Build your brand to grow your business – Make 2016 your best business year part 3
Whether you’ve just started out, or have been running for years, now is the best time ever to build your brand. Why? Because there are so many channels at your disposal, many of which are free, meaning that even a micro business with no budget can have a voice. With the right training, guidance and a little time, you can cement your place on these channels, and make some noise about your brand.
But I’m not a brand, I’m a business!
That’s a common sentiment felt by many small businesses. Yet however humble your offering may be, every business has its own brand. After all, a brand isn’t just a fancy logo, it is the tangible and intangible representation of everything your business stands for.
Your core offering is part of your brand. The reason people go to you rather than your competitor could be for a number of reasons – cost, convenience, service offering – all of these form part of your brand. Your brand is what makes you different, what makes you stand out, and hopefully, it is also why you set up your business.
And if you’re still unsure, consider this – a small independent restaurant is perched next door to Nandos on the high street. Now you might think Nandos – the food giant with its own brand of Peri-Peri chicken – may swallow up the humble restaurant. Yet the independent restaurant, which also offers grilled chicken amongst other things, still has its fair share of customer. Granted, Nandos has something of a lion’s share, but then again they have a much bigger premises with more seating. Yet the small competitor is still surviving and thriving.
Why? Because there are enough people out there that are fatigued by big chains, and prefer to dine in independent restaurants with locally sourced produce. They may want something different, they may want to support a local business, they might want a quieter dining experience that the big noisy Nandos can’t offer, or they simply might not like Peri-Peri chicken.
So you see, perhaps unwittingly, everything that the small, independent restaurant embodies – the antidote to a restaurant chain – is its brand. And there are enough people who would opt for them over the big brand restaurants like Nandos.
A brand doesn’t need to be big, it needs to be different.
So now we’ve established that you have a brand, let’s get back to the main point, you need to shout about it.
There are many methods of doing this, social media, PR, marketing and advertising. Obviously if you’re a small business or starting out, you may not have the budget for advertising. So in this post, I’m going to focus on two options you can employ to build your brand and grow your business:
Social media is a great tool, when used correctly. When misused, you could do your business more harm than good. So consider which platforms would work for your business. If you have a clothing line, Instagram and Pinterest is great for showcasing photos of your outfits. On the other hand, if you’re an accountancy firm, you may want to focus on Linkedin and twitter. Obviously your offering will dictate the content you share, and the conversations you have. For the aforementioned clothing line, you may want to follow some popular fashion bloggers, or regular users that fall within your target audience. On the polar end, as an accountancy firm, you’re more likely to comment on issues in the financial and tax world, write articles offering advice, and follow other businesses in the sectors you serve.
The only note of caution with social media is that you’re always one click way from a post that could land you in trouble, and there are a raft of businesses who have fallen foul of an unfortunate post on Facebook, or a misguided tweet. Handle with caution, keep it relevant and professional, and if in doubt, don’t hit send.
Now for some, PR is seen as a dirty word. It’s often used in the media to portray spin doctors, underhand tactics and fluff without substance. HK Communications was set up to dispel this myth, and if employed correctly, PR can have the most positive impact on your business and its brand.
So what is PR?
In the simplest terms, PR is the practice of working with influencers – press/broadcast/online media -to raise awareness or influence public opinion of a particular person, organisation, issue or event.
A PR consultant will “sell-in” or “pitch” stories to relevant members of the press, and it is up to the journalist and his/her editors or producers to decide whether to include the story in their publication or programme. A skilled PR consultant will have tailored the story and found the most interesting angle to maximise the chance of getting it published.
Crucially, unlike advertising and advertorials, coverage generated from PR is NOT paid for. It is earned based on the quality of the story.
So how can PR work for a small business?
Any business, no matter how big or small, needs positive publicity to grow and develop. Often smaller businesses rely on word-of-mouth. Though this is powerful, it is largely out of the hands of the business, and is at the mercy of whether a past client or contact will remember to recommend you.
Other businesses may rely on physical footfall, but again that isn’t without its limitations. However, by raising your profile through PR, you can let your target audience know that you’re ‘open for business’. And PR in itself, which is an external endorsement via the media, adds a level of credibility to your business, as well as making people more aware about what you do.
Like many niche marketing tools, PR is a bit of an art. A good PR consultant will have the writing skills, the pitching skills and a good set of media contacts gathered over years. A great PR consultant will have a background in journalism, so they’ll know exactly what a journalist wants. So if you’re time poor and want to invest in your business, you can employ a PR agency or a freelance consultant armed with the aforementioned credentials.
However, if budget is an option and you’d rather spend the time to learn some basic tips yourself HK Communications will be providing some tools and training to do just that.
So with both expert and DIY options available, 2016 is the time to grow your brand and your business, no matter how big or small your business is.
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Halima Khatun, Director, HK Communications.