What makes customers loyal to a business? They want to buy from a brand that they believe in. Branding isn’t reserved for massive corporations with a multi-million-pound marketing budget. Small businesses need to invest in their brand to be noticed among the competition.
Seb Dean is the founder of Imaginaire Digital, an agency which specialises in refining companies' brands. ‘‘The power of branding is that it helps you stand out, particularly in crowded markets” he states; “having a focused brand allows you to resonate with your market and we've seen first-hand how this boosts customer loyalty.’’
However, red tape and regulations are severely limiting the time small businesses can spend developing their brand. In our recent survey, 53.6% of small business owners say admin and reports are the non-profit related tasks that take up most of their time. A mere 17.2% manage to spend more time working on their branding.
So how can you empower your small business with a strong brand? We’ve put together 10 ways you can strengthen your brand to attract new customers and keep existing ones coming back.
What is a Brand?
Before we get started on how to create a brand for your business, let’s first look at what a brand actually is.
A brand is something used in marketing to differentiate one business from its competitors. It can be made up of many different components, including a logo, colours, fonts, and even the tone of voice you use. All of these things contribute to your brand style – and this is how customers recognise you.
1) Understand Your Audience
The first step to building a successful brand is to understand your target audience. What is their age? What are their interests? Where do they shop and what do they expect from you as a business? You want to form a connection with your customers through a brand that resonates with them. If you own a sandwich shop where the lunchtime rush is your busiest period, your target audience could be workers wanting a speedy bite to each on their break. Survey your customers either through feedback forms or an online poll to find out a bit more about them.
2) Emphasise Values That Connect With Your Audience
Customers, now more than ever, are looking to buy from a business whose values reflect their own. Arya Bina, CEO and Founder Kobe Digital states that “the key to curating a successful brand stems from understanding your target market and forging a brand that aligns with their values”. These values could be ethical sourcing of your materials, only using locally produced meat in your food or believing that prices should always be transparent.
Outdoor clothing brand The North Face fiercely believe that the world is meant for exploring. This resonates with their audience of walkers, bikers, campers and general outdoor adventurers who also share this value. To commit to this, the brand produces high-quality clothing that allows their audience to explore the world in all weathers. This shared belief of both brand and customer means buyers remain loyal to The North Face, even with cheaper competition available.
3) Define Your Personality
Like humans, all brands are unique. They have their own personality, story and quirks. “Think of your brand as a person” claims Matthew Crole Rees, Head of Marketing at brand offshoot carfused.com; “Would he or she be the easy-going friend you can trust or the know-it-all relative who’s always there to help you?”
Just remember that you don’t have to be a “quirky” brand, such as Innocent, to have personality. Are you informative, reliable or fun? Are you the brand people turn to when they want something luxurious or are you always there to support your customers whatever their budget? For customers to form an emotional connection with your brand, there has to be a defining personality to attract them.
4) Outline What Makes you Different
Difference doesn’t have to mean the lowest price. Difference is how you add value that your competitors don’t. Since success is defined by what sets you apart, it's vital to incorporate your uniqueness into your branding.
Do you use a vintage method of production that hasn’t been used by competitors? Or perhaps you’re the only business that caters to that specific target market. The Startup Guys are a web design service that specifically targets startup businesses. Although they might be losing out on some customers, they can be sure that they’ll be the first port of call for startup businesses. Being strong in a particular area has more chance of helping your brand than spreading yourself too thin.
5) Establish Your Tone of Voice
Your tone of voice must be consistent at all points of contact customers could find you on. This stretches from social media to your promotional materials and is even reinforced by how you talk to customers. Take inspiration from how you defined your personality and use this as the foundations for your tone of voice.
“Your brand voice must be genuine, personable and consistent with your product as messaging”. says Adriana Lopez in Forbes. If a customer can relate to your tone of voice, trust is built which helps drive customer loyalty.
6) Choose a Colour Pallet that Reflects Your Personality
Colour is by far one of the most recognisable elements of your brand. The power of colour in branding is well established. A study titled Impact of Colour in Marketing found that a shocking 90% of snap judgements made about products can be based on colour alone.
So how do you choose the colour that’s right for you? As a snapshot, blue is usually perceived as a trustworthy and reliable colour (hence why it’s widely used in the banking industry), whilst red is a rebellious shade often used by innovative brands such as Virgin and Netflix. For more on colour inspiration, check out our post on the importance of colour in marketing here.
7) Keep your Design Consistent Across All Marketing Materials
It takes 5-7 impressions of a business for someone to remember a brand. To strengthen your foothold on the customer’s loyalty, you’ve got to give the best your brand can give across all touchpoints. Make sure your logo, tone of voice and designs are consistent across any print materials or online presence you have.
Tesco recently launched their first major food campaign since 2015, “Love Stories”, showcasing real-life characters presenting their favourite meals with a story behind each one. This ingenious marketing strategy has been spread across the country on every media channel possible. The characters each have their own television ad which is reinforced by billboards, and you can even pick up a copy of the recipes on a flyer in-store. Their messaging of a supermarket that provides real people with real food is consistently spread throughout your day resulting in a bullet-proof campaign.
8) Reinforce Your Brand with Reviews
Jon Gerzema showcased in his latest TedTalk what he described as “the post-crisis consumer” who isn’t shying away from purchasing as they were in the credit crunch but is instead searching for value. This “mindful customer” will take time researching your brand. 67% of the buyer’s journey is done online, meaning they might want to check out reviews of your restaurant on Facebook or examples of your product being used before they buy.
Ask people to leave reviews on your social media sites or Google My Business listing, since 90% of people are likely to trust a recommendation, you should spend time cultivating them.
9) Make a Promise That You Can Keep
As Dana DiTomaso famously quoted, “Your brand is your promise”. You want to make a promise to your customers that you’ll consistently deliver a service of set quality in order to gain their trust. Customers are disappointed when a promise is broken and you may not get a second chance. 48.40% of respondents from our survey said business reputation was their most valuable asset, which is inextricably interlinked to your promise.
Your brand can be built from promising to be the most reliable joinery service in your area, to being the fastest cake delivery service in your town. To put this into context, wherever you are in the world, you know what to expect from McDonald’s. Low-cost fast food with only slight variations of menu choice and their certain style of interior. They consistently deliver on their promise which makes them one of the world’s strongest brands.
10) Empower Your Customers
The best way to empower your business? Empower your customers. Each point above comes back to delivering a consistent message and service to your customers so they believe in your brand. What customers really want to know is how your business will benefit them. How will you make their lives better and how are you going to achieve this?
Using our above example of The North Face, their brand mission outlines what they will do to help their customers, and how they will do it: “The North Face delivers an extensive line of performance apparel, equipment, and footwear. We push the boundaries of innovation so that you can push the boundaries of exploration…The North Face will maintain an unwavering commitment to pushing the limits of design so that you can push your limits outdoors. Never Stop Exploring.”
By designing the most innovative outdoor clothing and equipment, the brand enables their customers to roam farther than ever before. What do you offer your customers?
Spending time developing and refining your brand is a worthwhile way to encourage customer loyalty. To truly engage with this new, “Mindful Customer”, small businesses must align themselves with the values and personality that customers are looking for. What’s your favourite brand and why? Let us know on twitter @instantprint.