5 Ways Small Businesses Can Build Their Brands in 2015

As we get a start in 2015, more businesses will learn to stop worrying about building links, and start worrying about building their brands in order to succeed in search marketing.

In days gone by, a no-name company could build a bunch of target keyword anchor links and start ranking. That was enough. In 2015, it takes a lot more. It takes aesthetic and user-friendly Web design, a social media presence that’s as engaging as it is dynamic, pay-per-click advertising, search engine optimization, and native advertising. It also requires a well-built brand, which sends a multitude of positive signals to Google and helps to improve the site’s rank.

While large and enterprise businesses have marketing think tanks to build their brands, small businesses have to do it themselves. The trouble? Most don’t know how.

Small businesses are more than capable of doing most things themselves, just as they’ve always done. Though it does take time and hard work, small businesses can certainly build their own brands. Here are a few ways to do it.

1. Get a Logo

Logos are a crucial part of building a brand. They’re the shorthand — the visual cue — used to communicate a brand’s culture, behavior, and values, according to Su Matthews Hale of design firm Lippencott. Communicating who and what a business is, in as little time as possible, is vital in an age when the average person has an attention span of about eight seconds — one second less than the attention span of a goldfish. Logos are instantly recognizable, and can provide the base upon which a brand can be built.

As John Williams, the president and founder of LogoYes.com, writes in a post on Entrepreneur, “The foundation of your brand is your logo. Your website, packaging, and promotional materials — all of which should integrate your logo — communicate your brand.” Though aesthetics might not seem all that important to the sales cycle (as aesthetics seem to have little to do with a company’s actual product or service) they’re still crucial. About 48 percent of people have cited a website’s design as being the number one factor when judging whether a site is credible or not, and an overwhelming 94 percent of people have cited a website’s design as being the reason they mistrusted or rejected a site. If you don’t nail this most basic form of design and aesthetics, you’re not going to communicate efficiently. More importantly, you won’t be trusted.

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2. Give Branded, Promotional Goods Away

Ever wonder why so many businesses give branded pens, shirts, and other promotional goods away? It’s because they work. A study reported by MarketingSherpa revealed that about 76.1 percent of participating consumers said they could remember the name of a company that had given them a free promotional item in the past year, while only 53 percent could recall a TV or print ad from the past month. A similar study from the Advertising Specialty Institute found that 57 percent of people felt more favorable about a company that had given them a free T-shirt, meaning their opinion had been swayed. Once a small business has designed a logo, it needs to get that logo printed on promotional items to give away at events or on location.

3. Participate in Charitable Events

Charitable events are one of the best ways to build a brand in a local community. In 2012, about $316 billion was donated to United States charitable causes.

The reason so much gets donated to these worthy causes is that they not only help a small business network, expand, and cultivate its brand, but charitable events also help others. Plus, the company’s name and logo will be displayed all over the place, generating tons of brand exposure. What’s more, since people like to associate themselves with a company that helps others, building brand loyalty is a snap.

4. Have an Engaging Social Media Presence

Social media is a marketing imperative. It allows brands to showcase their expertise, cement their place in communities as industry experts, do valuable market research, network with others, and show off what the brand is about. If a logo can be considered a brand’s face, social media is its voice. It allows brands to engage with followers and supporters, and personify the business.

A strong social media presence has tangible results, too. In fact, it has a 100 percent higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing tactics. About 72 percent of marketers have also said that social media has helped them close deals, and another 45 percent of people have reported making new partnerships through social media.

5. Connect to Something Larger Than the Business Itself

Now, this sounds pretty intimidating, but most businesses have already accomplished this. These companies aren’t just in it to make a profit — they want to help people or provide them with a special service. According to a recent study, people are attracted to nostalgic items because they connect them to something bigger than themselves. Nostalgic people have historical and cultural roots — they know where they came from — which allows them to know where they’re going. Marketers tap into these emotions by capitalizing on people’s nostalgia (but that’s a discussion for another time). The point here is that your brand can’t simply be about selling Gizmo-tron-X. It has to be about improving people’s lives by granting them access to Gizmo-tron-X.

To see the power nostalgia can have, take a look at what Facebook did for its 10-year anniversary. The king of social networks created the “Look Back,” a personalized, 1-minute-long video recapping the user’s most popular posts and photos. About 200 million users watched their Look Back videos, and about 50 percent of them wound up sharing it. According to Facebook chief operating officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg, “You really felt close to Facebook and felt close to the people in your life” because of the videos. Through the power of nostalgia, Facebook created a more intimate, personal relationship with nearly 200 million users.

If you want to build your brand, you need to take action. You need to make sure your company is always in sight, and interact with people once it catches their eye. Though it can take time to build up a small business’s brand, it’s something that has to be done.

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