The word ‘brand’ conjures up in our mind huge goliath companies that have invested millions in creating an identity that we all see as household, but just because you are a small business doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create or become a brand.
Becoming a ‘good brand’ is about resonating within the hearts and minds of your audience, brands that have achieved this have created a powerful connection that can almost become subconscious behaviours – such as singing a tune from an advert or the catchphrase from a brand’s slogan.
Defining your brand involves (and I always say this in my blog!) good planning. Branding is about building an identity both within your company and to everyone it comes across externally. It leads to loyalty, advocacy and differentiation against your competition, plus its really good for SEO and improving your position in search results pages (SERPS), so why rush it?
First look within, who are you – what’s your personality as a company. Look at the company as if it were a person. When that person walks into a room what does it do? How does it talk? Who does it talk to? What will it be remembered for?
What are the core values of your company – what does it stand for? Define a mission statement and a set of beliefs that embody your organisation. Don’t try to be like everyone else, stand out from the crowd and be unique as a brand, be bold and create memories that resonate with your audience. Be consistent but not repetitive, no one appreciates a person that always talks about themselves, the same is true of a brand.
Whilst you are defining the values and looking inwardly at the company don’t forget to look outside of it too. Delve deep into your target audience, what are their likes and dislikes? What are their common behaviours and their purchase journey – how does your brand help them? What are your competitors offering to them and why should they choose you. Building this knowledge is so important in helping you define your place in the market and therefore your identity, so make sure to think big and look to the future, not just now.
Your brand logo or brand mark is fluid and flexible, but must be consistent – when you create it, think of other factors such as fonts, colour palettes and slight versions that can be used within different media but can ensure consistency with your brand. Does your brand have a slogan or strapline? Consider the type of images your brand uses on social media or on its website too. You will probably want to outsource this area to get it right, so it’s important to get someone who has experience to create something long term for you. A lot of businesses try to cram too much in and forget the best brand logos are the most simple and clear – look at Coca Cola which has barely changed its brand in over 127 years!
Don’t forget to think about how your brand speaks – what’s its tone of voice? Are there any words that your brand wouldn’t use, start listing these out. Also, don’t be too obvious or vague in your copywriting, use your insights into your target audience and competition to bring out the clear messages and benefits of your brand.
Once you have all of this wealth of information put together some brand guidelines, start with your mission statement, goals and values as a brand. Then layout the logo variations, colours and typeface, image guidelines and tone of voice. Keep this document to hand to consult regularly, particularly as you grow and may outsource areas of your business or hire new employees as this will help shape your business.
Now go ahead and create a world-dominating brand!
I’m sure you are aware that social media is imperative for businesses these days, no matter the size or stature of the company, customers want to see an active presence on sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
As a start-up business social media can seem a little intimidating. How are you ever going to stand out from the crowd amongst a sea of hundreds and thousands of other, similar companies within your industry? And can it actually help you to achieve your goals?
Prior to going live on social media it is a good idea to jot down a list of objectives that you hope to achieve with this marketing channel. From improving customer service, to increasing discussion about your brand or product, there aren’t really any wrong answers. Within this strategy it’s also really important to plan what social media channels you’re going to use. Not all social media is right for all businesses. Some companies that are very visual (e.g. food and fashion) will benefit more from platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram whereas some will struggle to populate those channels. Once you have the channels you want to be active in then you can create a content calendar so you know what you are going to be posting or tweeting about in advance, this can be built around campaigns and events.
When it’s time to take the plunge ensuring you have key imagery ready for each of the platforms is key. A bright, eye-catching logo and cover image are so important, particularly for Twitter and Facebook, as the lack of either can give a bad impression to prospective customers. Ensuring that all the imagery is branded is a great way of maintaining consistency and uniformity amongst your social media pages, however this isn’t imperative.
The information you display on your social media pages is entirely up to you, however, the more details about your business that you share, the better. Make sure you display your website URL, a short blurb about your business, your location and your contact information. All of these little information nuggets help build up trust with your prospective customers.
Having an open line of communication with your current customer base and/or prospective future clients is why so many businesses find social media so important for them. Utilising these platforms can also save you a lot of money in regard to a full-time customer service role. Pretty much everyone has access to Facebook these days, and it’s generally their first port of call when they’ve had an overly bad or good experience with a business. So, it’s recommended that you keep a frequent eye on your platforms to pick up any comments, whether they are positive or negative, so you can reply in a timely manner.
Don’t get stuck in a rut when it comes to social media for your company. Make sure you review your strategy on a regular basis, keeping an eye out for developments on each of the platforms that you use, so that you can utilise these advancements. Also, as your business grows, so too will your requirements when it comes to social media. What channels you may have initially disregarded, you may find use for as your company grows.
Most of all, don’t be afraid to experiment. As a start-up, the early stages are all a big learning process, and that counts for social media marketing too, and, you only truly grow by making mistakes and learning from them.