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Why You Should Prioritise Brand Image

Just because you’re a start-up doesn’t mean you can ignore the importance — and power — of brand image. Here are four simple and cost-effective ways to get noticed in a competitive space.

Jennilee Peremore

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branding

It’s surprising how many entrepreneurs pay very little attention to their brand image even though the image is the first thing that customers see.

For most start-ups, the focus is the quality of their product or service — as it should be.

However, awareness is critical during the start-up phase of a business. Awareness is made possible through marketing that focuses on the brand image of the company. During the start-phase, entrepreneurs often exclude the marketing function because they perceive it to be a luxury expense only enjoyed by medium and large enterprises.

The problem is that many entrepreneurs have a limited view of marketing and believe that it must include extravagant television, radio and print campaigns. This is especially true for companies that provide more scientific products or services; those operating in accounting, IT, engineering or similar practical fields. Owners in these fields are usually not familiar with the benefits of marketing or how to effectively critique and implement their marketing plan.

Related: These 6 Online Habits Are Common, But They’re Killing Your Brand’s Credibility

On the other side of the coin, marketing or public relations firms tend to neglect their brand image despite it being their core function. Often, marketing specialists are so focused on the work they are doing for their clients, they forget that how they market their own company is the billboard for what they can offer clients.

Here’s how to get started.

1. Imaging

logo

A good quality logo is the starting point for the marketing of any business. Entrepreneurs often tend to put the logo on the back burner.

Your first logo will not be your logo forever. Throughout the lifespan of a business, the logo will probably go through multiple amendments.

A good quality logo is worth investing in. It’s your business signature, and will be used across all marketing collateral. The logo should be visually appealing, versatile and memorable. The best logos are clear, simple, easily recognisable, and unique to the business.

Once the logo is developed, the other basic marketing collateral can be designed, including the e-signature, business card, letterhead, social media graphics with a cover photo and profile photo for all social media accounts, as well as website graphics. These are the only items required in the start-up phase to launch the business with a professional and cohesive look and feel across all public platforms.

Related: The Secret Ingredients to a Successful Branding Strategy

2. Social Media

social media

Social media is an opportunity for businesses to become part of their audience’s lives by engaging with them. Business owners know their company needs to be on social media, but simply having a profile and cover photo on multiple social media platforms is not effective.

There must be a social media plan that details the platforms that will be used, the objectives for each profile, the type of content that will be shared on each platform, and how often and when content will be shared.

Platforms

Business owners often make the mistake of being on every social media platform — this is not necessary. It’s important to select platforms that are used by the company’s target audience and which complement the company’s brand personality.

For example, there is probably not much benefit for an insurance company to be on Instagram, which targets a younger market, but it would make sense for a clothing company to be on Instagram as their product is visual and fashion is of interest to the youth market.

Objectives

Social media should help the company achieve one or more of its overall business objectives. For example, if the business goal is to reach a new audience, then the social media content must be of interest to this audience.

Content

Social media can be time-consuming, and once the platforms have been selected, companies will have to create tailored content for each platform and have a consistent weekly schedule. Business social media profiles that are rarely and inconsistently updated can do more harm to a brand than no profile. There are many free and affordable social media management tools that can help entrepreneurs easily manage their accounts.

3. Personal branding

Personal branding

When a new business is launched, trust will drive the business forward. With few or no employees in the start-up phase, the entire business is run by the founder and the founder automatically becomes the face of the business. The credibility of the business is therefore initially determined by the credibility of the founder. Many entrepreneurs grapple with the task of marketing themselves and focus solely on marketing the business.

Below are some cost-effective techniques that you can use to boost your personal brand:

Optimise personal social media accounts

Share your constructive opinion on your personal social media accounts. Some people find it difficult to publicly share their opinion, especially with the legal liability that comes with using social media. Courage and responsibility are required to publicly share thoughts and ideas. Both are sought-after characteristics of entrepreneurs.

Educate

Entrepreneurs can educate their target audience and peers by contributing to their industry as guest bloggers, speakers, vlogging, contributing to academic research and blogging on their company website. By sharing your unique insights, you can prove that you are knowledgeable about your products or services.

Seek organic word-of-mouth

All client projects must be treated like gold — word-of-mouth about a start-up’s work is invaluable. Be bold and ask for recommendations after the completion of a project.

Be selective

Ensure that the projects you say yes to complement your brand image, and be willing to say no to projects that don’t, despite the financial loss. There is power in the word no. Saying no can help to differentiate your company from your competitors.

Related: Boutique Branding Consultancy Morake Design House

4. Direct marketing

Direct marketing

Nothing can replace the value of face-to-face communication. List the companies you want to work with and where you have identified a need that your company can address. Contact them, set up a meeting and tell them about your business. Even if the companies visited don’t signup, awareness has been increased and it will help you to become comfortable marketing yourself and your business.

Pulling it all together

These are just a few of the cost-effective marketing tactics you can use to increase awareness about your business. When meticulously executed, these marketing basics can help a start-up enjoy growth and success.

Smart and free

The truth is that marketing does not need to be an expensive exercise. Here are four marketing basics that can be implemented by every entrepreneur to give their business a solid foundation from which to grow, and which require limited or no funding.

Jennilee Peremore is a communications consultant and the CEO and founder of Jenniemore, a communications consultancy based in Port Elizabeth. In 2015, she won a PRISM Award in the sponsorship category for her PR strategy submitted to the Public Relations Institute of South Africa.

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Branding

Brush Up On Your Personal Branding To Cement Your Success As An Entrepreneur

Check your life skills ratings in these three key everyday areas to see whether you need to pull back from the edge.

Richard Mukheibir

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personal-branding

When you run your own business, you are the brand champion and the brand ambassador – in fact, you are the brand. That is why in all the turmoil of start-up or getting a new product launched, you need to spare a moment to step back.

Think about how you are presenting to the world the brand that is so precious to you and that means so much for your future. Your clients certainly want to know and even see evidence that you are deeply committed to your brand. But there is a fine line between living the brand and letting the brand take you over and cloud your better judgement.

This is where personal branding becomes as important as your innovative product solutions or your customer service excellence. Edgy entrepreneur is one thing – but clients might shy away if they think that you have stepped over the edge and are more involved in process than delivery.

Check your life skills ratings in these three key everyday areas to see whether you need to pull back from the edge:

  1. Time management: Despite traffic problems or transport schedules, getting this right is vital. If you do not make it on time to an initial meeting with a client, this will raise alarm bells. The client’s immediate thought is, “Can I trust this person’s word about delivering on time?” Time is money and not being on time could ultimately cost you money.
  2. Look the part: If you look tired, dishevelled or have poor hygiene, instead of giving you a high five for pulling an all-nighter trying to troubleshoot a new product, clients might simply think that you do not fit with their corporate culture. Ask yourself if you even fit with your own corporate culture? Is this the way you want to present your brand and your business to the world?
  3. Clear the decks: You might just get away with your office or workshop looking like a tip where only you know where to find something. But do not let that attitude spill over into the world outside.

That apparently friendly and innocent courtesy of being escorted to your car by your host when you leave the meeting could cover them checking you out. Many business people judge potential service providers or partners by their car – not the brand but what it looks like.

Is it covered in dust and badly in need of a wash? Is it full of the rubbish of several lunches on the road and a muddle of paperwork? It is likely that they will deduce that this is how you run your business and how you would run your business relationship with them. In other words, the state of your car might get you the thumbs up or put an end to what had been a promising negotiation.

You can be how you like, do what you want when you are off duty. But when you are on your own business’s time, you are your own brand and you need to live up to it if you want to make your mark.

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Branding

5 Things You Can Do To ‘Humanise’ Your Brand

Face it: Consumers don’t automatically trust your brand or anyone else’s. Whaddaya gonna do?

Syed Balkhi

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branding

Let’s face it, consumers don’t trust brands. Most people view companies like faceless enemies; they’re just out to make money; they’re just telling us what we want to hear. So, if your company wants to win over more customers, you’ve got to get them to trust you.

In fact, according to PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey 2018, more than one in three consumers surveyed ranked “trust in brand” among the top three factors, other than price, influencing their decision to shop at a particular retailer. How do you get consumers to trust your company? You do it by showing them the human side of your brand. That will inspire more trust from consumers and boost your conversions.

To form meaningful relationships with your audience, check out these five ways to humanise your brand.

Show off your funny bone

netflix-tweet

One easy way is to show off your funny bone. According to researchers from the Turku PET Centre, Oxford and Aalto universities, social laughter leads to an endorphin release in the brain and may promote the establishment of social bonds. So, if laughter can make us feel good and encourage connections between people, you should consider using it to get the same results for your business.

Not a comedian yourself? Don’t worry; you can share popular and funny content that already exists. It’s what Netflix does when the media giant shares funny images from its shows.

Showing your more playful side will help consumers see that you’re not just a business focused on selling a product; you’re a human who can put aside your seriousness and have some fun.

Related: Boutique Branding Consultancy Morake Design House

Put your team members in the spotlight

Letting consumers see the people behind the business is a powerful way to humanise your brand. If consumers are looking at just your logo all the time, they might not see your brand as human. So, put your team members in the spotlight.

Shoot some quality photos of your staff members and display them on your website and your social media platforms. You don’t need to hire a professional photographer; iPhones today can take some pretty stunning shots. You might even share your employee of the month and include a story about what makes that staffer so great. Seeing the amazing people “behind the curtain” will help consumers put a face to the brand name.

Share user-generated content

Sharing user-generated content works to humanise your brand in two ways: First, it’s exciting and flattering to the user who gets his or her photo featured on your website or social media feed. Second, it shows other consumers that you have great relationships with their peers and that those people already enjoy your products.

Instead of being asked to blindly trust a company’s claims, consumers will see real-life people falling in love with your products, which will promote trust in your brand. Example? Airbnb does user-generated content well by sharing with its followers the amazing experiences its customers are having around the world.

airbnb-mozambique-holiday

If you don’t have any user-generated content, ask your customers for it. Do this in an email marketing campaign; add it to your branded packages for shipping; or create a post on social media encouraging users to take a photo of/with your product and share it in combination with a unique, branded hashtag.

Related: 5 Ways To Make Your Personal Branding Statement Stand Out

Tell authentic stories

Don’t spend all your time online just talking about how great your company is; humanise your brand by telling authentic stories. Sharing real stories about your failures, hardships and lessons that you’ve learned will help customers better relate and sympathise with you. According to Psychological Science, research suggests that shared pain may have positive social consequences; shared pain acts as a “social glue” to promote solidarity and togetherness between groups.

So, tell your target audience members stories that they can relate to, instead of simply presenting your brand as perfect. You could even share stories of your customers who previously struggled but then achieved success with help from your company/product. This will not only humanise your brand, but boost sales too.

Show appreciation for your customers

Letting your customers know that you care about and appreciate them is one of the best ways to humanise your brand. So, show appreciation for your best customers by sending them company swag or offering special discounts with a personalised message.

Buffer thanked one of its stand-out customers with not only company swag, but a personalised gift. I’m sure that those customers then became lifelong fans.

buffer-value-adds

Not every company can afford to send out swag to all of their best customers, but sending a gift to just a few of your rockstar fans can go a long way. For a less costly strategy, show appreciation to new customers by simply sending a welcome/thank you email. Not only will such appreciation for your customers humanise your brand, it’ll turn those customers into brand ambassadors.

Related: How A Branded Car Can Boost Your Business

Over to you

Be prepared for your business to have a lot more die-hard customers. With these tips for humanising your brand, consumers will be able to connect with your business, relate to you on a deeper level and want to have a relationship with your company for the long term.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Branding

How A Strong Brand Protects Your Business

Brand enthusiasts are welcome to follow Kyle Rolfe’s latest thoughts on brand building in South Africa and his analysis on relevant global trends and issues via Twitter @kylerolfeSA.

Kyle Rolfe

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intellectual-property

It is all too easy for small businesses to become victims of intellectual property theft and seeing their products and services copied by unscrupulous competitors. A clear case in point is that of Woolworths, which was recently accused of copying a baby carrier made by Ubuntu Baba, having a cheaper version made in China and selling it as its own in-house product.

Woolworths eventually apologised and withdrew its product, after Cape Town entrepreneur Shannon McLaughlin exposed similarities between the retailer’s baby carrier and that made by her company, Ubuntu Baba.

Small business owners can protect themselves from having their products or services copied by developing a strong and unique brand.

Brand uniqueness and an authentically developed product will give you a level of protection in the market, as it will be more difficult for a competitor to copy your offering.

What small business owners should avoid is the “white label solution”. This is taking any product, even one manufactured overseas, and putting your own branding and packaging on it and reselling it as your own.

There is nothing stopping your competitor from sourcing that same product and putting their branding on it and selling it as their own. In this case, as a small business owner, you would have no recourse.

Ubuntu Baba’s unique brand and authentically developed product, designed and manufactured locally, is what helped the small business successfully take on a giant retailer like Woolworths. They didn’t simply take someone else’s product and rebrand it as their own, they actually designed and built their own product.

A unique brand and product will position you as more than just a reseller and will give you a certain level of strength and protection in the market. It allows clients to differentiate you from your competitors and can also positively affect their purchasing decisions, directly impacting your profitability.

Effective branding, that is well defined and distinct, will not only help build your reputation, but it will also make you stand out from the competition.

Ultimately, your brand is your business identity. It is the image that you show to your client, making it one of your company’s most valuable assets. Effective branding portrays a company’s values and attracts the right client.

A strong brand identity also has the benefit of making your company appear bigger and stronger than your competition and consumers are generally attracted to well-established companies. So, ask yourself whether your branding conveys professionalism, reliability and trust.

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