Branding is a lot more than choosing a font and tweaking your logo. It goes to the very heart of who you are as a company. It’s your values, what you stand for, and what your audience means to you (or at least it should be). At the same time, it can be hard to know exactly how to create a brand with true staying power and authenticity. How do you get all those creative ideas out there and communicate them with your audience? How do you stop yourself from looking and feeling like an imposter?
Here are some strategies to help you create a brand for your micro business that has inherent value. Why? Because it’s a lot easier to market and fund a brand that’s already valuable. Make your brand your value proposition in 2018.
Social enterprise & ethical commerce
People like to buy from ethical businesses. Look at brands like TOMs, The Body Shop, and Lush — they have all made ethics a core part of their brand. They have a loyal following who support the business and its ethical goals at the same time.
And you don’t have to be a big mega-corporation to make this strategy work — ethical brands are often developed from the ground up, perfect for your blooming micro business. Get people to buy into an idea and a worldview as much as a physical product or service offering.
Environmentalism, veganism, charitable causes, Fair Trade — can elements of your products or services appeal to people who care about these causes? Is there a cause you feel passionately about that you’d like to openly endorse?
Even just looking to your suppliers and changing the way you operate as a business is a great way to start implementing change. If your brand is new, then you have the perfect opportunity to start from a clean slate.
People who support ethical brands are often passionate consumers and brand advocates, but with this passion comes accountability. They will need to feel that you genuinely understand and support the causes that you publicize, not that you’re just doing it as a cheap marketing hack.
Create a community through content
Content marketing is not just a way to make more money and sell people things — it’s also a way to build bridges and forge connections. So many people fail to recognize the centrality of content to branding — yet it’s often what drives customer impressions.
Constructing a community around your brand will result in sales (of course — that’s part of the point), but the content driver needs to be information and knowledge sharing, not pushing sales.
- Content curation is an easy way to show your audience that you care about them. By acting as a gatekeeper and bringing them information, you are doing people a service (for free). Just make sure you’re bringing stuff to the table that’s actually really useful. A tool like Scoop.it can help you mine the internet for relevant stories
- User-generated content is a surefire way to bring people closer to your brand, and it’s a strategy that’s easy to implement on a smaller budget. All you really need to do is to find a hook that’s going to get people sharing, and then be brave enough to put yourself out there. Be prepared to do some ‘content seeding’ to get the ball rolling.
- Video and emotive storytelling go hand in hand, so be sure to embrace this content format in order to get your brand story out there. No longer at the mercy of expensive video production agencies, brands can now ‘go live’ and share their own video content from their smartphones and laptops
- Use your social media accounts as a place to come and meet your customers, and don’t just use them as a broadcast channel for pushing out your own marketing messages! Approach social media as a customer service encounters channel rather than just a marketing one.
- Even customer reviews can be a way for people to interact with each other around your brand — the more reasons you get people to stay around on your site, the better.
Offer something for free
A free incentive can help your brand messages spread like wildfire, but ‘something for free’ should be more than just a cheap marketing trick. A free gift like an ebook or a sample can be a powerful way of sharing your company message, so don’t waste a golden opportunity to share with people what you’re really about.
A free event is a great way to bring your brand into the world in a positive way, and shows that you care about the industry and people around you. Whether you invite VIP customers or clients, the whole community, prospective clients, suppliers, or associates, just make sure that the event is centered around their needs.
Recycle and minimize waste
We have too much already. Too much of everything. Stop the brand binge cycle and have a make do and mend attitude. Recycle your office furniture, or rent a desk at an ethical co-working space. Buy an existing business and get that one off the ground yourself. Re-purpose and update old content, and don’t feel the need to always create new things from scratch.
You can also ‘recycle’ old ideas. Old histories, narratives, wisdom — they’re timeless for a reason. After all, you want your brand to feel more like an old classic, rather than just the new kid on the block.
Help people dream and achieve better things
The best brands are the ones that make other people better. Even if you’re ‘only’ getting their van serviced or fixing their hair — if you make your brand about the big things, people will care. A good brand knows how essential its work is to people’s lives and isn’t afraid to show it.
Basecamp know that running a business can sometimes make you feel like your hair’s on fire! Their software helps take care of the little things (that add up to a whole lot of stuff when you run a business). A witty ad or landing page can help people see the funny side of things and will help position your micro business as a friendly helper.
It’s the small things that can make a big difference. Extra-special customer experiences and client perks will make people talk about your brand. It could be something simple as a great email, a free gift with an order,or a phone call to remind them about something important. Showing that you care in the little ways shows that you care in the big ways too.
Think about what you’re doing
It’s so easy in the everyday hubbub to forget to stop and think about your actions. Ask yourself — why am I helping people run better blogs? Or helping people buy better home insurance? What’s my purpose here?
People always have marketing & sales goals — so what about your branding goals?
It’s important to be intentional about creating a brand in 2018. With every corner coffee shop and retailer becoming a ‘brand’, you have to stand out from all the noise and focus on serving your audience well.
Don’t try to create a global corporation or brand that everyone will like — even corporate brands didn’t start out as ‘corporate’! It’s much more important that people develop an authentic brand connection with you instead.
Don’t be afraid to see your micro business evolve over the course of the year — that’s a natural part of the process too.
When you get down to formulating your micro business’s brand, ensure that you have a thorough understanding of where you’re headed. Before you get distracted by fancy color schemes and fonts, think about the bigger picture for a second. If you spend time, money, and effort on creating value first, you will find that you will have to work a lot less hard to get your brand out there.