients back in a timely fashion, paying your suppliers on time) and that are free.
Take Control Of Your Digital Branding
You may have a bare-bones or outdated website, or maybe you don’t have one at all. Either way, having an online presence is unavoidable as both searching for and researching companies today all happens in the digital sphere. In fact, it is probably safe to say that clients expect reliable companies to have a website, and not having one can be detrimental to your brand. This is why it is especially important that you take control of your digital branding and make sure you have an up-to-date, organized website with coherent information about what your company does. If you are thinking, “What’s the point of a website? I already know all my clients and our company only sells widget components to widget companies,” then let me stop you there. If you want your business to evolve and increase profitability, then you need to reach a wider marketplace and create a lasting brand identity. Start now and maybe in 20 years, you can include “Est. 2021” as part of your website logo.
Include The Basics And Use Your Expertise To Build Your Brand
Regardless of the type of product or service your company provides, there is always a lot more to say about it than you think. When updating or creating a website, start with the basics such as the who, what, where, when and why of your company. Make sure you don’t forget to include basic, but crucial information, such as contact details, addresses and names of key individuals at the company. Include a mission statement and an “About Us” section to help clients get to know you better and understand where you fit into the marketplace. From here, you can use your business expertise to develop pages that detail your products and services. Building a brand is not about filling up dozens of pages on a website with excessive and unnecessary information, but rather about providing accurate and consistent content that shows you are organized and demonstrates your reliability, professionalism and expertise.
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Get People Talking And Your Name Out There
Having a website is a great way to get brand exposure and reach a wide audience, but website content only tells the world what you have to say about yourself. Consumers also want to know what others are saying about you — they want other points of reference to verify that your brand is as good as you say it is. One way to achieve this is to directly ask your clients for reviews such as Google reviews. Or it may be appropriate for your company to embark on a social media campaign and engage directly with clients in that way. You can also consider writing articles about your business, products or services and get them published on relevant blogs or websites. By providing expertise for free, you not only get brand exposure through third-party content but also demonstrate that others consider your opinions valuable and relevant. Third-party references are an important source of branding. As your reviews and mentions build up over time, your brand becomes referable and established, giving it increased gravitas.
Branding For The Long-Term
The most important takeaway here is that branding is for all companies of all sizes and markets. If you think about your brand as your calling card, then you will not be far from the truth. There are many elements to branding which you can control, and which come with very little cost to you. However, as the digital sphere is unavoidable, you must consider how to take your brand online and be aware that avoiding the internet can negatively affect your bottom line.