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How small business owners can use their ‘brand’ as a tool to win customers

When was the last time you sat back and really thought about your brand? If you’re like most business owners it was probably when you started your business and needed to get a logo sorted for your website. But, your brand can be a tool to help your business grow, especially in uncertain economic times when customers are thinking harder than ever about how they spend their money. A brand can help you stand out from the competition, build trust, encourage people to buy from you, and keep them coming back for more.

So – how can you make sure you’re getting the most from your brand to support your small business ambitions…?

First of all, what is a brand?

To benefit from a brand, we need to be clear about what it is. When people think about ‘brand’ they tend to think about logos. But we need to learn from what really successful brands know – your brand has very little to do with your logo, in fact it exists in the mind of your customer and it’s how you make them feel. Yep, your brand is the sum of impressions created by all of a customer’s interactions with your business. Your brand is about your ‘touchpoints’ - the way your stuff looks (your logo, colours and images) but also about your customer experience, what you say on social media, how you answer the phone, what your office looks like, how you bill people, what your packaging looks like, how customers place an order or book your service… the list goes on.

harnessing emotion in business

People are not robots, we don’t make decisions about what to buy using rationale checklists. Great brands recognise that we are humans driven by our emotions. Brands are your plan for how you are going to make people feel about you. If your brand feels right, people are going to trust you, buy from you, come back for more and tell their friends!

So how can we use a brand to help our small business grow?

Branding is a huge and complex topic, but here’s a simple, step-by-step guide to beginning to harness the power of your brand...

1. Know your customer

If brands are about emotion, then using one successfully begins with understanding the people that matter most to your business – your customers. Creating ‘customer personas’ is a tried and tested way of getting closer to your customer. A customer persona is a fictional character that represents your target customer(s). Start by getting out some blank pieces of paper, and use the following headings to generate a set of personas:

  • Demographics: For example age, gender, marital status, geographic location, education, career information (or sector, industry, company size etc. if B2B)

  • Life and lifestyle: What kind of life are they living? What activities make up their day? What are their interests?

  • Goals: What are their current aims in life? What are they trying to achieve? What are their hopes, their dreams?

  • Challenges and pains: What's frustrating them? What are they worried about? What is in their way?

  • Your solution: How does your product/service make their life better?

2. Know your competition

Part of having a strong brand is to stand out from the competition. Do a quick review of your closest 3 to 5 competitors. Write down their name, website, pricing, social media habits, the way they deliver their product and their strengths and weaknesses. Once you’ve gathered the information, think about what makes you different – focus on your strengths and their weaknesses, think about the customers you described in your customer personas and focus on their hopes, dreams and what you want your customer to remember you for.

3. Write your brand story

This can be something that many business owners overlook. You already know your business, so why write down your brand story? It’s essential to look back at where your company came from, how it developed and why it exists. Write this in the form of a short story, starting with why you started (the problem you wanted to solve in the world) and how that has driven your business to where it is today. Storytelling is powerful because as human beings stories connect us and help us make sense of the world. Writing one will help you connect with your customers in an emotional way.

4. Define your brand positioning statement

Your brand positioning statement explains what your brand does, who you target, and the benefits of your brand, in a short, concise statement. It’s for use internally, and it helps focus your thinking. Drawing on your customer personas, competitor research and your brand story you can write a brand positioning statement using the following template sentence:

For [your target market] who [target market need], [your brand name] provides [main benefit that differentiates your offering from competitors] because [reason why target market should believe your differentiation statement.]

5. Define your brand values

Your brand values are an expression of who you are, how you want people to think and feel about you. They are an expression of your culture, ideals, ethics, principles and aspirations. They are used as a compass to guide everything about your brand, and design the experience you want customers to have when they interact with your business.

You’re weaving together what you’ve learned about your customers, your competition and your brand story. A great way to come up with your brand values is to imagine that your brand is a person, and describe the way that person acts - brand values are most powerful when they describe behaviours.

6. List and audit your touchpoints

With your brand values ready, it’s time to see what the gap is between your ideal and the reality. Start by making a list of all of your customer touchpoints - all of the ways customers interact with your business (visual identity including logo, colours as well as your website, social channels, phone, store, online ordering, invoice, staff etc.). Next, you can quickly ‘rate’ each touchpoint based on how well it makes your customers ‘feel’ like you want them to based on your brand values. At the end , you’ll have a prioritised list of areas of the business that need some attention!

7. Make your touchpoints deliver the experience you want for your customers

Finally, you can use your list of touchpoints you’ve rated to start making your brand work for you. Maybe you’ve discovered your logo and colours are out of date – you want people to feel ‘excited’ but you’re using a neutral colour palette. Or perhaps you need to retrain some of your staff in how you want customers to be greeted when they enter your store. Maybe you want people to feel you’re ‘proactive’ but you know you’re not getting quotes out fast enough, and you’re going to look into some automated quote software… remember your brand is about making everything work together to leave your customers purchasing time and time again!

There’s a lot to digest in all of that! I’m always ready to grab a coffee and talk about ways to grow your small business, including the power of brand! You can book a free session now!

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