I find it interesting to reflect on the times throughout my career where I have been on either side of an employment interview. Without fail, personal branding takes center stage. The interviewee focuses on presenting a sense of individuality, professionalism and competency, all the while interjecting a certain flavor of personality and congeniality. The conversation revolves around the individual’s professional story, the perceived value they would deliver to an employer, and the overall roadmap for success that would inherently accompany any job offer. In the end, those who have successfully navigated the world of professional networking and auditioning have one thing in common – a strong personal brand.
If we dedicate such time, talent and resources to perfecting a unique and intriguing personal brand identity (that perceived opinion others develop of us), why is this ingredient often absent in small businesses? The common misperception is that branding is for the big boys, or we don’t invest in our name enough to worry about having a solid brand. The reality is: just as in that job interview where a polished résumé frames in the perfect biography, a small business’ brand is much more than just a logo and a tagline.
In business, developing a brand is not an optional activity. Every conversation, interaction and transaction you make with a client creates an impression. The specifics of that impression will be framed, for better or worse, by preparations a small business has made long before that opportunity presents itself. Whether a company ranks among the leaders of industry, or carves a niche in a neighborhood, the strength of your brand will filter down into all facets of marketing communication and advertising. The quality of your brand will bolster or weaken every marketing channel and dime spent promoting your core business. Which brings us to a common goal businesses both large and small should have—making your brand your company’s greatest asset.
It’s easy to spout off the big numbers of Coca Cola™, with an Interbrand value of $71.8 Billion, or behemoth IBM™, with $69.9 Billion, but how does the small business shoehorn a comprehensive brand strategy into a finite budget? Prior to and currently at AlphaGraphics, I consult with small businesses to identify the steps they should take to properly position their brand. Inevitably we undertake a trek of introspection. Just as that interviewee we mentioned earlier has human qualities that define or detract; good brands have a distinguishable personality.
- In an ideal world, what perceptions should your brand conjure in your target market? Economical, Innovative, Luxurious?
- What promise can you make to your customer that differentiates you from everyone else? Something you will replicate every time you do business?
- What is your story? The mountains you’ve climbed, the hardships you’ve beaten, the successes that set you apart. This is the good stuff, it’s what makes small business special, personal, so people go out of their way to identify with you and take part in your success.
“Customers will pay a significant premium for brands to which they are loyal. 50% of customers are willing to pay 20-25% more for a brand of choice.” (Source: Brandkey)
In the end, you achieve a level of authenticity, clarity, a consistent mantra that permeates throughout your business. It sets you apart, discourages competition, and creates devoted customers. It’s a best foot forward, authentic representation of the best you offer. It’s that résumé that shouts out, “no other applicants need apply”.