If you’ve read the previous articles on social media & content marketing, you know I made this post to help local businesses to grow. Branding is another marketing term that small businesses might not know what to do with or they think it’s only for the bigger brands or companies. And they are wrong. Everyone can create a brand & use marketing to their advantage. No matter how small the business or budget.
Branding is another marketing term that small businesses might not know what to do with or they think it’s only for the bigger brands or companies. And they are wrong. Everyone can create a brand & use marketing to their advantage. No matter how small the business or budget.
Branding is no different. It’s okay if you start with DIY’ing your own branding but when you get to that point you want to take things to the next level, you need to work with a professional. In this post I’ll explain why you want to invest in your branding, how it’ll help you grow locally & how it makes a difference. This is THE ultimate guide to branding for local businesses.
WHAT IS BRANDING
First up, I want to define branding so you know exactly what your getting yourself into. The business dictionary describes it as:
“The process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumers’ mind, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers.”
Branding isn’t just the logo or company identity, it’s also the tone of voice of a brand or company. It’s what they stand for. It’s their brand values. It’s the uniqueness that sets it apart from others in the same branche. All of that together is the branding of a company or brand. Together it creates an image of how it wants to be perceived by their ideal clients.
DIY branding vs professional branding
Branding is a profession on its own but that does not mean you have to invest a lot of money straightaway. You can definitely start off by DIY’ing your own branding in the beginning but if you want to take things to the next level & grow locally than you need to have a professional brand designer your small business.
As a small business you probably compete with not only other small local businesses in your area, you most likely also compete with bigger brands. To grow locally you need to focus on your strengths & enlarge them in your branding. Just because a bigger brand or company has more budget than you do, doesn’t mean you can’t create a kickass, strategic local brand.
BRANDING FOR LOCAL BUSINESSES
You know why people go for brands & companies that have a clear branding? Because branding creates trust & it makes your brand or company look more professional.
People — especially younger ones who are more lifestyle driven — love small businesses that stand for something that lines up with their own lifestyle & values. But people also love places where the community comes together. I think that’s what sets branding for local businesses apart from the big guns. You still need to be consistent with your branding like them, but your brand touchpoints are so much closer to the community. For big brands it’s about brand awareness, for small businesses it’s about local reputation among your ideal clients.
HOW YOU CAN BUILD YOUR LOCAL BRAND
So how do you grow locally with branding? Here are tips to build your local brand:
Strategically defined local brand
First off: don’t let the marketing terms scare you off! A brand strategy can be simple as long as it’s thought through. Here are some key points that will set your local branding apart from your competitors:
• Make it personable
Like I said before, your biggest USP is that you are personally involved in the community. This is what drives local businesses & it’s something that most big brands or companies can’t replicate. However, your local competitors have this same power. So think about all the businesses in your area — and your own — who they would be as a literal person. Use this to give your branding the personal touch it needs.
• Have brand values & key message(s)
To make sure you get the right message across, you need to have brand values & key messages that you can communicate. This can be a slogan like ‘but first, coffee’ or ‘taste the feeling’. Something that wraps up what your local business stands for. But it can also be a standard one or two sentences that make clear what your business is about. One local business I created a logo for — Social Media Interactie — has the key message ‘making online marketing affordable for ambitious women’. It’s simple & it gets the message across.
• Have fun & be bold
The beauty with branding for local businesses is that there is room for errors & you can try things. Where a big brand or company might need to go through approval rounds, you can just try something out. Be strategically fun & bold.
You know what another upside is of branding for local businesses? Your targeting area is very narrow & niche. Where a Coca-Cola might target a big range of different people, a local business can have a very niche ideal client. Which means a smaller targeting audience & less money to be wasted. Facebook advertising is a great tool to get the most out of your marketingbudget & to grow locally.
However, don’t just focus on online options. Local small businesses have the opportunity to go out & interact with the community. Do you have bloggers or influencers in your area? Make contact online & invite them to visit your business. Any local papers or magazines in your town or city? Get in contact with their marketing & PR department or mingle with the journalists. Free publicity or paid advertorials are a great way to build local brand awareness.
“Don’t just focus on online options. Local small businesses have the opportunity to go out & interact with the community.”
In real life brand touchpoints
And that brings me to the in real life brand touchpoints. Guess what your local business has that most bigger brands or companies would die for? A close connection to your ideal client that you can actually monitor closely. Sure bigger brands or companies can hire people & train them but being actually in contact with real human clients is different.
Remember the brand values & key messages that I mentioned above? You can use them whenever you get in touch with your ideal client to build connections & your local brand. Make sure you don’t throw a ‘taste the feeling’ out there all the time. But whenever you get in contact with a customer build the experience around your branding. Get them to taste the feeling.
Another thing you can do as a small business owner is to show up at local events or festivities. Whether it’s actually selling goods or services or attending it as a member of the community, show your face & engage. Promote the event in your store & let people know that you’re going to be there.
Digital branding for local businesses
In this day & age even the smallest businesses should be online. There are a couple of basics you need to check off your online brand touchpoints list to strength your local brand:
Make sure you have at the very least a simple, one page website with information about your local business. Make sure that you communicate your brand values, key messages, what you do & any other practical information like when you open. When you work with a brand designer, ask them if they also do websites. If they do, that’s great! If they don’t, take all your brand elements — a brand guide is even better — to a website designer. This way she or he can create a website that matches your branding.
Social media channels
Social media is something on its own. Your online brand is not complete these days without it. I know it’s a lot to take on as a small business owner so make sure you commit to a schedule you can be consistent with. Check on every channel you want to use — keep in mind where your ideal client is — if the same username is available. You don’t want to use different usernames on every platform. This makes it hard for your ideal clients to find you. Second thing you need to do is to go to your brand designer & let them create all the materials you need for social media that will match your branding. Think of banners, avatar or even a template for your content.
If you want to know more about online brand touchpoints, read this article on my blog.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BRANDING FOR LOCAL BUSINESSES
Branding sets your local small business apart from your competitors. It gives a face to your business that people can relate to — visually but also on a value level. Not only does it set you apart, people trust & are more willing to do business with local businesses that have a clear branding. As a local business it might seem like too much: too much of a fuss, too much of an investment or too much for big multinationals. And it’s none of the above.
Branding should feel natural, like it’s part of the business. You don’t need a huge budget to create branding for local businesses. And it’s extremely important for small businesses to grow locally.
To be honest, it’s actually more for local businesses than it is for big brands & companies. It’s much easier to find the heart of the business. The thing that your ideal client can connect with. And once that connection with the community is created, it’ll turn them into loyal customers.
And that’s a wrap on the series! This was the last article in the three-part Local Business Marketing Series.
If you want to work on your social media, check out this post on how to use social media to grow locally. If you want to take your content to the next level, than check out this article on content marketing for local businesses.
I hope the series will help your local business grow locally & that it makes these marketing terms easier to understand. And also easier to get why you need to invest in them.
If you need help with your branding, social media strategy or content marketing, send me a message.
I’m the woman for all of the above! We can talk about branding for local businesses & how it can drive customers to your small business. Or how social media is not just something you need to do something with. Or how content creation makes all the difference, even on a local level.