Marketing And Branding For Small And Medium Sized Businesses
Twenty years ago and prior, building a brand name and developing a business strategy required a very different approach than today. With the internet being only in its’ infancy ( early 1991) where a URL at the time was referred to by its scientific name “Uniform Resource Locator”, businesses relied on tried and proven methods of developing their business name and their Brand Identity. We did much of our resource work in some historic places (and I joke…a bit), such as the Library, you could find volumes of information and indexes on business and “how to” deliver your brand and win clients as a small business. Some realities of doing business successfully and maintaining your base of clients was simply meeting and networking.
There would be no better way of building business back in the day like simple meet and greets and Walk Ins. I remember some of my best clients and relationships that I have developed over the years were from walking in cold to an unknown business and striking up a great conversation with the business owner. Some of those conversations I can still remember (and I know I’m dating myself) from their challenges to their expertise to their struggle to build their own Empire. The love for their businesses and ventures were apparent and I learned a lot. My father (my favourite all time resource for all things Marketing) always said and I quote “God gave us two ears and one mouth so we could listen twice as much as we speak”. I can tell you that advice has always served me well to today. Think of any great conversation that you have had with some of your best clients and you will recall a few open ended questions that you asked that sparked some amazing feedback from your client. Much of this feedback that we learned we use in our presentations today, either as examples or as shared anecdotes.
Since the 90’s, we have seen the introduction and meteoric rise of Internet use and even Social Media. Today there are more than 3 Billion people who use the internet on a daily basis. In addition with the advent of Social Media there are some pretty amazing stats. Below I have listed just of a few things that most of us aren’t aware of as business owners, but we should be:
Google Searches Monthly: 11.944 Billion
Twitter Users: 284 Million Monthly Active users
Facebook Users: 1.35 Billion Active users
Instagram Users: 200 Million Active users
Projected B2C Ecommerce Sales Worldwide 2014: 1.5 Trillion dollars
Based on these numbers, that continue to soar, you can quickly come to the realization of the importance of Branding and Brand building when planning your marketing strategy.
I have dealt with many clients over the years, some very forward thinking and dependant on technology, some not so much, but all the highly successful ones understand one thing, the need to change and to change quickly. This being said in order for a business to build a solid marketing and branding strategy there are a few items that should always be part of the mix. These items have not changed for many decades and need to be considered when building your brand.
What’s in a name?
As silly as this seems, your business name is of primary importance to your business and although it does not have to directly reflect what you do, there should be some relevance to it and some tie in. For e.g. Google is a household name, and although it may have a mathematical connotation to it meaning 1 followed by 100 zeros expressing the potential vastness of cyberspace. Let’s face it, to most, Google simply means to look, stare, glance, much of which we experience when using this Search Engine.
An interesting fact about Google:
Did you know that as of the end of October 2014 there are more than 11.944 Billion Searches performed on just Google. So is there relevance to being visible on Google as a SMB? The answer ABSOLUTELY!
What’s your Businesses goal?
I’m not referring to the touchy feely stuff either. Not to be the best at what you do, not to give great service etc., this should be a given. I mean what is your central focus in the market place. For e.g. If you are a plumbing contractor, what is your main focus for your new plumbing company, is it higher end plumbing work with large homeowners, or is it mid-range pricing for renovation jobs? As an SMB you need to determine this focus before you start in order to set your goal up front. Now this is not to say that your business goals won’t change over time, but the reality is going into business without any goals could be fatal for your small business from the outset. So set some goals for yourself and try to stick with them.
Determine where to market:
Some geographic areas when starting a small business can be quite competitive and others not so much. You need to determine the area that you will focus your efforts to avoid as much competition as you can but to ensure that you are not calling businesses that aren’t high potential. This you need to determine up front. Let’s face it, there is no point in avoiding competition in a market that is not interested in your product or service. The great thing about today’s technology is that you can be very specific in when and where you market. You can utilize Pay Per Click campaigns and Optimize keywords etc. to target your specific market before you sales people even step outside the door.
Remember your Website is your Business Billboard
Ensure you utilize this very important tool to your maximum benefit. Ensure your website has photos and lots of details about your business. Speak to what you do and be specific. Also try to ensure that you have a video as the big 3 search engines love this data and for the most part considers it relevant. As well ensure your website is RESPONSIVE! This simply means that your website will be viewable on all platforms, including desktop computers, laptops and on all Smart Phone platforms. Unfortunately for most businesses today, most sites are not built with responsive technology and most clients will not spend any time on them as searching is particularly difficult.
Build your brand and utilize sameness:
Some things never change, standardizing your logo, your tag line and what you do in as many places that business is done, will do a world of good for your start-up. Areas such as your Website, your Facebook page, your Twitter page should all reflect the same look and feel and promote the same message. This is important not only from a branding perspective, but as time goes on it will define your business as an individual and although some of the above may change, ensure that you mirror the same information on all venues that you do business in.
Article by Clint Thompson. Clint is the CEO of DigiHype Media Inc. located in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada