I came across a one-page handout that I created a few years ago for a workshop with these 10 tips for small businesses on branding. I started to read through it thinking that with the pace things move in marketing, it would not be relevant anymore and was ready to hit the delete key. I was surprised when I got all the way through to #10 and realized that they are all still relevant for small businesses today.

Here are 10 tips small businesses and start up can use to grow their brand with customers.

  1. Have a professional logo. You don’t have to spend a small fortune, but it does need to reflect the image you want to make, especially if you are competing with larger businesses. It’s more important to include your logo on every piece of communication.
  2. Have a professional website. It’s not good enough to just have a website any more. It has to be a place where potential clients can get a “feel” for you and your legitimacy and if the want to do business with you. If you are reaching out to a high level professional audience, your website need to reflect that. If someone recommends your business, they will go online to look at your website. Your website design should be refreshed every year, but you don’t have to go crazy and add every new interactive widget created. It is more important that you are regularly updating with content that is relevant and useful.
  3. Blogs are great. First, they can provide valuable content to your audience on a consistent basis, making you an “expert”. Second, they help with search rankings especially if you are writing relevant content. To your specific identified keywords And finally they enable conversation. Two-way dialog is much more valuable in helping understand what your customers need, than using only outbound marketing.
  4. Create a multi-touch marketing plan. In order to get your value proposition in front of your target audience you may need to use direct mail, email, host a webinar, sponsor a local event, attend trade shows, attend networking events, develop a good social media program. You have to find the best combination of methods for your goals. Data shows that people need to be exposed to a brand at least seven times before they buy – but that does not mean it has to be with the channel.
  5. Prepare a one page corporate overview. This is a vital as a leave behind when you meet a prospect. Use short sentences in short paragraphs – people like to read quickly. Also make it very conversational; it’s not a white paper. Your one page overview should include your value proposition, target audience benefits, previous audience experience and a mini-case study – and don’t forget your contact information.
  6. Participate in business events. Get involved, don’t just be a passive spectator. Ask to be on one of the committees or help at an event. It’s a great way to elevate your status and visibility among the entire organization
  7. Follow through on what you say you’re going to do. One of the primary drivers of brand loyalty is a consistent experience. Positive experiences lead to good feelings, which lead to sharing with friends. But don’t forget that bad experiences spread much faster and are harder to overcome – if you get a chance at all.
  8. Champion something, pick your color. People latch on to something they can understand and appreciate. If you’re trying to be everything to everybody, chances are you’ll attract no one. If you think it’s too controversial to choose a niche, remember the power of being seen as an expert. Experts are not good at every thing, they’re awesome at one thing. People seek out experts.
  9. Realize that you’re not in control of your brand. That’s right, you only set the direction for your brand. Your actual brand image is determined by your audience—your customers, employees and vendors.
  10. Branding is as much about your people as anything else. Never forget that the best interactions come from one-on-one conversations between executives, employees, suppliers, and customers. Employees that want to help and do the best job possible go a long way.

Branding isn’t a one shot deal, it’s an on-going juggling act of marketing, research and conversation. If you’re not tapping into those conversations with your audience, how do you know what their real impression of you is? How will you know how to address it? Brand growth comes from alignment. You have to ensure that your actions, content, website and marketing efforts put out the right image.