Branding Strategies for Small Businesses
Imagine this, the company has a great product that is unique in its proposition but when placed on shelves, the product standing next to it grabs the attention and finally ends up in the shopping cart of the customers. It is painful to see that despite having a great product and running plenty of ads, people still don’t identify and choose others over your product. So, what is letting them do so?
The answer is poor branding.
Most of the start-up founders and small business owners perceive marketing and branding strategies to be the same. Marketing strategies intend to promote actively to sell a product or service. It takes care of how the product offerings can be presented to the buyers in the right place, at the best price, and at the right time. It calls for action from the side of buyers.
A product is an inanimate thing that we need to humanize and strike conversations with the customers with an emotional connection, such that people should remember you for not just merely a product that serves their purpose but as an ally or a pal that stands next to you through thick and thin.
Branding is the expression of the essence of an organization, product, or service and its reason for being. It communicates the characteristics, values, and attributes that the organization or product stands for, how it is positioned differently to competitors, and why a customer would buy it.
Why should start-ups think about branding?
India has the world’s third-largest start-up ecosystem where start-ups fall and take birth everyday and also there are many start-ups that have the same set of target audience as yours. Gone are the days when just the idea and prototype were enough to impress the investors for funding. Investors would now like to fund those start-ups that have an adequate customer base and a profitable revenue pipeline for the products or services, than a brand built on discount sales. For a start-up, visibility creates opportunities. Through effective branding, the market will learn the existence of your start-up and offerings, build an identity, help to remain in the market for a long time, and establish a strong image of a valued firm making it attractive for investors. That is why start-ups should make branding an essential component of their overall business strategy.
How digital strategies helps in branding?
The 90’s era of branding used to be a one-way communication where companies were unaware of how the audiences felt about their offerings. Digital strategies for branding establishes two -way communication.
Form better connections
As communication is two-way in the digital medium it helps to create better interactions with the target audiences. Brand values would stay true throughout the years if the content developed caters to the younger as well as older generation appreciating both the old and new ideas.
In this digital era that we live in, to ‘go viral’ is a big deal. It essentially means maximum exposure in a short period and while it has been misused in the past it can be a benefit for businesses. Going viral isn’t necessarily something that is planned, it just happens as a post result of your marketing effort. The great thing about digital branding is that brands are easily promoted through the action of others (i.e., likes, shares, feedback, recommendations, etc.)
Stand out from the crowd
It is essential to distinguish your start-up from the crowd. Digital branding does that by bringing together all your business’s strengths and successes across various mediums. With a multi-channel approach, we can reach our target customers through different digital strategies such as videos, search engine advertisements, chat sites, and social media platforms. Promotion of brand across mediums benefits the business as it allows a single brand message to be sent to a different set of customers, yet personalized to each and everyone. By continuing to stay at the forefront of the digital landscape, one can stay ahead of the competition.
Build something 100 people love, not something 1 million people kind of like.
Brian Chesky, Cofounder of Airbnb
Digital strategies for branding
Building a good website
When people hear of a brand first, the first action they take is to search for its presence on the internet. It can be a bummer for the potential customer if the website is not properly developed, and will never make the customer search for your brand again. The website is the zero moment of truth for the audience where they begin to collect information about the brand before making a purchase decision. There are four components to build a good website:
Easy navigation of website pages will trigger an interest in the audience to dig deeper into the website to know more about the brand. Every page of the website should have proper navigation links to each information on the website. When every page of the website has easy navigation, it increases the trust of visitors as they believe that no information is hidden from them. Proper breadcrumbs will help the visitors to keep track of where they are present on a website. The logo of the website should always guide to the homepage.
The content of the website should stir emotions in the minds of visitors. People generally tend to connect more with brands that have human-like attributes. The tone of the content should be appealing to the age and persona of the target audience. The use of simple and thought-provoking words laced with catchy titles makes the read interesting. Also, one should include the company vision, mission, values and customer experiences and testimony in the website content.
Use of correct colours, images, and infographics, gif images in the website attract the visitors. There should also be a uniformity in web page design that means it should have the same colours, font, formatting, graphics, personality, and emotions as that of the homepage. Make your website a single point of focus to lead their eyes to a call to action. Do not upload unnecessary images as it will take a long time for the website to load.
Mobile internet is the new medium of information dissemination. It is rare to find anybody without a smartphone today. To find information about a brand, the searchers quickly take out their mobile phones. As per a Google algorithm, it says mobile-friendly websites rank higher in searches. Entrepreneurs generally do not pay attention to building mobile-friendly websites. If the website doesn’t load properly on mobile, you can be sure that customers might forget to search the same on a PC. To check if your website is mobile-friendly, we can do a test in Google’s mobile-friendly test, where you can paste your website link where it lists the shortcomings of it and can be improved.
Humans beings have an affinity to be in groups where there is a sense of belonging. When start-ups form a community, they unite a group of customers having a set of traits or interests for which your company stands for to create a positive impact on society. Building communities transcends the customer-seller relation and fosters a family-like bond to increase customer conversations. Communities can be built on various social media platforms where the most popular being Facebook.
In India, the discussions on menstruation and menstrual hygiene are a big taboo. NUA is a new female personal care brand that manufactures sanitary pads, for various degrees of menstrual flow. It has broken the walls of menstrual taboo by forming a community on Facebook by the name Nua Mom. New mothers after pregnancy face hormonal changes that impact their menstrual cycle as well as mental health. Nua Mom addresses their questions and doubts by organizing expert forums with gynecologists and psychologists. Thus, this initiative has received immense popularity in females. It has branded itself to be the platform of sisterhood where females get advice and receive helpful medical and parenting tips.
For a new venture, to build communities creating a large audience base takes time and effort. Firstly, they can start involving the employees as a part of the community, encouraging them to spread awareness of the community to their friends, relatives, and families, and then spreading more about it, thus creating a snowball reaction.
Creation of videos
For new start-ups, the promotion of brands through an influencer might be an expensive affair. Videos of content such as DIY, demonstrations, tips, humour, etc tend to drive interest among potential customers. Started in 2012, Bewakoof a lifestyle fashion brand for the youngsters has established itself as an epitome of ‘cool’ fashion through its quirky-cool prints, quotes, and logos on t-shirts. In the era of web series, Bewakoof has come up with its own in-house videos by the name Bewakoof Studio. Keeping in mind that comedy and memes bind the youngsters, its short videos are of humour talking about the daily life problems that a millennial faces. Videos are posted on their Facebook page.
Apart from curating videos, vox pop videos can be curated to publish on the social media page. If we want to showcase the USP of your products, vox pops emerges as the best budget-friendly tool for branding as they showcase people’s opinions on a broad topic and allow the brand to convey a strong message through people’s answers. What better way to reach the public, than through the public?
One of the most popular digital strategies is creating hashtag campaigns on Instagram. The creation of campaigns encourages mutualistic relationships between customers and the company. Hashtags help to develop both your brand and contest recognition by serving as a means of sharing and driving user participation. Mamaearth is an Indian skincare and haircare brand that offers paraben-free products and has natural ingredients. Sundays are the days where people give time to themselves and their families. Utilizing this, Mamaearth has come up with the #Maskupsundays campaign that encourages the customers to try their product face packs and pose pictures to upload on Instagram stories using the #Maskupsundays. Mamaearth again uploads the images of customers in its Instagram stories hence giving them recognition. It has branded itself to the masses that Sunday is the day where an individual needs to take care of themselves using Mamaearth products.
Be the Problem Solver
The brands tend to become favourite to the masses when they offer convenience and solutions to the customer. Besides, from being prompt in informing about the order delay, refund updates, discounts, and offers, etc. it should also solve genuine problems that are indirectly relevant to the business. It can happen in various ways:
Ask me Anything (AMA)
This feature appears on Instagram where the brands encourage the audience to post queries that are directly or indirectly connected to the offerings. Here, the brand can give helpful suggestions by selecting their question and posting it in their Instagram story. By uploading the same on the brand’s Instagram story, a customer feels valued.
Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn Live
Informing the followers a day in advance that your brand will be coming live to solve queries will increase customer interactions.
When people visit your website to seek a solution, chatbots in the website can assist the visitor regarding what they want. If they are willing to book an appointment or want to know more about their offerings, it can be answered well by the chatbots. It can take the conversation a step further by offering personalized shopping advice.
Articles and blogs on the website help the visitors seek solutions for their problems. Such digital strategies accelerate the buying decision of potential customers. Let us understand how Bombay Shaving Company does it. The personal care and grooming segment for men has remained untapped and neglected for several years. Bombay Shaving Company is dedicated to personal care and grooming e-commerce company exclusively for men that have products like beard oil, face wash, creams, etc. It has introduced a section called ‘Aftershave’ on their website that addresses men’s genuine problems through self-help content with topics such as ‘How to treat hair loss in men’ or ‘How to fix a patchy beard’ etc.
Embrace a social cause
As per Accenture’s research, 63 per cent of the consumers prefer to purchase products and services from companies that stand for social or environmental purposes that reflect their values and beliefs. Consumers these days are actively supporting brands that focus on developing sustainable products and packaging to reduce plastic waste. Bare Necessities is a personal care and lifestyle brand that sells sustainable and eco-friendly products with zero-waste packaging. The digital strategies implemented by Bare Necessities for branding include webinars, online workshops, and courses to educate people about eliminating the use of plastic.
As per Accenture’s research, 63 per cent of the consumers prefer to purchase products and services from companies that stand for social or environmental purposes .
- 14th Annual Accenture Strategy Global Pulse Research, 2018
This is a part of email marketing. New businesses can develop content in the form of monthly or weekly newsletters to their customers informing them about the latest happenings in the industries relevant to your business. For example, a career portal can send them a weekly newsletter regarding the jobs that are currently in demand or tips to crack an interview or the job scenario after the pandemic etc. It builds credibility in the minds of people.
For a newly begun business, it is not necessary that branding requires a high budget and collaboration with influencers. The above-mentioned digital strategies are cost-effective and will help to build a loyal customer base.