One of the most important ways to grow any business large or small, is to have a well-defined brand that offers meaningful choices to the targeted customer group.
In fact, Frank Ruppen, a nationally known branding advisor says that it is actually more important for smaller businesses as it provides a needed focus for the organization to more efficiently guide product development, sales and marketing as well as staff training and hiring.
The decision to invest in building a company’s brand must take into account the fact that customers use products, but they buy brands. To grow a small business, it must sell and deliver a brand, not a product.
There is a strong business case for building a strong brand. First, the company can charge more. Strong brands provide more than just rational reasons and functional benefits for buying the company’s brand versus a competitor’s offering. They also provide emotional benefits to their customers who are simply willing to pay more because of it. In fact, studies show that brand loyalty is driven more by emotional rather than rational brand benefits.
Secondly, it saves the company money. A strong brand knows what it stands for and who is most interested in what the brand has to offer. The company can, therefore, efficiently focus precious human and financial capital on customers that are most likely to yield the greatest return on time and money invested.
So the critical question for small business owners is “How do I build my business by building a strong brand? Here are 5 key steps to helping you do just that:
1. Start by creating a profile of the ideal customer. These are the decision makers that should be the primary target. Include firmographics as well as psychographics so that there is full understanding of who these decision makers are and what is important to them.
- Firmographics (Who to target): Line and size of business; title, what they buy; geography; demographics of the buyer
- Psychographics (How to target): What motivates them in their job; how do they define success; how are they rewarded
2. Identify and prioritize their needs. A customer considers many rational and emotional factors when deciding which brand to buy. While there may be a number of influencing factors, it is critical to know which factors drive that decision. The brand’s story must address the most important rational and emotional factors.
It is easy to assume, particularly in the B2B space, that most customers are primarily motivated by price. Ruppen led a branding project for a cable coating brand that targeted the commercial construction market. And while there were a number of procurement managers that bought primarily on price, many more were more motivated to buy products from reputable manufacturers who provided consistent quality and met delivery schedules. These managers were more concerned with avoiding the headaches of construction delays or using cable that could be more easily and quickly threaded through walls and ceilings. By appealing to less price sensitive managers, this business was also more profitable as it allowed the company to target customers who valued brand and manufacturer performance and were willing to pay a higher price.
3. Be sure you can answer the question “Why your brand”. Once the company understands the primary rational and emotional drivers, it must persuade prospective customers that the brand will meet their most important types of needs better than competitors. If there are things the company does better, make sure the target knows. If there are deficiencies, fix them. If the company doesn’t have the capability to fix them, then rethink the primary target and focus on those customers who will value what the brand already does well.
4. Actively help them throughout their purchase decision journey. No matter what the company is selling, the customer will go through a number of stages before clicking on the buy button. By identifying those stages, the company can determine what they hope to accomplish during each stage and provide them with the right information to help the brand remain in their consideration set as they move closer to a decision. Managers should ask themselves, are these potential customers doing upfront research, are they talking to other managers in other firms, do they require references, do they need approvals higher up in the organization. By knowing this, managers can more optimally bring the right message to the right people at the right time, and they will sincerely value that. Brands are built as much from the totality of the customer purchase experience as from direct product usage.
5. Admit what you don’t know and get the information. Without accurate information about the target customer and the brand, company managers are simply guessing at the most important factors that impact the growth and profitability of the business. If managers guess incorrectly, they are wasting time and money in an unforgiving economy. And just as importantly, they are giving competitors time to get it right. If the company has the resources, have someone talk to its best customers, prospective customers and even those who turned did not buy. Find out what motivates them and their perceptions of how the brand delivers against their primary needs versus competitors. If resources are tight, managers should make the calls themselves. See how their stories differ and take steps to cement the loyalty of the firm’s best customers as well as turn brand rejecters into brand advocates.
The best way to build a small business is for the brand to represent real choice; give target customer (S) meaningful reasons to choose the company’s product over the competitor. Deliver what is most important to them and the company will build brand loyalty as well as more business