There’s no doubt that many of the world’s most famous brands appeared almost immune to the last two worldwide recessions. Brands like Amazon, Apple or Nike continue to grow no matter what economic cycle we are facing.
Starbucks has woven coffee into the fabric of people’s lives, while Nike has leveraged the deep emotional connection that people have with sport and fitness, to become the world’s most famous sporting brand.
There is no doubt that a business model based on building a brand that resonates with its customers has the potential to give your business an edge too.
“The future of brands is, in many ways, the future of business. Well-managed brands are the most efficient and effective creators of sustainable wealth.”
– Richard Cordiner, Planning Director, Leo Burnett.
Richard knows that brands who differentiate can charge a premium. Differentiation is the key putting distance between you and the competition, but how can you transform a business into a brand on a limited budget?
We all know brand strategy is complicated, right? Well it is, but I believe if you are a small business it doesn’t have to be.
If you’re just starting out and budget is an issue, the key is to begin by addressing one marketing activity, and doing it well!
… and to do that, these are the two most important questions to answer to get your lead generating activity underway:
1. What core message do you want to communicate?
Your brand is the total of all the experiences your customers have with your business and therefore how the market perceives your organization. It’s your job to shape that perception.
To do this, it is crucial that you are clear on what MESSAGE you want your prospective customers to remember about you. Yes, you want them to buy – but WHY should they buy from you and not your competitor?
Why, why, why…
If you can answer why you are a better choice than your competitors, and you can sum it up in a sentence, then you have your point of difference. That becomes the core message you want to communicate to every prospect and existing customer again and again and again. (Related: A great business leads with its gut.)
2. How can you cost-effectively communicate your message?
Once you have resolved your core message, you need to be very clear on “Who are you selling to?” and “What their online habits are, where do they hangout?”
Then it becomes a simple formula:
First, look at your resources:
– Can you write well?
– Are you handy on WordPress?
– Do you have a large email database you can leverage?
– Is your website providing the information your market wants?
– Are lots of people following you on Twitter?
– Can you identify marketing activity or activities you can implement without a big outlay to a third party?
When you are clear on that, see how it fits or marries up with where your prospects hang out.
If you have a good story to tell and you can write, then blogging or email marketing might be options. If it’s a priority for you to nurture leads, and you know your prospects are keen for educational material in your space, then you have a good fit.
Let’s take another scenario. Let’s say you’re a dentist in a big city, specializing in pain-free dentistry
Your inhouse marketing resources are an information-rich website and your receptionist. Your prospects are time-poor, educated mums and dads. How could you generate leads cost effectively?
I would look into implementing a live engagement tool/pop-up on the home page of your website to answer enquiries immediately. Pain-free dentistry is a great longtail keyword when it comes to attracting online visitors. There are a number of free and paid pop-up solutions available which claim 20%+ increase in conversions. Some of these are listed below:
With some of these programs the live chat on your website can be directed to your receptionist during opening hours. Answering queries about the pain-free aspect of your service and then suggesting an immediate appointment will catch a market you’ve never reached before. At some stage you could introduce Google AdWords to drive traffic to your homepage for conversion.
A brand campaign can be a big black hole or, if you have planned it well, can reach prospective customers using very little money.
Successful branding practices will ultimately get customers to choose your offering over the competition’s. But this can only be achieved if you use branding to condition and manage consumers’ expectations and lead them to see your product or service as the only answer to their specific needs.
What are your best tips for building a brand on a shoestring? Share them in the comments below!