I recently was browsing Amazon for a book, and as always I was using the “Click to Look Inside” button to preview a chapter of Social Media for Business by Brossman and McGaha.
I was skimming through that section, when something caught my eye. #5 in their summary stated plainly “Branding isn’t for small business” and it is with that I have to disagree. . .strongly.
Let me start by saying that I know a little about selling and marketing for small businesses because I worked for a start up technology company, and have started new divisions for 2 other small companies in the last 10 years as well.
In my experience, most peoples’ first contact with small businesses occur when the business initiates contact. By that I mean, most small businesses cant compete with their larger counterparts when it comes to ad buys whether they are online, in print, or in some sort of multimedia campaign.
Typically small businesses have some type of personal contact with their clientele first, either by phone, or in person. So if you have cold called someone and pitched your business, what is the first thing that they ask? “Can you send me some information?” What about if you meet in person? What is the first thing you hand them? Your business card. And when they get off the phone with you, or back to a computer after a meeting, where do they go? To your website.
So if you hand someone a card at a networking event, how important is it that it stand out or be relevant so that it gets looked at again later? Or if they go to your website from the address on your card, that the site mirror the look and feel so that they know they arrived at the right place? Or that the information that you send after a brief phone call look professional and be consistent with your online image as well?
The first impression you make in person or on the phone must be followed up with an experience that confirms to the client that your business is a viable solution for their needs. It should echo the professionalism that they experienced in their interaction with your business, and confirm to them that they are making a sound choice in considering you.
In many cases the person you interacted with may be a technical buyer. He may not actually sign checks for the type of product or service you provide, but acts as a gatekeeper, recommending those products and services to the person in the organization that controls the money.
If that is the case, he is most likely forwarding those materials and URLs to someone else, someone who HASN’T had the benefit of interacting with your directly. This means that the materials now need to hold their own against your competition.
Branding will always be an important part of a small businesses marketing plan. I agree that if you don’t have a great product or service, no one will hire you the second time just because your logo looks nice. However, in our highly competitive world of visual communications and multimedia entrancement, good branding can help you to stand out and get that first opportunity, and that is where all of our customers initially start out.
So as the song asks, “What do you do when you’re branded?” You close more business.