By David Inskeep, SCORE
Consumers today are increasingly bombarded with information yet have less and less time to process it. That’s why every small business needs a brand—a fundamental message or impression about its products or services that punches through the clutter and anchors itself in the customer’s memory.
Just how important is branding to a small business? Longtime marketing consultant and SCORE mentor Mike Scotto says it can create a loyal following of customers and build a solid customer base for the business now and in the future.
“It’s always easier and more cost effective to sell to an existing customer than it is in attracting a new one,” he says. Constant Contact, Inc. says 90% of new business comes from referrals, so work your existing customer base rather than spending money and time trying to attract new ones that probably won’t come to you anyway.
Branding starts by identifying the business you are in, how you serve your market and who your customers are, and how you want them to be treated. It emphasizes the benefits of your product or service rather than just the features.
“By understanding your market, your customers and your competition, you can begin to create a ‘competitive edge’ that is consistently and constantly reinforced in all your internal and external communications,” Scotto adds. “Branding also involves consistency right down to the type face and design you use in advertising and communication materials.”
At the same time a good branding strategy should also be flexible. Monitor how well your brand resonates with your key clients and be prepared to tweak your message as necessary. Also keep an eye on what your competitors are doing but avoid responding hastily to any changes they may make. What works for one company may not work for another, despite their apparent similarities.
Always look for ways to reinforce your brand. A good option is through a blog, where you can regularly share timely information and insights about your industry with current and prospective customers. Blogs also serve as a forum to discuss trends affecting your customers, and what they need to know about addressing them. Over time, your blog readers will increasingly look to you as an expert they can trust, whether they currently need your product and service or not.
To learn more about branding and other marketing matters for your small business, contact SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business.” SCORE is a nonprofit organization of more than 11,000 volunteers who provide free, confidential business mentoring and training workshops to small business owners and employees. To find the SCORE chapter nearest you or to chat with a mentor online, visit www.score.org or locally www.hutchscore.org.
David Inskeep is a retired commercial lender and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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