One of the first and most important decisions you make when starting a new business is how you want to identify your brand. Every decision is critical to your success, and there are seemingly endless ones to make, from visual impact to voice.
But how do you build a great brand on a budget?
Create A Visual Impact
The first impression you make is critical to customer trust. If your website looks like your nephew designed it in 2001 and reads like it was written by a third-grader, users will hesitate to buy from you.
Here are a few tips for creating a quality website your customers will love:
1. Create a simple website. Simple websites are reasonably easy to design on a shoestring. Choose a website builder with user-friendly tools that scale from free or cheap to big business.
2. Choose high-quality images to jazz up your site. There are a ton of free design resources on the web. Choose images that are related to the concepts on each page. Use images everywhere, including your social media posts.
3. Choose the right colors. If your company is successful, you could be in business a very long time. You want to choose branding colors that provide a psychological edge. What do you want potential customers to feel? Trust? Excitement? Hunger? The right colors will help you deliver your message. Design your website, logo and marketing materials with the colors you choose. For inspiration, browse Canva’s collection of professionally designed digital mood boards.
4. Have a professional logo designed. While it sounds pricey, you can get a professional logo designed at a very reasonable cost. Logojoy, for example, uses artificial intelligence to create an original artwork based on answers you supply — in seconds. Whatever you do, just don’t pick a font like Papyrus to represent your brand. You could wind up being mocked by SNL.
5. Invite user-generated content. Inspiring your customers to post photos of themselves and tag you on social media using, eating, enjoying, or wearing your product is not only great, free visual content, it’s powerful social proof.
Tell A Great Brand Story
Ten years ago, a brand story went something like this: “XYZ company was founded in 1996 by John and James Smith. We manufacture excellent widgets.”
Today’s customers want to do business with companies they like and approve of. Today, your business and your brand identity are inseparable. It’s not enough to produce great products. To please shoppers, you need to produce great products and your company must be deemed worthy of business.
To put it simply: Do good. Be good to your employees, partner with charities or use sustainable, fairly-sourced materials in your manufacturing. Corporate responsibility is a story social media users love to share.
Finesse social media influencers with an authentic, emotionally appealing story. Think like Nike. Its story is always about empowering the customer. Its brand message is uplifting and encouraging. Need inspiration? Read the incredible Flyease brand story.
Build Trust And Authority
No brand is fantastic without trust. And to build trust, you can’t take chances with customer money. Consider your payment system carefully, because the terms and ease of operation can vary wildly. Digitzs is a good example of a secure payment processing that’s easy to set up, easy for customers to use and inexpensive for you.
With the nearly constant news of data breaches, online buyers are rightfully wary. A payment processing system with built-in protections is critical for them and keeping expenses down is your top priority.
Even when customers buy from brick-and-mortar stores, they begin their search online. Your content will help you build authority. Put your expertise on display for potential customers to find an organized, well-written post. The more information you can provide to buyers, the more likely you are to win the sale.
The key is to be proactive: Provide in-depth answersto everything your customers might want to know before they ask. You can’t wait for them to ask because your competitors won’t.
You can even boost your site’s knowledge base cheaply by inviting customers to post reviews.
Know Your Target Audience
When you’re branding a small business on a tight budget, social media can be your best friend. But you can’t afford to overextend yourself. Instead of trying to manage dozens of profiles on different platforms, build buyer personas to define your ideal buyer and help you decide the most effective social media platforms to concentrate your efforts.
Comprehensive personas will tell you where to find potential clients and learn who they are and how they most like to communicate.
I’ve seen many buyer personas that were woefully non-specific. Studying your target audience in depth is time-consuming, but well worth it.
Imagine your company has invented a new type of hair color designed to produce vibrant alternate colors formulated for gray hair. Most banking execs don’t dye their hair purple. Your audience is creative, adventurous and flamboyant. They follow trends. Your target audience may be women over 50 who live in specific areas of the country, belong to a specific income bracket and work in nontraditional jobs.
With detailed personas, you can target your marketing to early adopters: people who love to try new things. As part of your brand strategy, before your launch, you should be working on your network, building your audience among influencers and ideal buyers and generating excitement about your launch. Pinpoint targeting and influencer input will minimize your marketing spend.
Building brand awareness in advance of launch may sound like a lot of work, but it’s worth it. The foundation you lay now is the cornerstone of your future success, and it needs to stand the test of time. If your product is viable and your branding is successful, you could become the next Patagonia, a successful company that sells fairly ordinary clothing at premium prices with a great brand storythat makes people want to buy from them.
[Originally posted on Forbes.com by John Bertino, CEO of The Agency Guy]