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A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

Ten ways to build a brand for your small business

Branding is just as important for small businesses as it is for big names. Indeed, many corporate brands try to look more like small firms in order to appeal to consumers that prefer to support independent brands. Dan Einzig of agency Mystery explains how to develop your own brand identity

Many small business owners I talk to already understand that branding is essential to their business, but a surprisingly high number of them don't really know why.

They recognise the link between successful businesses and strong branding, and aspire to build a brand that creates similar success for themselves. And they understand that branding is not just a logo or how their business is perceived externally. But too few realise that successful brands have this branding at the heart of the business. So much so that in many ways you could almost substitute the word brand for business.

Your brand identity

Branding is a way of defining your business to yourself, your team and your external audiences. It could be called the business' 'identity', but only on the understanding that it embodies the core of what the business is and its values, not just what it looks and sounds like. Customers of all sorts of businesses are so savvy today that they can see through most attempts by companies to gloss, spin or charm their way to sales.

The benefits that a strategically defined brand can bring are the same as when people fall in love with each other.

  • When customers connect emotively - because they share the same values and beliefs as the brand - it leads to higher sales and better brand differentiation.
  • A strong brand encourages loyalty, advocacy. It can even protect your price in times when competitors rely on promotional discounts to drive sales.
  • Your brand can also give you the ideal platform from which to extend your offering or range.

Brand building steps

Here are ten tips on how to successfully implement branding for your business:

1. Start by defining your brand.

Review the product or service your business offers. Pinpoint the space in the market it occupies and research the emotive and rational needs and concerns of your customers. Your brand character should promote your business, connect with your customer base and differentiate you in the market.

2. When building your brand, think of it as a person.

Every one of us is an individual whose character is made up of beliefs, values and purposes that define who we are and who we connect with. Our personality determines how we behave in different situations, how we dress and what we say. Of course for people it's intuitive and it's rare that you even consider what your own character is. But when you're building a brand it's vital to have that understanding.

3. Consider what is driving your business.

What does it believe in, what is its purpose and who are its brand heroes. These things can help establish your emotive brand positioning and inform the identity and character for brand communications.

4. Aim to build long-term relationships with your customers.

Don't dress up your offering and raise expectations that result in broken promises, create trust with honest branding - be clear who your company is and be true to the values that drive it every day.

5. Speak to your customers with a consistent tone of voice.

It will help reinforce the business' character and clarify its offering so customers are aware exactly what to expect from the product or service.

6. Don't repeat the same message in the same way over and over again.

Instead, aim to make your key messages work together to build a coherent identity.

7. Don't try to mimic the look of chains or big brands.

Try and carve out your own distinctive identity. There is a big consumer trend towards independent establishments, and several chains are in fact trying to mimic an independent feel to capture some of that market. Truly independent operators can leverage their status to attract customers who are looking for something more original and authentic, that aligns with how they feel about themselves.

8. Be innovative, bold and daring - stand for something you believe in.

Big brands are encumbered by large layers of bureaucracy, preventing them from being flexible and reacting to the ever-changing needs of their customers. Those layers of decision-makers can make it hard for them to be daring with their branding.

9. Always consider your branding when communicating with customers.

Don't lose your pride or dilute your brand positioning with indiscriminate discounting. Try offering more, rather than slashing prices. Promotions are an opportunity to reinforce your brand mission.

10. The old way of stamping your logo on everything won't cut it.

The future of branding is fluid and engaging - respect your customers' intelligence by not giving everything away up front. Generate some intrigue and allow them to unearth more about your brand for themselves. This is the way to foster ambassadors who revel in telling other people what they have discovered.

Written by Dan Einzig, CEO of Mystery, the brand design agency that helped develop brands for clients including Bōkan, Canary Wharf, Rawligion, Bubbleology, Giraffe, Yorica, Sloane Bros, Caffé Italia, Ponti's Italian Kitchen, Caffé Ritazza, Kua'aina, Livia's Kitchen, Gino Gelato, Monkey Nuts and Za Za Bazaar, the largest restaurant in Britain.

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