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But, what exactly is a brand? According to Entrepreneur, “(s)imply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’.”
So, how do you go about effectively branding your business? Here are 5 ways that you can build your brand today, without emptying your pockets:
1. Cue the elevator pitch. If you asked someone what their business was, and they stumbled through a mess of an explanation, what would your perception of that professional (and consequently the brand) be? Have a short pitch (less than 30 seconds) ready to go, summarizing what your business is and how your offer helps consumers or other businesses. Stay away from industry jargon and focus on being clear and concise in everyday terms. Practice frequently to ensure a confident, smooth delivery the next time you’re approached about what you do, and try to end with a question to keep the conversation going.
2. Make sure you’re presenting a unified brand. Color is important! Who doesn’t recognize the green and yellow tractors of John Deere? You don’t even have to see the logo to know when you’re stuck behind one on Rt. 15! Use your logo on everything! Letterhead, social media profile pages, email signature lines, business cards, and everywhere else it makes sense. It’s also important to make sure everything looks uniform. Make sure your online and off-line presence are well branded and easily recognizable-not only by consistent color schemes and design styles, but also by the voice your brand uses to communicate with your customers.
3. Use social listening tools. Hootsuite and Twitter both have free tools that allow you to “listen in” on what your customers are saying in social media land. Track hashtags and brand mentions, see what’s being publicly discussed about your brand, and keep an eye on what’s trending in your niche. Take the opportunity to jump into conversations related to your industry and field when you have something of value to add, but don’t overdo it, or you’ll risk becoming background noise.
4. Offer superb customer service. How helpful is it when you comment on a business’ social media profile page with a question or suggestion and you never get a response? Are you likely to keep returning? Not me! Who likes to be ignored? Treat your online customers the same way you would treat your in-person customers. Do you let your phone ring 12 times before you answer it? How long do you leave a customer waiting to be helped at your counter? Think of your online presence as your store counter – you must be there and help everyone who stops by. Be courteous and engaging with your fans, followers, and customers. Someone posted a complaint? Jump on it as fast as possible (a couple of hours may be too long!), apologize for their experience, show empathy, and take the issue off-line. You won’t please everyone every time, but your efforts to make it right won’t go unnoticed. Others will see you interacting with your customers and seeking to fix any issues as they arise, and this reflects well on you.
5. Build your personal brand. Don’t think that your brand will sell itself. You, and how you present yourself, are as important as what you’re offering. Think about who you are. Play to your strengths. What do you want to be known for? Your behavior matters. Be nice, be respectful, be as generous as you can afford to be, and listen to others. Join volunteer projects in the community that is supporting you, network with other area professionals, support local causes. Your personal brand isn’t just about what you do, but how you go about it.
Focus on building your brand and put yourself out there to grow your business.