If you do not have an effective and unified branding strategy most of the money you are spending on advertising is being wasted. Small business advertising is often times the bane of business owners’ existence, because most small business owners do not understand the principles or, more importantly, the benefits of effective branding. Branding will turn your advertising expense into advertising investment.
I have worked with over 150 small businesses to help them with their overall online marketing strategy and I always start with branding. Branding should be the foundation of your advertising approach. These are the three main things small business owners struggle with that a branding strategy will solve:
- Effectively communicating what it is you do. The most common words I would find on a website are, “We carry a wide variety of quality products.” What does that mean? You could put the same sentence on any website that sells anything and it would probably make sense, but it does not communicate what you do or what you sell. If you sell baseball equipment you need to say “We carry a wide variety of baseball equipment.” Ideally you would even be more specific than this and list the brands you carry and the niche you are in. “We carry Franklin, Louisville Slugger, and Wilson baseball gloves.” This sentence has only one more word than our original, but after reading it, a visitor will know whether or not they are at the site they want.
- Telling people why you are unique. This is really the essence of what branding is about. Most small business owners have a specific niche that they have found where they are able to compete and make good money, otherwise the business would not work. However most small business owners do not have a branding strategy and so they have failed to effectively communicate what it is that makes them unique. This needs to be an honest pitch of what really sets you apart from your competition. One company I worked with for example is a mattress company that only opens its doors by appointment. By advertising this they were able to generate some curiosity and lots of word of mouth advertising about the different strategy.
- Making it quite obvious why the things you are saying are important to your customers. When working with websites I would often find that on a single site I could not only find the highest quality products, but also the cheapest, or most affordable products. That is quite impossible. Everyone knows that you pay for what you get. This does not mean you need to say we sell junk and guarantee the lowest prices, it just means that you need to present one, believable benefit throughout your site. Either you are the lowest price or you have the best products. Maybe you are in the middle, but you guarantee the best customer service. No matter what it is that actually makes you unique, that is what you need to focus on. With the mattress company we focused on not only saying that they only sold mattresses by appointment, but that because of this they are able to cut the prices of their mattresses as much as they but their payroll overhead. Often times in branding, this is called selling the benefits.
Once we addressed these three issues we found that statistics improved rapidly. In some cases we had marked improvement in conversion, the day we made these changes.