By Emily Smith, Associate Director, Added Value

All successful businesses need marketing. They might not know it, or believe it, yet - but it’s true. I recall talking to a small business owner at a networking event a few years ago. He rejected my suggestion to focus some energy on turning his business into a brand; identifying the one thing he wanted to be famous for in the eyes of his clients and resolutely delivering that better than anyone else. He later came back to ask for brand building advice!

How can marketing your business and creating a brand help your company?

It gives focus and direction. By understanding your consumer - not just putting them in an age group, also comprehending their attitudes, needs and desires – you can design your business to appeal to them more effectively. By understanding your unique point of difference in the marketplace, you can focus on standing out through this uniqueness. Both of these things are just as important to small businesses as they are to Coca Cola, probably more so, with more limited resources at their disposal.

It provides inspiration on how to talk and act. Who we are as people impacts what we say and do. Imagining your brand as a person, including understanding their character (are they a bit of a rule breaker? a people’s champion? or a nurturing type?) and the values they hold, influences everything from communication to pricing to the way we do business. Small businesses, especially those built around one leader or founder, can use the individual’s personality as a start point for developing this character that makes the job easier.

It provides an emotional hook to get people excited. People get passionate about brands when they feel a connection; when a brand is talking directly to us. We’re emotional beings and connect to signals brands send out – colours, sounds, images, names, along with the products & services at the heart of the brand. Small businesses can get people emotional too. Are you the most sensual beauty salon in town that connects to people through truly awe-inspiring atmosphere? Or the coffee shop which has a buzzy atmosphere and lets you bring your dog?

There are some simple principles a small business can follow to promote its brand:

Think before you act! The most powerful companies in the world were built with a plan. Ask yourself, what do I want my company to be known for? How will I achieve this? Who am I designed for? How should I talk to them? What should I avoid doing if I want to build a consistent brand?

Listen & learn. More so than ever, consumer opinion counts - especially online. Seek out feedback from your target consumer and use that to continuously improve and develop your offer. Find out if your brand resonates emotionally, and take tips from them for making it connect better.

Remain externally focused. Many companies / brands fail by forgetting their audience. Don’t focus on yourself and what you can do, but focus on your customer and giving them a compelling reason to buy your products over others. Be relevant to them. Improve their lives.

Evolve or die. Brands don’t exist in isolation; they exist in culture, and culture never stands still. A company needs to refresh (whether that be its proposition, products & services, visual language) to ensure it stays relevant to its audience as they change and evolve.

It’s actually quite simple. Investing a small proportion of your time and energy in turning your business into a brand can be hugely beneficial for growth. Focusing your resources on doing one thing brilliantly will set you apart from all those other businesses doing several things satisfactorily.