As savvy business owners, we know thereís more to creating a successful brand than simply slapping a spiffy logo onto our business cards and then handing them out with a smile.
Yet many of us do exactly that, then just kick up our heels and relax. We think serious ďbrandingĒ is something that only multimillion-dollar companies do. We imagine such companies with teams of branding professionals, sitting around all day creating clever slogans and writing catchy commercials.
Eventually we realize that branding isnít about exorbitant budgets or requiring a small army of marketing professionals. Itís about creating an experience for your customers and building relationships. Itís about giving your clients more than they expect and earning their trust. Itís about making a promiseóand then keeping it. As a small-business owner, you have an advantage that the conglomerates donít have: the opportunity to deal with all of your customers face to face. Your clients have a direct connection to youóthe very soul of which makes your brand different from that of everyone else.
Beefing up your brand doesnít have to cost a fortune and need not require hours of business strategizing. It can be as easy as acknowledging that you are your brand. Itís you that people invest in. Everything you do either contributes to, or takes away from, the promise you make to your clients. Bolster your brand at its source. Here are five quick tips to jump-start Brand You.
1. Position yourself as an expert. Offer classes at your studio. Teach for a local continuing-education program. Write product reviews, testimonials, and tutorials, and submit them for publication. Because sharing your skills helps you stay on your toes, not only will you ensure that youíre on top of your game, youíll simultaneously build trust for your brand by becoming a trustworthy authority.
2. Communicate well, and communicate often. Everything you do sends a message that either supports, or takes away from, your brand. Returning phone calls and emails quickly sends one message; waiting until the last minute, or ignoring those phone calls and emails altogether, sends another.
Regularly contacting clients to keep them posted on their event or order status sends the message that youíre thinking of them. It shows them that theyíre important and valued. Once youíre aware of the messages youíre sending, youíll have control over what you communicate. Good communication builds your brand by reinforcing a good relationship.
3. Be accessible. Make it easy for clients to reach you. Make sure your contact information is easy to find, either in the phone book or listed prominently on your website. If youíre on location more often than youíre in the studio and you donít have someone to answer the phones, consider getting a business cell phone rather than a landline number.
This doesnít mean you are obligated to take calls around the clock, but it does make it easy to stay in touch when you are on the job. If you want people to consider your brand accessible, start by making it easy for them to reach you.
4. Be cohesive. Build strength into your brand by being consistent. Choose a domain name that relates to your studio and is easy to remember. Set up email service through your hosting provider so that your email address matches your domain name. Having a professional website but a generic public email address sends a conflicting message about your brand.
Incorporate your studio concept or tag line into your promotional materials, your website, your voicemail greeting, and your email signatures. Be consistent in your packaging material. Focus on one concept or theme, and stick with it. You can always change it if it doesnít work, but go with one idea, one message at a time.
5. Reach out. Being active in your community is a great way to give people a sense of Brand You. It adds another dimension to the overall product you represent: your promise.
Itís also a great way to expand your network while reaching new circles of potential clients. Support your community, be active in the local fundraising scene, and put in some volunteer hours. Be the buzz that people canít help talking about!