Small businesses are often focused on delivering their product, dismissing “branding” as a lofty goal best left to large corporations. We often see this in clients who misconstrue what a brand is, believing their brand is something identifiable, such as a logo or tagline. In branding is about the unique aspects of your business: your unique values, your message, your culture and your behavior.
As a result, these companies initially don’t realize they already have a brand – and they’re not in control of it. A brand is something that needs to be worked on and communicated to custmers daily.
So what can you do about it this quarter?
Here are three short-term actions with that will set you up for long-term branding & growth potential.
1. Engage your customers in dialogue.
Client experience is perhaps the most powerful aspect of your brand. This is the full package: your product, services, staff interactions, and feelings this combination evokes.
How do you know how your customers are reacting to your brand? Ask! Formal inquiries – surveys, custom market research – are great, but don’t underestimate the power of informal inquires. Talk to your customers. Ask what they like about working with you and where there is room for improvement. Ask why they sometimes choose a competitor over you. Then take action. Lots of clients wish you were open later? Change your hours, or begin accepting orders online so customers can access your product at any time. Not only will this feed your product innovation, but it will also create a community of loyal customers who are thrilled to be a part of your decision-making/innovation process.
2. Be proactive.
Don’t wait until you lose business to make changes. Keep business by keeping up with client preferences. Your dialogue with clients should inform your innovations. Sometimes, though, you come up with a great idea no one has asked for yet. Take a controlled risk by piloting it with a core group of clients or for a short period of time. Then, again, ask what they thought and iterate based on his feedback.
In the same regard, don’t wait for your competition to catch up. If you are an industry leader, don’t get complacent and forget you need to get better everyday.
Finally, do not get trapped in a commodities race. If you competitors drop their price to gain market share, do not react by dropping yours. Instead, try to communicate why you are the right choice, even if you are more expensive.
3. It’s about growth, not change.
Growth is something every business is trying to achieve. But growth does not alway need to mean change. It is important to be aware of the community of advocates your have built in your years of business. Trying to grow the business and attract a new set of customers should not alienate your existing customer base. It comes down to a commitment of customer service and delivering value with each transaction.