5 Branding Tips for Small Businesses on a Budget
:: By Pamela Webber, 99designs ::
Developing a strong, widely recognized brand takes a considerable amount of investment. Small businesses, especially those just starting out, often need to conserve their modest budgets for operating costs, and are hesitant to invest resources on branding, as it can be difficult to predict a favorable return on investment (ROI). Still, branding can have huge impacts on a company’s profits, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. So, how do you balance the risk of investing in your brand, make sure you get the best value, and maximize your profits? Take a look at these five tips.
#1 Outsource Globally
Start by establishing a look and feel for your brand. The world is filled with talented people, and the technology exists to connect with them, no matter where they are. Use this global connectivity to an advantage. Small businesses on a tight budget that need, for example, a new logo or slogan before launching or releasing a new product can reach out to talented graphic designers, artists and copywriters around the world via crowdsourcing sites and marketplaces. These professionals can help small business owners develop their brand, are open to their creative needs and offer competitive prices. Being a small business doesn’t mean they’re not part of the global economy, so they should use it wisely to start building their brand.
#2 Send Newsletters
For many small business owners, the idea of publishing a regular newsletter might seem daunting. However, emails that offer engaging content sent directly to customers offer the potential of high ROI for relatively little investment. The key is to be timely and relevant. For example, capitalize on the cultural narrative by tying in current news trends with a brand's product or services. Seizing on topics that dominate current conversations – the Super Bowl, unusually hot weather or National Hot Dog Day – are excellent ways to establish common ground with customers before promoting a value proposition. That being said, it is best to stick with topics that are relevant to a brand and its audience. Well-crafted newsletters that reach out to consumers on a consistent basis – daily, weekly or monthly – remain one the most inexpensive and powerful tools for small business owners.
#3 Leverage Social Media
Just because a small business has a Facebook page doesn't mean it is leveraging the full power of social media. Different social media channels engage with consumers in different ways, and this means brands must tailor their content and conversations for each specific social media platform – from Facebook and Instagram to Pinterest and Twitter. Create customized content that appeals to consumers using each particular channel. Instagram and Pinterest are best for visual content. Content that combines images and captions or longer prose is ideal for Facebook, while short, brief comments and insights are perfect for Twitter. Content must be compelling. Images should be artful and in high resolution. Sentences should be grammatically correct and dynamic. Tweets should be clever with prudent use of tags and hashtags. Videos on everything from Snapchat to Periscope should offer viewers a unique message conveyed through a compelling directorial vision.
#4 Crowdsource from Customers
Crowdsourcing presents small businesses with a unique and powerful opportunity to engage consumers and create brand ambassadors by simply asking them for their thoughts, opinions and ideas. People love expressing their emotions, and brands that reach out to consumers and solicit their input generate excellent ROI through insights from their own target audiences. Small business owners should use websites and social media channels to solicit feedback and offer surveys and contests that gather consumer feedback on everything from a new logo design or product name to customer service or website navigation. If a small business owner wants to know what their consumers are thinking, they should ask them.
#5 Collaborate Locally
Small businesses that become part of the local business community are more successful when it comes to attracting customers. Identify and contact other small businesses that share your (or parts of your) consumer base. Think synergy. Working with others is an important skill that we learn early in our lives, as the collective power of many is stronger than the power of any one individual. Whether it’s a catering company joining forces with a wedding photographer or a regional real estate company combining resources with a local landscaper, teaming up offers consumers a more impactful and seamless experience, and a happy customer base means more revenue.
Pamela Webber is Chief Marketing Officer at 99designs where she heads up the global marketing team responsible for driving customer acquisition and increasing lifetime value of customers.