To grow your business, you need customers who connect with your small business brand. But creating brand recognition and trust isn’t just about picking the right logo. You need a strong brand management strategy.
A brand is spread across many touchpoints.
It’s alive in your daily interactions with customers, your services, your website and social media, your decor, and the content you share. When you practice strategic brand management, you’ll use a variety of tools and techniques to boost your reputation across the board.
In this article, we rounded up the 5 most important aspects of managing a brand. Learn how to create, maintain and project your unique brand—and earn loyal customers—with these tips.
5 top brand management tips for small businesses
Let’s briefly go over brand equity.
Brand equity is the value of your brand name. Basically, it’s how much the perceived value of a product is tied to the fact that it’s made by a certain brand.
You might call this “the Kellogg’s Effect.” Most consumers would reach for Honey Nut Cheerios before a generic O-shaped cereal. That’s because Kellogg’s has positive brand equity.
Brand management is about improving your brand equity in a creative way. It all starts with identifying your unique brand value.
1. Define your brand identity
Why do people pick one brand over another? It’s less about price and features than you may think.
A 2019 Sprout survey revealed that when customers have an emotional connection to a brand, “more than half of consumers (57%) will increase their spending with that brand and 76% will buy from them over a competitor.”
A brand isn’t just look and feel. Make sure you have a clear idea of what your brand represents.
Sharing your business origin story isn’t just about introducing yourself. It’s an opportunity to be authentic and memorable with your customers rather than another good pizza joint.
Map out your company’s journey, from that first opportunity to how your business makes an impact now. Run your story by a few trusted individuals to make sure it’s engaging.
Your brand voice and design
Go beyond the brand name.
Which three words would you use to describe your brand personality? Are they reflected across your locations and online profiles? Channel these traits into a distinct brand voice. It may be friendly and informal (“Check out this sweet deal”) or clear and straightforward (“Click here to see this week’s deals”). Use a brand voice chart to outline your lingo do’s and don’ts.
Your business needs a visual language—your brand colors, logo, interior design, social media photos and more.
Look at each design element with fresh eyes. Are your photos consistent sizes and styles? Is your website layout clean and appealing? Does your menu still use Comic Sans or Papyrus font?
If you need an update, you can work with a freelance graphic designer. Or take a DIY approach using online design tools, free icon sets, photo editors and more.
Your point of difference
A point of difference is a marketing term for a quality that sets you apart from your competitors. It’s one piece of brand positioning.
Philanthropy is a good example. If your restaurant donates leftover produce to a food bank and other restaurants don’t, then highlight your activities. Or if you offer cost-saving service bundles but your rival auto shops only have a la carte options, call this out.
A tagline is a great way to communicate all of these core values and ideas. It should encompass your overall brand promise while staying short and sweet, like Subway’s iconic, “Eat fresh.”
2. Engage with your customers regularly
When it comes to communicating with your target audience, “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t apply. Reach out to customers where they already are. That might be on Twitter or Facebook, via an email newsletter or through a bus ad campaign.
Strengthen these relationships by communicating—and listening—often. Ask questions, run polls, share interesting news and generate hype with promotions.
Keep up with the latest sales channels and marketing techniques in your specific industry. An auto shop owner, for example, can subscribe to industry publications or periodically read about auto shop marketing ideas.
Amplify your brand with social media
Out of all the brand management channels, customers say social media is the number one way they want brands to connect with them. It’s great for businesses, too.
Social media is free to use, extremely popular and highly visible. Hashtags make it easy to jump into the conversation and raise brand awareness.
These qualities also make social media a go-to customer service tool. Every customer question or complaint is a huge brand-building opportunity. Aim for same-day responses and have some on-brand replies ready.
Don’t be afraid to move the conversation off social media if necessary.
Use SEO to boost brand recognition
Your website is a core element of your brand. Customers should find accurate, up-to-date information on your website. You may also have a business blog or do most of your sharing on social media.
One small but powerful step to improve your brand recognition is search engine optimization (SEO). Add industry-relevant keywords into your content—like your Twitter posts or contact page—so your web pages will rank higher in Google search results.
This is a big deal. With an SEO strategy in place, your local business could pop up first when your target market searches “coffee shops in [town name].” That exposes your brand to a wider pool of customers.
Read through this guide to educate yourself about implementing an SEO strategy.
3. Turn your employees into brand ambassadors
Employees are the faces of any business brand. When you trained your workers, you may have given them the tools to do the job. But you also need to equip them to represent the brand.
For example, the Trader Joe’s brand is fun, laid-back and nautical. As brand advocates, employees wear Hawaiian shirts and T-shirts with hibiscus flowers. It’s the perfect customer experience at a business that encourages you to “just relax and leave your worries at the door.”
Chick-fil-A knows all about building brand elements into the team vocabulary. When customers say “thank you,” Chick-fil-A workers are trained to say “my pleasure” instead of “you’re welcome.” This won’t move the needle on customer satisfaction by a lot. But it’s part of a cohesive brand strategy.
Create an employee handbook so that even temporary workers are successful during their employment. Use it to clarify your expectations around customer service, including language, attire and attitude.
Spotlight your positive customer reviews
The majority of consumers (86%) say authenticity is a big factor in whether they trust a brand. Customer comments are automatically more believable than anything brand managers say. When you receive four- and five-star reviews on Google or Yelp, amplify them.
4. Let modern technology take care of the hard work
As you make changes, you’ll wonder: Are my brand management efforts working with my target market? You need tools that simplify the full brand management process but also deliver helpful business analytics.
The following tools gather key marketing metrics like website page views, time spent on each page, highest-rated products, average conversion rate and more:
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software: CRM software lets you manage your leads, customers and marketing strategy in one place. Most CRM tools include marketing automation features.
- Marketing automation software: Most marketing software includes features for social media, email, push notifications and SMS so you can communicate with your customers however they prefer.
- Point of sale (POS) system: A POS system lets you take payments and build good relationships with your customers at the same time. Add on gift cards and customer loyalty programs with ease.
5. Keep things fresh, but be consistent
Brand consistency is crucial to improving sales and awareness of your brand. You can tweak elements of your brand management plan but avoid brand whiplash.
Don’t go from text-based Facebook posts to tons of emojis, GIFs and memes overnight. Dramatic branding changes may cause your customers to accidentally scroll past your posts, or not even register that it’s your business posting.
If customers can’t recall your brand due to inconsistent messaging and visuals, they can’t build brand loyalty.
Major brand overhauls are sometimes necessary, but often a simple update will do. In any case, give your customers some notice. Better yet, make a memorable moment out of each change. Craft a plan to unveil your new logo or refreshed floor plan on social media—with plenty of pictures.
Brand management: Bringing your business brand to life
As we’ve seen, consumers regularly choose one business over other options because they feel that extra “something.” That makes your brand and business reputation your most valuable assets.
To create a consistent brand image, nail down your core brand values and themes. Spark conversations with your target audience using the media channels most popular with them.
Make sure your brand strategy is reflected across your employees and stores, and save time with brand management software.
Effective brand management is the perfect complement to your top-quality product or service. It’s worth the effort.