How do you build a Smart Brand when you’re on a budget? Is it even possible? Of course, it is! You just need to be mindful about how you go about creating and maintaining your brand.
Whether you’re a startup or an established business, proper branding provides the foundation you need to move the needle in your business. Unfortunately, money is the number one reason I hear that small businesses don’t brand or rebrand when needed. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to keep some cash in your pocket if you’re willing to think outside the box and are prepared to roll up your sleeves and get busy. Here are just a few ways you can get started.
Craft your message.
Take some time to think about what it is that makes you stand out from others in your industry. Create a one liner that defines your big idea and a few supporting sentences that explain what problem you are solving, for whom, and why. This key messaging should be showcased everywhere your customers encounter your business—in your social media profiles, on your business cards, on your website, and especially in how you talk to people. Consistency in messaging is key—it allows you to establish awareness and build trust with your prospects and clients. Learn more about crafting your message here.
Take stellar selfies.
Yes, selfies. As a small service-based business, you are your brand in many ways. And that little black box you carry around in your pocket or purse is an amazing branding tool that you’re already paying for. For the most part, the image quality from current mobile phone cameras is website and social media worthy. All you have to do is bring your A-game and get creative. Natural lighting works best, so capture your photos next to windows, or better yet, go outside and shoot with a natural background. Experiment facing in different directions to see how the light shines on your face. Try different angles—it might feel awkward, but you’ll be surprised at what the lens sees! Change your clothes once or twice, and be sure to investigate the various photo modes on your phone which can produce some very cool results. Go for the WOW! factor in each pose, and if your arm gets tired, ask a friend to help! When you are warmed up from shooting you, turn the lens around and capture some shots of your workspace!
Build your own website.
Your website is your online home base and should reflect well on you and your business. More importantly, if you don’t have a website, people will assume that your business has nothing to offer. There are many free (or nearly free) online tools that can help you build and maintain your own site—Google Sites, Squarespace, and WordPress to name a few. Most offer pre-made templates that you can customize to your own visual identity, but make sure you choose the tool that will allow your site to evolve and grow with your business—because that’s the goal, right? Hosting your website will cost you, but typically these fees are minimal, sometimes as little as $7 or $8 per month depending on what your website needs to run smoothly and securely.
Social media not only helps you stay in touch with prospects and customers in your circle and beyond, but it also provides great branding and marketing opportunities. Set up your various profiles with the messaging and selfies we talked about above. Then, develop some targeted, well-planned posts to create a buzz around your business and your offerings for zero cost. Be consistent! Which platform—or platforms—should you focus on? Facebook? LinkedIn? Instagram? There are so many to consider, so find out which ones your ideal customers are hanging out on and start there!
Email your tribe.
Email marketing is one of the most versatile brand-building tools you can have in your back pocket. Your email contact list can be segmented based on a person’s interests, purchase history, demographics, location or any other variable, and you can send individual messages to specific audiences at any time. Most email marketing platforms offer templates to help you build good looking emails and integrate analytics to show you who is opening emails and clicking on links, which help you gauge which emails are working and which aren’t. MailChimp has a free basic plan that can get you started while you grow your email list (ActiveCampaign and Constant Contact are also noteworthy options). Always be looking for opportunities to grow your contact list and make plans to communicate and nurture those on your list so that when they’re ready to buy, they know just who to turn to.
Grow your brand authority.
Another cost-effective way to build your brand is through networking, giving talks, and participating in events. Your local Chamber of Commerce is the first place I recommend you start networking. Joining a Chamber of Commerce allows you to reach out to other local businesses, gather resources, and build alliances. Attend events that are related to your field of work or better yet, participate in your industry’s trade organization; they likely put together seminars and conventions that allow local business owners to speak at them. The more exposure you have as an expert in your field, the better you’ll be able to grow your brand. If you don’t have the gumption for speaking gigs just yet, consider starting a podcast where you interview influential people within your field. You’ll build your authority while showcasing others.
(For a list of 100 Ways to Market Your Business, click here.)
It’s no secret that strategic branding can be a bigger investment than what some business owners are willing—or able—to make. But with a little resourcefulness and sweat equity in the steps outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to building a powerful brand that positions you for success.