No matter how innovative your small business service or product is, you need to make potential clients aware of it before you can turn it into a success. Marketing is the method that most small business owners use to get word out about their company, but marketing isn't just about putting a sales message on a postcard and mailing it out to potential clients; marketing is about branding your company so that potential clients have an idea of what to expect when working with you, understand what sets you apart from competitors and can identify your company out of a crowd of others in the industry. (To learn more about branding, check out The Power Of Branding.)
TUTORIAL: Business Plan

Branding is one of the most important tasks a small business can do, since it could be the tipping point between gaining and losing sales. If you aren't sure where to even begin in branding your business, here are a few tips to help you get started.

Choose a Simple Branding Message
What sets your company apart from others in your industry? What makes you different and original? What about your company makes it the one that a potential client should choose? These are the questions that your brand message should answer. Find a simple, smooth and uncluttered way to convey these answers through your branding message.

Create a Voice to Accompany Your Message
It's not just what you say, but how you say it. Your corporate "voice" is the language, tone and rhythm that you utilize in all your communications. Not only does this voice deliver the core of your branding message, but it also creates an overall image for your company that extends past the message itself and makes you unique. Make the Message and Voice a Cohesive Part of the Marketing Package.

Your marketing pieces, both online and print, should all have the same message, and should be created with the same voice that you use for all other communications. This includes your website, blog, social networking campaigns and correspondence.

Create a Logo and Design Scheme
It's important to have many different ways to convey your message and style to your potential clients, so you need to have both verbal and visual brand representations for your company. That means you need a logo and color scheme that complements your verbal message, and creates a cohesive presentation for your materials and website.

Be Consistent
When you are testing different messages and voices, it makes sense to have a few different campaigns working with totally different looks. But once you measure all your feedback and determine which brand message and image works best, have all your correspondence and client accessed sites reflect the same image, voice and message. If you aren't focused about how you appear, then your potential clients will be impacted by your inconsistency rather than your message.

Measure Reactions and Tweak Your Message and Design
As you move forward, make sure you measure the reactions of your potential clients to your brand. Watch for their discussions on social networks and blogs and pay attention to sales figure movements. When you notice certain aspects of your branding not delivering, tweak them.

The Bottom Line
Branding is a dynamic part of your marketing plan. It is an effective way to allow your business to stand apart from competitors and discover how to best speak to your potential clients and win their trust. But if it is not carried consistently through all of your interactions with potential customers and isn't tweaked as trends and relationships change, it will not work as effectively. Tend to your brand, and continue to develop it as you would any other aspect of a thriving business. (For more tips on how to make your small business succeed, read In Small Business, Success Is Spelled With 5 "C"s.)

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