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How to master your brand and gain a competitive edge

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Whether by design or default, your business has a brand.  While many business owners think they know what their brand message is, they are often far off the mark.  Your brand is more than your company name and logo.  It encompasses every aspect of your business from the way your phone is answered to the way you follow up with your customers after a sale.

Your brand should have a personality all its own. It should resonate with your market and project a strong message that helps you stand out from your field of competitors. What makes your business unique?  Why should someone choose your company over a competitor?

Here are four tips to help you create the perfect brand for your small business.

  • Define Your Value Proposition.  Strong brands stand for something.  What is it you’re really selling?  It’s not the product or service you offer, but what it does for your customer.  Zappos sells happiness in a box, not shoes.  Ace Hardware is all about helpfulness, not necessarily the hardware.  So what business are you really in?  What value do you offer your customers that they can’t get anywhere else?  I can’t answer that for you.  You need to listen to your market and your customers to determine what unique need you fill.  A good place to start is by asking your current customers and clients, why they do business with you.  Once you’ve identified your unique value proposition, then you can build your brand around it.
  • Deliver On Your Brand Promise.  One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make when it comes to branding is staking a claim to being one thing but not delivering on that brand promise.  Make sure your brand message is consistent throughout your organization.  Communicating your brand externally is important, but it’s equally important to communicate it internally.  Everyone in your organization should clearly understand your brand and for what your business stands.  The delivery of your brand promise should be evident in every area of your business.  If your brand mantra is customer service, and someone calls your office and can’t get through, it hurts your brand.  Unmet expectations can undo expensive marketing campaigns.  So make sure you’re delivering at every point of contact.
  • Target Your Ideal Customers. You can’t be all things to all people in your business. No matter how broad you think the appeal of your product or service is, not everyone is going to be interested in it. That’s why you should identify the appropriate niche for your business based on your value proposition. Some experts refer to it as your sweet spot.   Your marketing messages should be targeted to the appropriate market to prevent you from making costly mistakes.
  • Focus on Substance Not Sizzle.  Frequently, entrepreneurs spend too much money on what I call “window-dressing” —  business cards, websites and marketing materials — to create what they believe to be the “right” image.  In today’s market-place, it’s easy to have champagne taste on a beer budget.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money to create the professional, credible image you desire.  With the right marketing messages, directed to the right audience and a professional presence, you can build a strong brand without breaking the bank.

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