You may not have the powerhouse media department or the billion-dollar marketing budget of a major national brand, but even as a small local business, you can build your brand and have it stand out in your community without breaking the bank. It just takes a little effort, a little discipline, and 100 percent dedication to and enthusiasm for your business. With that in mind, here are five ways to help your local business stand out.
1. Select the perfect name and logo for your business.
It’s important that you get it right the first time because making changes down the road can cost you money and business. This is not a task you want to rush through. Your name and logo are the face of your business, and convey your values, your culture, and what you’re all about. The name should reflect the personality and overall tone of your business, and your logo should be distinctive and instantly recognizable.
In developing a logo, you’ll also want to further define your brand using typefaces, colors, imagery and design. Do you want your brand to have an avant garde, modern sort of feel, or do you want to appeal to your customers’ sense of nostalgia with more of a retro appearance? One of the most important things to do when getting ready to build your brand is to define it, based on the products and services you provide, what your values are and who you anticipate your customer base to be. The more clearly you can understand your brand, the more easily you can make it stand out.
Let this carry over to your website design as well. In a recent survey, 48 percent of people cited a website’s design as being the major factor in determining credibility, and 94 percent said it was a reason for them to mistrust or reject a site. Make sure your website is well designed and aesthetically pleasing, and reflects the character of your business.
2. Maintain a physical presence.
Ideally, you’d like for your business to be able to run itself, but let’s face it, it’s your business and you’re its most loyal and enthusiastic advocate. Let your customers get to know the face behind the business so that they get the full enjoyment of doing business with a local enterprise. Sure, you’ll want to get away once in a while, but enterprises with absentee business-owners often quickly fail, as employees lose motivation and customer service goes by the wayside.
3. Give away promotional products.
No one’s better at this than takeout restaurants, who give out refrigerator magnets with their phone number. You’re hungry, can’t find anything in the fridge — hey, how about a pizza or some Chinese food? Anything that serves a purpose can be imprinted with your name, logo and contact information so that your business is always top of mind, from pens and note pads to hats, clothing, keychains and beer koozies. In a recent study conducted by MarketingSherpa, 76 percent of participating consumers reported being able to remember the name of a business from which they had received a free promotional item in the past 12 months, while only 53 percent could recall a print or television ad from the past 30 days. In a similar study conducted by the Advertising Specialty Institute, 57 percent of people reported feeling more favorable about a business from which they had received a free tee-shirt. Keep in mind, however, that many customers won’t wear a hat or tee shirt unless it’s attractive, so either invest in quality clothing items or stick to the pens and key-chains.
4. Be a part of your local community.
As a local business, your customers are also your neighbors, and part of your local community. Build trust and respect for your business by establishing yourself as an active and engaged member of your community. You can do this by participating in local civic and volunteer organizations, hosting charity events and fundraisers, and even hosting workshops to share (and highlight) your expertise in your industry. And don’t forget about your online community, to which you can connect through social media, chat groups and forums. The more you establish yourself as a subject matter expert, the more recognition you will build for your brand.
5. Stand out and excel.
First of all, if you don’t have a great product or service, no amount of advertising and brand building is going to keep customers coming back after a bad experience. The first step is to ensure that you’re offering real value, top quality products and reliable service. That said, the next step is to differentiate your business from the competition. To do this, you need to leverage any unique qualities that will appeal to your customers and distance you from the pack. Whether it’s:
- Convenient hours
- Competitive pricing
Or some kind of unusual product or service, you need to find a selling point or two to focus on and make it the center of your marketing campaign. Customers remember the business that stands out, whether it’s because they’re open 24 hours or the owner says he’ll “eat a bug” if they can’t give you the best deal. It works!
Remember, as a local business, you don’t have to compete against the national brands. There are plenty of customers out there who trust and rely on local business owners and prefer them to faceless corporations with automated call centers instead of genuine sales people. You only have to compete against the other local business owners in your field, and make sure that when it comes time to purchase, it’s your name, your logo and your business reputation that first comes to mind.