1. Customers Drive Brands, Not the Other Way Around

Brands still assume that they dictate the rules. But we’re in a customer’s market and may always be in one. Using the analogy of real estate, when you’re in a seller’s market you can make the buyer jump through a number of hoops before considering selling to them.
Brands need to think in the latter. Assuming people will follow what you dictate to them means you’re not really listening or empathetically understanding them.

2. Keep your promises

Although this is common sense, you’d be surprised how many small businesses tarnish relationships with their customers by failing to keep their promises. Happy customers who feel good about your business are your best source of referrals.

3. Deliver value

Value doesn’t always mean the lowest price. You can focus on product leadership (having the best products in the marketplace, like Apple), operational excellence (having the lower prices in the marketplace, like Ikea), or great customer service (Virgin, Zappos). You can
also focus on a combination of those things.
As you think about the value your company delivers – you can ask the following questions: What sets your product, service and company apart from your competitors? What value do you provide and how does that value differ from that provided by your competitors? Think about which of the benefits are emotional – the most powerful brands tap into emotions.

4. Be consistent

Many small businesses mistakenly change their messaging depending on their audience. For example, a company might take a more serious tone on their website but a very light-hearted tone on their Facebook fan page. This can confuse your customers and potential customers. To build and maintain a strong brand, every aspect of your brand should be as good as your product or service and you must be consistent in presenting your brand.

This includes not only your company’s name, logo, overall aesthetic design, products and services, but also includes your marketing materials, website, appearances at trade shows and conferences, content posted to social networks.

5. Find your voice

What you say is important, but don’t overlook how you say it. Your company’s “voice” is the language and personality you and your employees will use to deliver your branding message and reach your customers. Successful brands speak with a unique voice. Think about the brands you admire – what makes them unique? How do they communicate with you and other customers? What do you like about their voice?

For more on SME’s and startups, here’s Startups on the brink of explosive growth from Issue 1 of Business & Money magazine.



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