When we think about branding, we often confuse the idea with spending a lot of money on marketing and promotion. It’s easy to see how it could involve a lot of money when we look at the lengthy process large corporations go through to make their brand the go-to for a particular product or service. When you are running a small business though, you have a much lower budget. So let’s have a look at how you can go about low-budget branding.
Brand values and mission
No matter how big or small your budget is, the first step in your branding process is to establish what values your company and brand has. Those values will inform everything you do and say, and they are the things that should set you apart from your competition. You can spend as much money as you want engaging professional marketers to work with you on this, or you can do it yourself at no cost besides your time. Defining your brand is one of the most challenging tasks you will do, but your values are what makes your brand uniquely your brand.
Think about your mission, and specifically, think about it in the context of how it affects others. Some of the most effective brands make you feel like you are part of their family and that they share the same values you do. That’s what you want to communicate, and by articulating it consistently in all your branding and marketing efforts, you are helping people to relate to your brand and buy your products.
Put down your brand mission and values in writing, articulate them clearly and concisely. Then, whenever you are communicating, it will be much easier to do, be it a new logo, a video commercial, or even an email. Before you know it, you’ll be able to create brand ambassadors without any financial cost at all.
Make your mission your tagline
We talked about your mission in the last section, and to be most effective, you need to tell people about it. That means being short and succinct, a phrase that can also serve as your business tagline. It should summarize your values in a way that is easy to remember and easy to relate to. It should also incorporate the value proposition that you are giving your customers.
Let’s look at Microsoft. Their mission statement is “to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential.” It is straightforward and tells customers that Microsoft wants to help them reach their potential, the very same thing that those customers want. It’s the very definition of relatable. That’s what you want! Remember though, everything you do should be consistent with this. Base your actions and products on this tagline, your mission. Have a look at this ad from Microsoft for a great example of how they are consistent:
Rethink your logo
There are a lot of logo’s around that don’t stand out. That’s not what any of us want, and it shouldn’t be an afterthought. Ideally, you want to keep your logo for years without change, or with only minimal changes, because it is the number one thing that your customers will recognise. We, as business owners, tend to scrimp on this, but working with a skilled designer will help ensure you get good results, even if it does cost a bit more.
Whether you are working with a designer on your logo, or if you are doing it yourself, think about how it aligns with your mission, and how it stands out from others. Think about where you will use it, and how readable it will be. When you think you’ve got the one, put it somewhere noticeable for a while, and see if anything about it starts to bug you, or if there is any aspect that doesn’t contribute to communicating your mission or values. If it doesn’t tick all the boxes, then it’s time to revise. Do this as many times as you need to until it’s just right.
Online low-budget branding
There is a vast amount you can do online for minimal cost, and it doesn’t matter how big or small your business. Whether it’s Facebook advertising, blog marketing, or any other online channel, you can start getting your brand out there for only a few dollars a day. Remember though, whatever you do, tie it into your mission and values. Make sure that you are communicating them because you aren’t just selling your product or service. You are also selling how well your business values relate to your potential customer’s values. Pick the platform that best allows you to communicate this, and then focus on that one. If you are doing this on your own, you don’t want to be trying to stretch yourself across too many platforms. Keeping your focus narrow, especially initially, will allow you to spend your marketing dollars more efficiently and get a more significant return on your investment.
Money, money, money
To be completely honest, you can spend absolutely nothing but time on your marketing if that’s what your budget is. It’s crucial to invest that time wisely though. Companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn and so on all provide tools that can help you engage with customers and increase your revenue. Yes, I understand that sometimes it feels like it’s just a time drain, but, take the time to learn which platforms best apply to what your business does and put in the effort to learn how to utilize it. Then commit to putting in the work, and continuing to learn.
These platforms are constantly changing and evolving, and the things the work are changing, but if you are focused and committed, then you will be able to keep up with it. Most importantly, don’t sweat the slow returns. It takes time. Yes, you can speed things up by spending some cash, but it’s also achievable without that if you are patient.
Share your knowledge
The crux of social media and blogging is sharing knowledge. Share what you know. Share what you do best, and share your skills. The part that makes this hard is that you have to do it for free. Why? You need to establish your business as being the go-to resource for information on how to patch a hole in plasterboard. When their toilet breaks, you want to be known as the business that knows how to fix it, not just because you are plumbers, but because you have shown people that you know how by telling them how to replace the toilet seat themselves.
In Australia, Bunnings is doing a great job of this. If you haven’t been to their website or YouTube channel recently, check them out. Their website is absolutely chock full of information on how to do things. Every product category and hundreds, if not thousands of their products have videos on how to use them and ideas on what you can do with them. Then, of course, they translate this in store with regular workshops on all different kinds of DIY projects.
Whatever your niche is, choose a platform that suits you, and then find your niche. If it’s Facebook, find groups where your business can help people. If it’s Twitter, converse with like-minded people who are asking questions you can answer. Whatever you do though, follow your guiding values and mission and be confident in yourself, your business, and your knowledge. Encourage people to come to your business, but don’t sell to them. Right now, you are building brand awareness and trust in your brand. Obviously, you might not be able to give your bread and butter products or services away for free, but you can always help people out.
Helping your potential customers builds your brand, and most importantly, it shows people they can trust you which means they will talk about you in a positive way. So when someone they know has a similar problem, they will pass on the good news about how knowledgeable you are. Once people trust you and understand the value your business offers, this is where you can begin converting them to your paid products and services.
Make yourself visible
Branding is all about being visible and recognisable, doing it on a small budget is no different. In fact, you actually have an advantage. Why? Because your business mission and values are probably not just the mission and values of the organisation you work for, they are most likely your personal mission and values too. Everything you do will probably reflect this in some way, and you can let your passion and expertise shine through. Always, always, always make sure to come back to these values and mission so that everything you say and do is consistent with that message.
People will start to remember you. Why? Because you are that business that consistently helps them when their un-killable plants die. Or you are that business that gives them all the info they need on how to set up their own robotic lawnmower. When it doesn’t work the way it should, or if they have some other related issue, it’s you that they are going to contact.