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3 Ways Local Small Business Can Build Brand Like the Big Boys Do

Local small businesses may consider branding an exercise reserved for big corporations with deep pockets, but having worked as a brand builder for several years, the truth is that local small businesses can benefit greatly by building their brands, and they can do so using  the same basic principles that the big agencies use -- minus the million dollar budgets.

Here are three ways to begin building your small business brand like the big boys do: 

1. Get a clear picture of your customer

Do you know who your customers are? To be exact, do you know what group of customers is most profitable to your business? If you don’t yet, don’t worry. Big brands spend lots of budget on creating customer personas that best fit their target users.

You can do something similar without much expense by simply tapping into your current client list and picking out the most loyal of your repeat customers. Then find their commonalities; are they in the same age bracket? Are they from a certain part of town? Are they all single?

Asking and answering these kinds of questions helps you form a mental picture of your “ideal customer” or customer persona.  
 
The customer persona helps companies form a vivid picture of their target customers, and this helps shape their marketing strategies. The more detailed the description is, the better the understanding of who customers are and what they’re most interested in
 
For example, a cosmetic brand may keep separate customer profile for each of their product line. 

The customer persona for Line A may be “Tracy, an 18 year old college student who enjoys outdoor sports and partying with friends. She lives in the college town with 2 roommates and drives a used Honda convertible.” And the profile for Line B may be “Leslie, a 30 year old business woman with two kinds. She is a PR director working for a technology company and lives in the suburban area.”

The interests and needs of each of these customers are different, and the brand messaging needs to speak to each in their language, about products that meet their needs, and fit with their lifestyles.

2. Know what matters to them

With a clear picture of who you are serving, your next task is to discover what matters to them most. Rather than trying to be everything to everybody, set your business apart from the crowd by focusing on the most important elements that match up what you have to offer with what matters most to your ideal target customers.
 
Unlike the big corporations, local small businesses enjoy the advantage of having direct access to their customers. So talk to your customers and ask them why they choose and/or prefer your brand over your competitors.  A customer looking for plumbing services may value speed and availability, while another may value reliability above all else. Find out what your customers care about the most allows you to serve them better.
 
For example, for a local coffee shop located in a financial district, its customers are likely to be mostly business professionals. This group of customers enjoys higher income and is less price-sensitive. They value quality of product and service, as well as quickness of service and convenience. Their need may not be for personal use only, and may also require catering services. These customers come early in the morning for morning coffee runs, lunch hours for a quick bite and late afternoon for dessert treats.
 
On the other hand, a local coffee shop located in local neighborhood services a different group of customers who value a family environment where they can relax and connect with friends and family. They are looking for a relaxing atmosphere and friendly services. These customers come early in the morning for coffee runs, late afternoon for dessert treats, evening and weekend for social hangouts.

3. Meet the needs

Now that you’ve learned what drives the decision-making process of your ideal customers, it’s time to take a closer look at whether your offerings meet the needs of your customers. Take an inventory of your products and/or services, and make a list of your strength and weaknesses. Ask yourself if your brand provides the solution that fulfills your customers’ needs, or is it missing the mark completely?  

It’s important to be open-minded and flexible during the discovery phase. The process may lead you to consider adding a new product or service to your product mix, or you may find your strength lies elsewhere and it’s more profitable for you to serve a completely different group of customers.
 
Taking the example of the coffee shops, the local coffee retailer located in the financial district can meet the needs of its core customer by training a professional and efficient staff. It offers a more extended food menu with gourmet sandwich, salad, soup and etc. The coffee shop considers streamlining its operation and ordering process to speed up order fulfillment. The coffee shop also creates a standard procedure to profit from its catering services.
 
For the coffee shop in local neighborhoods can better serve its customer by considering a menu that focus on taste of home and offering a better kid-friendly menu. It carries a more limited food menu, but offers a greater dessert selection. It also considers expanding its patio seating for family dining, and/or a pit fire in its court yard for social hang-outs. It can also work with local musician for live music performance and extend its operating hours during the weekend for late night performances.
 
Now that you have the basics to get started, in the next post, we’ll take it to the next step with ways to build brand love.
 

Author Info

Geraldine Lin is a brand and marketing professional with hands-on experience in B2B and B2C marketing, retail marketing, SEM, digital marketing and branding.  She is currently with YP serving as the internal brand champion by providing brand guidance to help promote cohesive branding across all company functions.

Note: Ideas and concepts shared here are those of the author and not necessarily shared by or endorsed by YP℠.

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