Brands don’t just build themselves. That’s why we turned to the public relations gurus at Gutenberg Communicationsfor a lesson in successful brand building. From the importance of establishing your business’ message early on to the dangers of dishonest marketing down the line, they’re sharing some of the key branding essentials every small business owner should know. So grab a pen and paper and let’s get started…
1. What exactly does it mean to “build a brand”? What should every brand consist of?
Building a brand starts with a message. This message, or a few key messages, communicates who you are, how you want be perceived, and what you have to offer. Are you the most beloved clown in town because of your patience with children? Are you the most dedicated impersonator that never breaks character until you are home behind closed doors? To have a brand means that your customers know why your story is unique.
2. How might today’s small business owner go about creating a brand from scratch?
There is plenty a small business owner can do to create a brand from scratch. First, know the audience you want to reach. Are you a magician performing mostly for corporate parties? Or kids birthdays? Second, think about how and where to engage your audience by:
a. Crafting your key messages – How do you want to be perceived and what do you offer? Why are your services different? These are some of the critical questions you should be answering for clients.
b. Developing the foundational materials that help people understand your business – Consider all the things that will help you sell your service: a website, logo, tagline, YouTube video, your biography, and frequently asked questions about your work. Link your social media pages to your website. The key here is to be consistent in what you say on all platforms.
c. Identifying where your audience “hangs out” – Do they read parenting magazines? Does YouTube occupy 50% of their Internet surfing minutes? Do they comment on music blogs? Knowing this will help you when the time comes to interact with these individuals.
d. Creating a plan of activities to interact with your audience – This can include reaching out to the media, creating video content, or developing your digital presence on Facebook or Twitter. Mapping out where you want to post content and what that content should say ahead of time will ease the day-to-day pressures of client engagement.
Start slowly, but keep at it – brand-building takes time.
3. Now what if you've already established your business’ image? Is a brand something you should constantly be updating?
Steve Jobs once defined the essence of brand-building as “that chance to make a memory.” Creating that memory in the minds of your audience doesn'thappen overnight. It takes faithful repetition of the same messages over time. So, if you already have an established image, stick with it! Update or “rebrand” only when your core business goals change or if your current story is not resonating with the people you want to reach.
4. The competition among professionals in the event industry is fierce. How might one build a brand that’s distinctly unique from those of competing businesses?
Spend time gathering “intelligence.” Take a look at your competition; write a list of what they do and say about their businesses. Examine your own list and determine whether or not your messages are different from your competitors. In addition, ask clients to weigh in and explain why they decided to hire you or what they liked best about your show or service. The opinion of friends and fellow professionals can help, too. If you make a claim about your business, be sure to provide evidence. For example, if you say, “we are the best mariachi band in Los Angeles,” what makes you “the best?” Can you prove it? Showcasing customer testimonials and media coverage on your profile and website also builds credibility, helping you stand out from the crowd. Explore the several services GigMasters offers to promote your work, as well as the option for clients to refer you and rate you.
At the end of the day, it’s always best to be true to yourself and what you do. Don’t sacrifice who you are just to try and outrun the competition. Ultimately, it doesn't work.
5. If you could offer one piece of advice when building your brand— whether from the ground up or from a restoration standpoint— what would it be? And the biggest no-no?
One piece of advice: focus. In the age of social media, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with ever-increasing channels of communication. But, you don’t have to be everywhere at once. Do your research and identify the two or three channels that will best reach your audience. Maybe you are a photographer trying to reach wedding planners; start with engaging users on Pinterest. Then move to Instagram or create a strong blog on your website and explore from there how to drive traffic to your site. Focus on your key messages and the activities that will bring the most value to your business. Don’t be afraid to cut out anything that is not aligned with what you want to achieve in the long run.
The biggest no-no: building a brand that isn’t honest. With a service like GigMasters where many users can refer your services to others, you don’t want to create a brand that showcases one thing, while in actuality you offer something entirely different.
Gutenberg is a global strategic communications firm headquartered in New York City. They tell stories and create brands for organizations in emerging and local markets. For more information on their line of work (and a look at great branding in action!) visit http://www.gutenbergpr.com/.