There’s never been a better time to start your own business, and the internet provides the perfect tool to do so with very little financial investment. One of the key aspects that contributes to business success is branding. Developing a strong, recognizable brand is crucial if your company is going to succeed in a competitive market.
If you’re just starting out with a new business idea, you need to start building a client base. Until you do that, however, you might not have much spare cash to pump into marketing. This stage can become a vicious cycle, as you need to market your business in order to attract those crucial first clients. We’ve compiled a list of steps you can take to break that cycle, enabling you to develop your brand and attract new customers, without having to spend a fortune.
1. Create a tag line
Creating a catchy tag line will help make your business more memorable to those who come into contact with you or your website. As a general rule, you should be able to sum up what your business does in three to five key words. For example, one of the American Dairy Association’s tag lines was “Behold the power of cheese”, while Cisco Systems used “Empowering the internet generation”.
2. Create a branding guide (and stick to it)
Creating a branding guide doesn’t necessarily mean hiring a professional. It’s true that branding covers things like your logo – and it’s worth getting quotes from a few designers if you don’t already have one of these – but it also incorporates stylistic choices like font, and color schemes too. You can easily create a basic guide yourself that specifies which font you and your co-workers or employees should use when sending branded communications. Sticking to this guide will help create a recognizable appearance for your business.
3. Use social media
Pick two or three social media sites and use them effectively. The kind of sites you pick will depend on your business and your target customer, but they are a free and easy way to get in contact with potential clients. If you need help, read up Dani’s previous article on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube – Which Social Media Platform Is Right for Me?
4. Submit guest content
If you have a blog, look for other blogs that cover similar topics and submit a suggestion for a guest post. Showcasing your work on other relevant websites exposes your brand to a wider audience, and is an effective way of drawing new readers over to your website. Also consider asking to contribute pieces in other organizations’ newsletters and trade publications to get your voice heard.
5. Use article submission websites
As well as guest posts on other sites, submitting your work to article submission websites like Ezine Articles and Articlesbase can help establish you as an expert in your field, as well as create links back to your website.
6. Use your email signature
Include your website URL, tagline, and social media links in your email signature to make your correspondence more professional and increase exposure to your branding.
7. Gather testimonials
Every time you perform a service for a new client, ask them for a testimonial. Post the top three to five testimonials on your website, and compile the best of the rest into a PDF that you can send to potential clients if requested, or that they can download from your website.
8. Start a blog or newsletter
Starting a blog or newsletter can help you develop your brand in three ways. it helps readers get to know – and trust – you and your company. Secondly, it can act as a vehicle for running other brand-building promotions, such as competitions. Lastly, a blog or newsletter can help you develop your brand into a community. To incentivize people to join your newsletter, offer them a reward, for example a discount on their next purchase. Online marketing resource Copyblogger encourage readers to sign up to their mailing list by offering a free course.
Read also Liz Alton’s 6 Strategies to Brand Your Blog
9. Purchase and redirect relevant domains
Purchase the domain for your company’s name, if you haven’t already, and redirect it to your company’s website, if the URL is different. If you are a public figurehead of the company, purchase the domain name of your name too and also redirect it to your company’s website. This way, if people are searching for either you or your company, they will always end up back at your company website.
10. Find local groups
Online networking and promotion is important, but offline networking and marketing can be just as effective in helping to build your brand. Industry conferences are expensive, so smaller networking opportunities can be more cost effective. Find local networking groups or meet ups, and take some business cards. You never know which interactions might result in a big referral, so keep an open mind.
11. Offer something for free
We’ve already mentioned the importance of showcasing your work, and one way of doing this directly from your website is to offer a small sample of your work for free. This is an effective way of demonstrating the value of your products or services to potential clients, without spending a lot of time or money. Depending on your business, freebies you could consider offering include a short ebook, an audio recording, a worksheet or a brief taster coaching session. The Copyblogger course from number eight is a good example of how giving out a free product can build credibility.
12. Keep track of potential clients
Start a spreadsheet containing details of people who have expressed interest in your products and services. This tool is separate from your mailing list, and helps you develop a system for following up with potential clients. Keeping track of potential clients helps you avoid missing out on sales, and following up on queries and pending sales can make the difference between a happy customer and a lost opportunity.
13. Reward for referrals
Good customer service doesn’t end with a sale, and acknowledging people who have referred new clients and customers to your business can go a long way towards building your credibility. Send a thank you note, offer a discount, or give out vouchers to people who make referrals. The more you can encourage current clients and customers to spread the word about your business, the less time you have to spend on marketing yourself.
Trying to cover too many areas at once will leave customers confused about your brand, whereas developing your presence in a specific niche will help you promote your expertise in a certain topic. Being specific about the niche your business fills helps you focus on developing a reputation for offering a quality service within that area. Once you’ve decided what you’re going to specialize in, you can start developing services around that, such as specialist talks and products.
15. Update regularly
You’ve set up your social networks, your blog is up and running, and you’ve rolled out your newsletter. Now you need to make sure you update your public outlets regularly to maintain a constant presence. A major part of developing a strong brand presence is to make sure people think about you in a positive way. Sending out communications and social networking updates once a week will help you build your brand much more effectively than contacting fans and followers twice a year, simply because they will think about you more.