Big Impact Branding for Small Businesses

Presented by Christina "CK" Kerley

Marketing doesn't necessarily take a lot of money -- it takes being smart.

Why is branding important?

It's how you communicate and demonstrate your unique value. Everything can be branded (places, causes, processes, services, products, people, etc.)

Goal of branding: "Branding is not about getting your prospects to choose you over your competitors, it's about getting your customers to see you as the only solution to their problem." (Robert Frankel quote)

Branding is more than a name, a logo and a tag line.

When you have a strong brand, people will pay a premium for what you offer. They'll go out of their way to get it, and continue to purchase it. They'll recommend it to others.

Branding will never compensate for a poor product or service.

Branding doesn't have to be expensive, but it does need to be in line with your goals and markets.

Just because your company is small doesn't mean your brand needs to be.

Six Strategies for Small Business Branding

  1. Sell your value, not your products. Promote the core value your brand provides to buyers. Example of FedEx: they're an overnight shipping company, but the value the brand promotes is business efficiency.
  2. Create the brand category. If you create the category, you automatically own the category. Example of categorization: Barnum & Bailey (categorized as "family entertainment") and Cirque du Soleil (categorized as "creative content provider"). They're both circuses, but they're not really competitors. Cirque du Soleil created their own branding category.
  3. Claim a unique platform. What differentiates your brand from your competitors? (Personality, voice, messaging, look, feel and culture). Be consistent across platforms. Look at yourself and what you do. Then, look at your competitors and what they do. What makes you different?
  4. Turn around perceived "weaknesses." Example: Apple computer turned its "weakness" of being behind Microsoft in market share into the strength of being "different," with "different" being a positive. Ask yourself: which perceived weaknesses of yours can be turned into compelling strengths?
  5. Get emotional. Branding is a balance of marketing strategy and human emotion. Connect with your audience's preferences, pain points and passions. Questions: which emotions are you working to connect with your prospects on, and how?
  6. Tell grand stories. Don't just communicate what your brand does, create a bigger story in which your brand plays a part. Our brains retain stories. Example: story of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Two hippies who consistently tell the story of how they've maintained their values (making a high quality product and supporting social causes) and made money at the same time.

Discussion and Q&A

Question: do you brand your company or yourself, if you're a small business?

Answer: Depends on your long term plans for the business. Can be dangerous if the person around whom the brand is built leaves the business, but when the person is the business, it makes sense to brand both.

Question: how do you go about branding a company that covers a wide variety of products or services? (Example: company that makes supplements for barnyard animals, human athletes, horses, etc.)

Answer: Probably may want to brand by each market. People who are buying athletic supplements for themselves are probably not looking for supplements for barnyard animals. Probably will want brand names for each of the individual product lines with company as an over arching brand, with emphasis primarily on the individual product line brands.


  • Bylined articles -- exposure and positioning as an expert
  • Programs, such as a book club for marketers
  • Blogging
  • Organize events / social get-togethers

It's an ongoing process. Just keep in mind your brand and the message you want to get across and be consistent across each platform.

As industries evolve, categories become more specific. Start out with generic "social networking," now we have specific social networks for all sorts of specialty interests. When you create a new category, it's newsworthy, so you can use public relations tactics to build awareness of this new category.

Press always love "how to" tips. Get granular -- find outlets that are specifically related to the story you want to tell and offer them content.

Giveaways can be good marketing techniques. When you give away something of value, you get back a lot.

Branding is more than a slogan. Value point doesn't have to be a big deal. Can be as simple as "We'll deliver in 30 minutes or its free."

September 22, 2008

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