Vince owned a regional property management firm. His friend, John, was an insurance agent and fellow business owner. The two were having their weekly phone conversation, sharing challenges and successes.
“We’re hanging in there,” Vince said, “but it’s getting tougher to get clients. Five years ago there were only three other companies in the area that do what we do. Now, there are nine.
“Yesterday was an especially tough day. We lost a great prospect to one of our newer competitors. They don’t come close to having our experience, but that didn’t seem to matter to the client.”
“I understand, that’s happened to me too,” John replied. “I know someone you might like to talk with. He’s a brand strategist for small businesses. I worked with him last year. We were having the exact same problem you’re having now, but he came up with some great ideas that helped us a lot.
“His name is Alan. Want his number?”
“Sure,” Vince said. “At this point, we’ve got to do something different or we’ll have to start downsizing.”
You may have heard that branding is only for large companies with big budgets.
This is a myth.
Branding is important for businesses of all sizes. Given how competitive the market is, small businesses stand even more to gain from it. This includes solo entrepreneurs, online businesses, and even independent freelancers.
Unfortunately, many small business owners don’t have a brand plan or strategy. But those that focus on brand building hold a significant advantage over those that don’t.
According to this report, 6 in 10 consumer purchases are influenced by the “power” of a business’s brand.
In this article, you will learn:
- What branding is and is not
- How branding can super-charge marketing and sales
- How branding gives you an advantage over competitors
What Branding Is NOT
There are two quick points I would like to make before we move on.
First, branding is not limited to a logo and color scheme. Nor is the goal simply to make people “aware” of your business. Though these are a part of the brand building process, they only scratch the surface.
So, if this is your idea of branding, please keep reading.
Second, it’s important to know the difference between branding and marketing.
Marketing is any activity designed to promote your business, products, or services. Marketing complements the branding process but does not replace it.
What Is Branding?
A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or other feature that identifies one product or service from others.
Branding is the process used to build your business’s identity. Everything that represents your business, tangible and intangible, collectively form your brand.
Examples of tangible brand elements are your logo, website, and office space. Your business’s values, purpose, and mission are examples of intangibles.
Your customers also contribute to your brand identity. So does your reputation and any associations with other businesses, people, and organizations.
Think about it. Isn’t it true that “birds of a feather flock together?” The company you keep affects how others see you. Likewise, associations have an impact on a business’s reputation.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, may have said it best:
“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Why You’re Not Making More Sales
Now let’s explore how branding can help you generate more sales and grow your business.
In today’s market environment, consumers have an unlimited number of choices. No matter what product or service it is, there are hundreds of businesses competing for the sale.
I often ask business owners why people should choose them over their competitors. They almost always give me the exact same answer:
“We do good work and provide great customer service.”
I know most business owners believe they’re good at what they do. And I know people want good service. But these statements won’t convince anyone to buy from you. That is because your competitors are saying these things too.
People may appear to be listening as you explain why they should buy from you. But they aren’t.
Instead, they’re sizing you up, trying to decide if you’re qualified to help them. They are also comparing you to other buying choices to determine which is better.
Your prospective customers want to know if you and your product or service is the best solution for them.
As they weigh their options, these questions are running through their minds:
- Does this person/business understand my problem?
- Is this person/business qualified to help me solve my problem?
- Are they credible? Can I trust them?
- Am I getting the most value for the price I pay?
- Will this company be there for me if I need them or will they toss me aside after I buy?
But there is another layer to the buying process you must consider.
Consumers don’t want the buying process to be difficult. They don’t have time to research every solution. That is why they rely on brand signals to help them make purchasing decisions.
These signals serve as indicators that tell them which choice is the right one for them.
And that is exactly what they are doing when deciding on your product or service. The signals you send them either help you get the sale or cause you to lose it.
Whether you know it or not, you are already sending signals to prospective customers. Those signals are pulling them toward you or pushing them away.
The branding process helps you send the right buying signals to target customers.
What You Can Do That Your Competitors Aren’t
Earlier, I mentioned that telling people how good you are at what you do won’t get them to buy. This is especially true for small businesses, online businesses, and freelancers.
The marketplace is saturated. Sometimes, making a sale has more to do with being in the right place at the right time than being the best choice. People are no longer limited to their local market to find products and services. The Internet has opened up a world of options.
That means you must make the most of your opportunities when you get them. The businesses that are aggressive in their pursuit of new customers will win the sale most of the time.
Branding can give your business a decisive competitive advantage.
Because in the small business arena, most of your competitors won’t have a brand strategy. They may have a logo or a nice-looking website, but that doesn’t mean they have an established brand.
With branding, you take control of business’s identity and its position in the market. Your position will influence how consumers see your business and how it can help them.
Many small business owners think marketing comes down to playing a “number’s game”. So, to get better results, they shovel more money into the marketing machine.
By building your brand, you create an identity that will attract more people to your business. This makes communicating with your target audience much easier.
Here are some examples of how branding makes your marketing more effective:
- Leads you get will be more qualified.
- Your brand attracts people who want your product or service. This means you will spend more time with interested prospects.
- You will be better prepared to overcome buyer objections.
- You will be able to charge more for products and services, while justifying the price.
- Branding reduces the perceived number of buying options available.
Here is a short list of how branding can help a small business grow:
- Clarity of marketing messages increases efficacy, which generates more leads and sales.
- Communicating the right brand signals attracts higher quality prospective customers.
- Establishes your unique value, creating separation from other businesses in your niche.
- Positions you as an authority in your industry — builds credibility and trust.
- Promotes stronger relationships with customers, which generates more purchases and referrals.
Now that you know how important branding is for a small business, it is time for you to take advantage of it.
Until next time,