BBB Small Business Advice: Develop Your Brand to Bring in Customers

  
     
July 16, 2008

 Advertising spending worldwide is forecasted to reach $600 billion this year, a 20 percent increase from 2006. A company’s brand helps differentiate it from competitors, builds loyalty among customers and solidifies its credibility.
 Because it’s not just large corporations that need to pay attention to the importance of branding, the BBB is offering advice for small business owners on developing, refining and enforcing a company’s DNA through a brand strategy.

Develop the Brand
 Define the company. Small business owners must first dedicate time to defining the business and crafting the desired image to portray to the public. Perhaps the brand is focused on timely service, low prices or even as being environmentally friendly. A brand can encompass more than one idea – such as personal service at a great value – but too many concepts may be hard to deliver on and will confuse the public.
 Identify the customer. Aside from looking inward at the company, a business owner needs to look outward and consider the clientele he or she wants to attract. Is the customer younger or older, tech savvy or computer illiterate, NASCAR lovers or polo players? Once customers are identified, a business owner must consider what is important and base the brand around those ideals.
 Consider the competition. Every business has competition and that competition also has a brand to maintain. A small business owner also needs to consider the brands of their competition and how to capitalize on the differences to potentially reach out to a different customer base.  

Refine the Brand
 Get a second opinion. After developing an initial idea for the company’s brand positioning and personality, business owners should share their thoughts with employees, management and loyal customers to make sure the branding concepts are easy to understand, unique and can be delivered on. 
 Use buzzwords. When crafting language to support the brand, such as a tag line or Web site and advertising text, business owners should consider using strong buzzwords that will resonate with their customers. Identify buzzwords by spending time on the Internet searching for keywords and researching other company branding efforts to find out what works for them. The BBB cautions against using trendy terms. Look for strong, timeless words that will outlive fads.
 Consider the aesthetics. Developing a brand isn’t just about words. Type faces, ink colors, images and other graphic elements are important in delivering your brand message and image.

Enforce the Brand
 Employee training. The success of the brand rests on delivering results, and all employees play a key role. A brand isn’t just about words or a logo; it is reinforced or damaged depending on how the staff carries itself and how customers are treated. Employees must be properly trained on how to communicate the brand in their day-to-day operations.
 Emphasize the logo. A logo plays an extremely important role in expressing the company’s positioning. The Nike swoosh and McDonald’s golden arches are examples of how a logo comes to identify the company. The company logo should support the brand and appear on everything the customer sees including advertising, business cards, signs and e-mails.
 Maintain consistency. After undergoing a branding or rebranding effort, it’s easy to fall asleep at the wheel and not consider maintenance of the brand and brand compliance. While this verges on the nitpicky, business owners need to continually be aware of the use of language, fonts, colors and images to ensure that they all work together in support of the brand, and to reinforce the brand in the minds of consumers.
 For more small business advice on topics such as developing and maintaining customer satisfaction, and other best practices in management, go to www.bbb.org or call 800-564-0371.