Your small business brand is the way you communicate the value of your products and services to build sustainable relationships with customers.
That said, do you feel like your small business is not as well off as it should be?
Maybe you've been in business for a few years or a few decades, and you feel like you should be further along than you actually are. You feel like you should have more customers than you have.
You feel like the people who do engage with your business get it. But it's so hard to get people to engage with you. And you don't know why that is.
It's simple. Your small business is not a brand. Or, more precisely, It's not a brand yet.
What is a small business brand?
Your brand is actually your customer story and how it aligns with your communication. Basically, your brand is your ability to empathize with your customer and then communicate that empathy. That's your brand.
The communication part of that equation is where the logos and colors come into play. It's also part of communicating your customer story and how you empathize with your customer.
What is your customer story?
Your customer story is all about what it is that they feel, what their motivations are, and how those motivations align with what you do. That combination is the customer story. And that is what you need to be connecting with.
Now let's use an extremely well-known brand for an example. Nike has basically every element of their brand 100% aligned with their customer's motivation. And then that is all communicated in a cohesive customer story. Nike is a brand that is about strength, endurance, training, growth mindset and all things athletic. And their products and services communicate all of those qualities.
When most people think of Nike, they think of the elite athletes that are associated with the brand. In order to be an elite athlete, you have to believe that you can grow, change, be strong, have an intrinsic worth. You have to believe that you can indeed “just do it”.
And where does every elite athlete start? Every elite athlete starts at a try, from elementary school to college, they started somewhere.
How Nike gets it right
Nike communicates this by weaving together stories and images of amateur athletes and professional athletes. They seamlessly weave those stories together to show us what their brand is about. They can say “Just do it” because we know that is what their brand is about. Everything they sell, all their commercials, lines up with achieving excellence.
When Nike gets outside of that brand messaging, when they get in trouble for the practices of coaches within their track program, we are disappointed because that doesn’t fit within their message of striving to be excellent. When something like that happens, Nike has to pull itself back into line with its customers because their customers push back and demand it.
Yes, Nike is a huge, multinational corporation, but why would it be any different for you as a small business?
You are not working on the same scale, but you should definitely learn from what Nike does. Align yourself with your customer story and let your customer pull you into alignment instead of trying to do what you think you should be doing and then making them align with you.
When it comes to building a small business brand, a lot of us are out here doing our own things and hoping people follow us. The reality is that, in order for you to be a really great brand, you have to be following your customer.
What do you need to do to stop holding yourself back? Identify what your customer story is and then align yourself to it, rather than trying to align them to your story.
Branding is not about you
As a business owner, you’ve got to care about your customers, their story, and what they want. Because as soon as you stop caring about their story, you’ll be floating off into the wilderness without connecting to the customer. They don't even know you are lost because they don't know you exist.
We have to go to where they are. So how do we do that? How do we even identify whether or not we're off track? There are a couple of things that we need to take the time and evaluate.
Know the customer story
So what is your customer story? When I say the term "customer story", I simply mean, coming from a place of empathy, what is it that they are experiencing difficulty with? What are their motivations? Why would they need your product or service? And what does that look like in their everyday life? Where are they? All of those things add to become their customer story.
Going back to the Nike example, their customer story is all about someone who is trying for growth and excellence in athletics. They recognize the person who is trying and is in a growth mindset. They try to be the answer to their difficulties.
Their messages say things like we help you try harder, we help you grow, we help you gain strength, and we help you get where you're trying to go.
They associate with elite athletes because that association is aspirational for someone who is out there trying to be better than they were before. They use this to illustrate a perceived competitive advantage elite athletes have because of Nike products.
Evaluate is how to communicate that story via social media
A lot of small business owners are in a position where they are not communicating their customer story at all. If you are only on social media to get people to do what you want and look at you, you’re doing it wrong. Social media is about the customer and how we're communicating the message of their story in relation to our products. The more we can do that, the better.
Get your communication aligned on your website
Your website is a powerful way for you to communicate your small business brand messages and develop the brand. Your website needs to have every page serving your customer story and the messaging you are delivering to your customer.
Super unique businesses with super unique websites get that way because they're developing that website with their customer story in mind. They're not developing it in a vacuum.
Take a look at your emails
How are your emails communicating value to your customer based on their story? You should be evaluating your emails and asking how you can turn this email into something that is going to be a value to the customer.
I’ve received many great emails from different organizations that were able to hit the nail on the head targeting my motivations and needs as it relates to what they were selling. It becomes easy to go ahead and buy whatever they are selling. When you can actually make that alignment happen inside your emails, that is where you make money.
Bring it all together into a cohesive small business brand
If you are feeling like your small business is being held back, that there's resistance, I need you to evaluate all of these things. You need to think critically about how you are pulling together your messages with your customer story.
If you can make those things fit together and work for your business, you will grow and move your business into the position of a brand. You can develop your own ability to be aligned with your customer and always be communicating that to them via social media, your website and your email marketing.
Now that you have thought through these core concepts, I am going to challenge you to take this one step further.
If you are looking for help when it comes to creating quality branding for your small business, we are here to help.
Our Small Business Brand Audit is a great way to help you determine where you are in building your brand and where you need to go. It helps you identify your customer's perspective and position your brand based on your specific competitive evaluations. It also helps you to align your brand messaging by mapping your customer's motivations and determine where your small business stands on it's path to actually being a brand.
This self guided brand audit is completely free and available to you at the link below. Join the program and complete it on your own schedule. The program consists of six videos as well as a workbook that contains instructional activities to help you transition your small business into a brand.
Branding, Crisis Communication, Messaging
Digital Marketing, Social Media, Strategy