A well-known management professional once said that the investment you make into a brand makes its name worth it. The above sentence has two very striking elements: i) investment and ii) brand.
In the age where there are a plethora of brand options available, for an entrepreneur, it is very important to invest in one’s brand to differentiate one brand from another. Investments in marketing and communication hence become very crucial. Entrepreneurs need to make the end consumer aware about their offerings and how it is different from others.
In my opinion, branding as a business function should be as much as a business priority as any other business function. Arguably, branding is the soul of your marketing strategy. Consistent branding efforts not only augment sales and marketing but also help define the perception of an enterprise. Also these days, consumer have gotten brand conscious and prefer to buy a recognised brand. This further accentuates the need for branding, marketing and visibility building.
For many large conglomerates, branding is a cost intensive affair with highly specialised workforces driving effective branding techniques. For smaller businesses however, the challenge is working on branding initiatives and building opportunities based on limited resources, workforce and budgets as compared to their larger contemporaries. This is why we see that SMEs and MSMEs do not focus heavily on branding exercise for various reasons.
It is vital for small and medium businesses to know that to secure a business position, it is crucial to build a strong brand. No matter how great your product or service maybe, if it is not backed by a well-conceived brand, there are chances that the business may either remain stagnant or drop. Stagnancy, although denotes a static pace, in business, it is as dangerous as a decline.
To address this, in my opinion, for small scale businesses, a focussed marketing plan with more BTL activation and digital marketing including customer loyalty programs works best. Entrepreneurs should constantly strive towards building a strong brand identity that enables consumers to resonate with the enterprise.
Regardless of the business you are in, entrepreneurs should always start by knowing their target audiences and lay emphasis on determining one’s target audience preference. Ask yourself: Who is your customer? What is the businesses target audience and what is customer need that your enterprise is catering to? These answers are important foundation blocks to an effective brand building strategy. Another important aspect to consider would be to outline the key qualities and benefits your brand offers. There will always be big brands with big budgets and will cater ample amount of resources. You have to dive down deep and figure out what you offer, that no one else is offering. Always focus on the quality and benefit that a consumer can have after using your product.
Entrepreneurs often are hasty while creating a brand logo & tagline. This is the most important piece of brand building procedure. This logo will appear on everything that covers your business. This will be your identity, calling card, and the visual recognition to the consumers as a brand. As important as a brand logo and tagline is, building a brand message is equally important. A brand message is an opportunity to communicate on a human level, making a direct emotional connection with your consumers. While making a brand message you should always address customers about your product, why is it important to a customer, and its benefits.
Customers aren’t looking for another company who offers the same thing as everyone else does. For this entrepreneurs should allow their brand personality to shine. Customers are looking for a new product that satisfy their needs in a better way. Make your brand stand out in every aspect. Lastly, integrate your brand into every aspect of your business. Your brand should be reflected in everything your customer can see. Your brand image should be on display both in personal interactions and in environment.
Challenges faced by small businesses in managing multi-city retail activities
The biggest challenge many entrepreneurs may face is the lack of resources which includes people, budgets and time. Maintaining a consistent plan and timely execution can be cumbersome task.
I can share my own example here. With 76 stores in 37 cities, we have realised that it is impossible to focus on all the stores at a time and this leads to loopholes in the communication. In retail, there are few aspects which can be understood only when we are present at the store or understand the local audience which has proved to be a hurdle for us with a very small team.
It takes lot of money and efforts to outsource the marketing activities in multiple cities. Small business owners struggle to grow given the restrictions of small staff, limited budget, and lack of time. It is difficult to meet the demand when you are unable to grow your staff. This in turn brings about a challenges with regards to increasing visibility and generating quality leads. All successful businesses know the secret of converting a prospective lead to sales is due to a good website. Your website plays a vital role in the sales. It is an asset that keeps building customers 24×7. You should always think from the point of customer when developing a new website. This approach will let your customer connect better. This will generate more leads and sales.
For a digital and social media perspective, many entrepreneurs struggle while choosing the right social media platforms. However, investing time and building a team to effectively manage the platforms is very important especially in the current times. Social media is the cheapest and the most effective model for generating leads. Creating posts on Facebook and Youtube will cost you nothing. The right media platform can also generate customer leads.
From a marketing point of view, entrepreneurs struggle with the consistent execution of marketing activities. A great marketing plan will help you in marketing activities. This will make your activity work smoothly and ensures a consistent message throughout. This in turn brings out the challenges related to producing and delivering content - Your content should connect with customers. It can improve your search engine visibility and build credibility in the business community. Many small businesses understand the importance of content marketing, but fail to realize its potential as a business growth strategy.
One very common challenge area for entrepreneurs is to keep up with trends and technology.Keeping up to date with technology is essential for every business owner. You should engage in some tech work for a smooth and efficient procedure of your brand establishment.
Lastly it is a big struggle to identify a team who can be trusted to outsource marketing activities. Outsourcing to a marketing agency means that you are engaging a team of experts into your business. With a marketing agency, you can expect the best results possible. Though the challenge here is to find a team who acts like a partner rather than a vendor and shares the same common vision as the entrepreneur. Without this, working as a team can pose to be a challenge and trusting the team would be difficult.
Ways to make branding and marketing for small businesses more impactful
To make the most of the branding initiatives, entrepreneurs can try several ways to engage with their customers. In my experience, offering promotions have been very effective. Entrepreneurs can promote on various social media handles or your constructed website. Customers always want something different and by providing them the value added services which no other competitor is providing will take your promotion on new heights.
BTL activations and engagement initiatives with local audiences through roadshows and sales promotion can also help in achieving more sales as well to create brand awareness. Brand presence in local areas with the visibility in malls where you store is located works better than the ATL activations involving mass audience. It is more cost effective as well. Tie-up with other brands and cross promotions with other brands can also help you to create better brand awareness. This will share the customers of both the brand equally. It will gain more audiences to your brand.
From a digital perspective, a well-designed website with the entire product and brand information can create lot of awareness among customers. It is essential to construct credibility around the brand name and set a framework for the customers. It will build customer trust and bring rewards or recognitions on the website. Also, entrepreneurs should know that the more they focus on digital marketing, the more they will be able to reach out to their audiences with lesser money. One may need to create a compelling content strategy which speaks louder than the competitors and leads to more customer engagement.
Lastly, engage with other entrepreneurs through peer to peer networks. These platforms enable entrepreneurs who have paved similar paths not only with regards to branding but also other business aspects. Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from other entrepreneurs as to what they have tried as marketing and branding initiatives. These discussions can trigger blind spots which on retrospection, can be very valuable. The platform can be considered as an incubator of all marketing and branding problems.
To be successful in sustainable business practices often requires entrepreneurship and innovation. Brand building can be one of the most significant things you can do for your new or existing business. It can transfer your business to a small player into a successful competitor. Your business plan will serve as a roadmap that guides you through the process. Your marketing strategy based on the needs of your target market will decide the channel to attract customers. Every step that you take will play an important role in your business from both a marketing and customer service perspective. It also will increase the visibility of your brand and give you a chance to become a go-to authority in your field. You will discover that customers have faith in your brand. They have a trust that whatever you are seeking is of the best quality. Your preparation will result in an exciting and successful brand launch.