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Wake up and Shake Up Small Business Relationships

03/16/2011
A sign bearing the company's logo hangs in the...

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Twitter’s #brandchat (Wednesdays, 11am – noon, EST) offers lively and robust discussion of branding topics. Each week a recap is posted for chasing down a tweet that passed you by, or simply catch up if you couldn’t attend. It’s also helpful to review your own real-time comments. There may just be a blog post, presentation, or lesson waiting to be posted, presented, or learned.  This happened for me while reviewing the recap of the March 09th discussion. The topic was small business branding and offered four questions:

  • Q1:  Why is branding so important for a small biz?
  • Q2:  Does “every” business, small or otherwise, actually have a discernible brand?
  • Q3:  How has the still-sluggish economy impacted your small business branding?
  • Q4:  How can a small biz develop a big brand with a limited budget?

Looking back on my comments, it became clear that the early Dutch settlers of my neighborhood had taught me a lesson about branding. The lesson seems to have carried on to some very successful local brands that have national clout.

Ribbon Cutting Brooklyn Brewery

Brooklyn Brewery Expands!

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Originally uploaded by BrooklynBrewery

What’s the secret: Live your brand.

Quite literally. Shop owners had three story brownstones. The first story housed your store. Who hasn’t seen delightful Dutch paintings of the activity and community of a local village square. Shopowners were also the homeowners who lived on the second floor. A third floor could be rented out to servants to tenants. An iconic symbol would display the trade of the shopowner. You knew the owner by name.

What this means: Living your brand wasn’t just some guerrilla marketing tactic. It was a necessity, a way of life. How you ran your shop impacted your family directly and the potential for the next generation. We see that at work in big brands that show the date of the store’s opening.

Web 2.0 is stacked with small business branding opportunity.

The recession and Web 2.0 have democratized branding opportunities. Big brands pull back on their budgets. Many C-suite execs still associate social media with their grandchildren. And — best of all — the market’s wide open.

Here’s some wisdom to take along the way.

  1. Admit that your brand already exists. Now look in the mirror and explore it. You’ll find it in your business plan, in the gaps of your nearest competitors, and in the sweetspots of your best customers. Work it.
  2. Tell your story – sooner not later. Where to begin — in the middle as the Ancient Greeks advised. You can either learn your brand (there is no point zero), or not learn your brand and have others seize your opportunities. The challenge is perception. How do customers, competitors, companies view brand. You need to sync these to succeed!
  3. Listen to your customers. Participant Andrew Mueller offered the most succint advice. Ask your customers to offer three words that describe your brand.
  4. Create a niche.Whether it’s a price point, or service, or experience, find out what’s unique to your business and where your customers are underserved. Then be authentic, build your social media plan and you’re on your way.

What’s your experience of living your brand?

If you’re from the C-suite, has the recession changed your view or practice of branding for your enterprise or individually. If you’re starting a new business, are there lessons you take away from previous business experience?

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Best, E.

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