Everyone knows how important brand is. A brand is the bunch of ideas and feelings your customers – and your employees – have about you.
The stronger and more positive those ideas are, the more they’ll buy from you, and the longer they’ll remain loyal to you.
But what are the steps to significantly enhance a brand for a small business in Canada?
Big companies invest extensively in building their brands, and the ones who do it best tend to last longer and make more profit.
But because brands are made of ideas and feelings, they’re tricky things and hard to control. The best brands are natural things, whose meaning grows organically over time. They’re authentic, growing out of the reality of their company or product. They’re the soul of the company, not mechanical constructs created by advertising agencies or brand consultancies.
That makes branding difficult for big companies. Many big organizations have no obvious soul – particularly those that have grown through mergers, or have expanded beyond their home country or original product, or have hit hard times commercially.
Small businesses, on the other hand, are ideally placed to build the best possible brands.
Often they’re founder-led, or family-owned, which makes the company a very personal thing. Values tend to be woven into the business. In a small business, there’s no need for a brand rulebook. The organization is small enough for all of its people to touch and understand the brand.
So why doesn’t every small business have a strong brand? Here are five things small companies often get wrong – and how to correct them.
1. Not Thinking About the Brand
Many companies just don’t think about their brand at all. They focus on the day-to-day, internal aspects of their business: their craft, their product, their technology – not on the ideas and feelings in people’s minds out there in the world.
Solution: every three months, step back from the day-to-day issues, bring some customers in, listen to them, find out what they value most about you.
2. Big Spenders
Others think they can build their brand just by improving the website, tweeting and running adverts. But the ideas and feelings in people’s minds are influenced much more by reality than by communication.
Solution: switch your spend from advertising into creating an outstanding experience for your customers, online and offline, from the moment they first encounter you. And, in your advertising, give people useful content, not empty sales talk.
3. Not Communicating the Brand Values to Employees
Many small companies fail to spread their brand thinking widely enough. The soul of the company is totally clear to the founder, but less so to their employees. The founder gets frustrated because their people are doing it wrong, and the people get frustrated because they don’t know what the right way is.
Solution: write down your brand values in 100 words or less.
4. Failing to Innovate
Often, small companies stay with a successful formula, even when it’s no longer successful. They don’t innovate, and they gradually become outdated. Brands are curious things: they partly depend on consistency and predictability, so that customers know what to expect, but they also thrive on novelty.
Solution: every six months, try something new. Get a new service or product out into the world. Think of it as a prototype, and learn from it.
5. Being Too Secretive
Many small companies are surprisingly insular. They like to do things themselves, in their own way. They keep their methods secret. But consumer culture today is much more open. People want to see behind the scenes, they want to share the secrets, they want to make things as well as consuming them.
Solution: whatever it is your company does, share it with your customers to help them feel like insiders and spread the brand.
Through these five suggestions, any small business can increase its impact in the world, and make a small company into a big brand.
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Or do you own a small business with employees? Download Olympia's Beginner's Guide to Group Health Spending Accounts.