Your small business doesn’t need to be a worldwide name to have a strong brand. And there’s more to your brand than just a logo and catchy tagline. Your small business brand is everything your company does, your products or services and your customers’ experience. You should think of your brand as the total experience package from the moment your potential customers hear about and interact with your brand, all the way through purchase and post-purchase. And the way consumers perceive your brand can be the difference between make it and break it in the tough world of small business.
But, how do you measure your small business brand to know what you need to change or improve on? There are many ways to understand where you stand in the market with your customers, and how you measure up to competitors.
Net Promoter Score is a worldwide standard of measurement used to show how willing your customers are to recommend your business to their friends, family or colleagues. It uses an index ranging from -100 to 100, asking questions such as “How likely are you to recommend this product to your friend?” One being not likely and 10 being very likely. For more qualitative information, leave an open comment box for survey-users to expand on their rating of your business. You can get in front of a lot of customers with this approach.
Focus groups are a great way to understand feedback regarding your brand and your competitors. Through a facilitator, participants are encouraged to share their perceptions of your brand, as well as similar brands. The focus group approach differs from a survey approach because it gives you the opportunity to seek clarification. However, focus groups deliver qualitative data that can be difficult to measure.
Customer satisfaction surveys also help determine product/service performance through a list of predetermined questions. Surveys can be completed quickly and offer more quantitative data.
Based on the quantitative and qualitative data you receive about your small business brand, you can start to put a plan in place on how to improve your brand and differentiate your business from your competition.
Below are some ideas on improving your small business brand that I’ve used and seen success with in my career of working with small businesses to improve their marketing:
Create valuable content.
Know what types of content your audience wants, and develop original, relevant content. Original content goes a long way with Google and your visitors. Great content makes a better website, but also improves your website’s rankings. When your customers search for relevant topics, your content will rank higher, ultimately building up your reputation and trust with your customers. Also, think strong headlines when creating your content. According to Copyblogger, 80 percent of people will read your headlines, but only 20 percent will read your article content. Your headline determines the effectiveness of your content. One of my favorite tools that I use and recommend is CoSchedule’s infographic on creating catchy headlines. They also built a headline analyzer tool. Lastly, consider different types of content deliverables. It doesn’t always have to be readable content – think of something more interactive and engaging, such as videos or images.
Develop your social media platforms.
Content development is a big piece of this — what is the message you’re sharing on social media, and how are you getting this message across? Without great content, it’s hard to utilize your social media platforms to their fullest potential.
Hop on Twitter or Facebook and allow your customers to interact with you there. Maybe when soliciting feedback, your customers alluded to poor customer service experiences. Be responsive and accommodating on your social media platforms — and don’t delete or hide negative comments. Every brand is going to have critics! It’s way better that you show your brand takes criticism in stride and works to improve your brand experience.
Also, remember that you do not have to be on every social media platform to be successful! Join the platforms your audience is on, and you have time for, and that’s it. Having a dormant social media account can cause a negative view of your brand. It’s way better to have an active Facebook and Instagram than an inactive Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn…
Create a dialogue with your customers.
Developing your social media platforms is a perfect segue into this since a lot of dialogue exists in social media. It’s what they were created for! But, creating a dialogue with your customers can happen on many platforms — not just social media. Remember to be responsive, and share valuable content. Here are four additional areas to consider:
Videos: Make the content relevant, and enable the video to be easily shared throughout social media. You don’t have to have a big budget to create videos! Consider filming videos on an iPhone, building screencast videos using an online tool. Here’s a great guide I’ve written for Hatchbuck on how to create inexpensive small business branded videos using your iPhone.
Product reviews: Engage your most loyal customers by asking them to review your product, and respond to both positive and negative online reviews. In the marketing world, we refer this to “online reputation management.” Make sure your online reputation is reflective of the great small business brand you want to be.
Email newsletters: Provide educational and helpful content to your audience monthly.
Testimonials: Nothing wrong with sharing customers’ positive experiences with your product/service! Build testimonials or case studies out and then feature them on your website for customers who are ready to purchase but are seeking some social proof.
Customer services matters. I mentioned this a few times before, but I cannot emphasize it enough. A big piece of your brand is based on your customer’s’ experience throughout their journey with your organization! Your employees need to believe your organization’s values inside and out — it shows when customers interact with them. Great customer service leads to customer loyalty and can also set you apart from your competitors. Check out this example of excellent customer service by Southwest Airlines.
The biggest takeaway that I want you to know is that your brand is more than just a logo and catchy slogan. When building a small business brand, keep this in mind at every turn and to-do you check off! A great brand starts with your organization’s values and how you can portray those values outward —through your product and service, through your customer service, and through your content. To have a rock-solid brand, it’s important to understand what your customers think of your organization and your product/service. And there’s no better way to receive that feedback than directly from your customers.
This post originally appeared as a guest contribution on Hatchbuck.com — a great resource for small business owners looking for a marketing automation tool!