There is an old saying “Fortune favors the bold.” Whether it is cold calling new clients, increasing your rates because you know you are worth it, or being honest and authentic, business – and branding – is built on reputation, relationships and putting yourself out there.
So when it comes to getting your brand to stand out, don’t be afraid to be daring, unconventional and reflect your core values. People see honesty, they feel honesty, and they respect honesty. Ultimately, the goal is to make your brand more memorable, sharable and trustworthy.First, do some self-reflecting, brainstorming and even journaling on what makes your product, service or business different. Use these questions as a starting point:
- What makes your product, service, or skill set unique?
- What do you offer that others don’t?
- Why does your business exist? What motivates you?
- What are your core values? How can you help others achieve their goals?
- Why is your product or service better than competitors?
- Why is your corporate or personal philosophy more important?
From there, you have to figure out what your story and message is then figure out the best way to get that message to target customers. In the internet age, there are so many ways to do it — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn — plus traditional methods like billboards, print ads, networking and personally handing out business cards. Sure it can feel awkward and overwhelming because those avenues are broad, often grow organically, and can be hard to track. Any effort can feel like a waste of time or money. Marketing needs to be integrated yet targeted, and the solo entrepreneur or small business needs to think of their story and how to best capture and leverage that.
Along those lines, don’t be afraid to try something new. How will people know you or your business exist if you keep playing it safe or playing it small? People in sales and promotion are comfortable being brazen and putting themselves and their product out there, but, for others, self-promotion may feel narcissistic, unethical or inauthentic. Remember, this is about stepping outside your comfort zone with a smart strategy and going for it. It can be scary to try something new, especially if you don’t have much money or you’re worried about your reputation, but how many inventors and entrepreneurs tried and failed and tried again before hitting it big. No one likes to look foolish, face criticism or admit failure, but failing is part of the process. So is rejection. Grow some thicker skin, trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to break the mold. When you’re trying to stand out in a crowded, competitive field, you need to take some calculated risks, experiment and let your talents and expertise shine.
When it comes to branding, your brand is so much more than a simple graphic or logo. Sure it involves creating a catchy tagline, finding various avenues to promote your services, investing in professional business cards and a website, but it should remind current and potential clients and customers of why you are different and better than your competitors. Branding will guide your marketing strategy. It speaks to who you are, what your business stands for, and what makes you unique. This is where you need to develop an “x-factor” – something that separates you from your competitors. What do you offer that nobody else does? Why are you (or your business) the best person for the job? Highlight your unique strengths, services and what you do better or different than everyone else.
Be purposeful, yet authentic. Besides presenting yourself as an expert, you need to develop a unique value proposition to get people to not only notice you and your branding but remember it and/or hire you. It’s critical to establish and maintain an emotional connection as well as make customers feel like they are getting a good value. Show them why you are a cut above. That might mean responding to inquiries within 24 hours, offering free shipping, going above and beyond to resolve customer complaints, creating superior products and services, having better prices, or including perks and freebies. With social media, it’s easy to sponsor a contest or giveaway, boost a post for more visibility, and engage with followers. Beyond free pens and useless marketing expo giveaways, develop a unique freebie that ties into brand identity and will gain new customers. Maybe it’s offering a coupon to bring customers in, a free session for repeat photography clients, hosting a free workshop to talk about your product, or giving away a personal training session.
Speaking of social media, use your real or business name online and go with a fan or business page if you don’t want to mix your personal and professional life. While some people may discourage setting up two different Facebook accounts, for instance, one for friends and family and another for professional purposes, your personal identity, photos and private information doesn’t need to be accessible to the world, especially if you are vocal about politics or other controversial topics. So make profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter that are related to your business and use the same photo with all of them. You also want to keep your online presence active, dynamic and interesting. Get your name out there, and boost your credibility and visibility, by guest blogging, writing articles, speaking at conferences, posting videos and sharing information from other reputable sites. And remember to cross-link your social profiles and articles to maximize SEO rankings as well.
Bottom line: You need to come across as competent, likeable and relatable as well as an expert in your field in your branding. Sharing knowledge builds credibility and trust, which goes a long way to attracting new and repeat customers. Don’t just meet expectations but exceed them – not just once, but over and over again.