PHOTO: Kevin Dooley

According to a 2012 Washington Post report, one mistake small businesses make when establishing their brand is failing to be open and engaging to customers.

Small business owners have a lot on their plate. Most of them work extremely long days just keeping their doors open — reviewing contracts, reading resumes, checking payroll and taxes, and making sure the bills are paid. And that’s just the beginning. So it’s no surprise that marketing and advertising are not usually a high priority. But as The Washington Post reports, there is great value for the small business owner who defines his brand early on.

What Is a Brand, Anyway?

A brand is much more than a business’ name, logo, and what is printed on its sign and business cards. It is a business’ reputation, a promise that a business makes to its customers about what they can expect when they deal with its employees, products, and services.

According to a 2011 article on Forbes.com, a brand may be defined as what the consumer thinks of when he or she hears your brand name. A brand should have a personality that customers will find engaging, prompting them to respond favorably when the business seeks to interact with them online and in person.

Building a Brand, the Right Way

When building a brand, a businessperson needs to build an awareness that will resonate with his or her customers and keep them coming back to buy the products or services again and again, even if there is no promotion or sale.

 There is no one way that a business should go about building its brand, but according to Forbes, a brand should include a simple but memorable statement that describes the business and what it has to offer. When creating this statement, business owners should keep the following in mind — the industry they are in, the way they would describe their work, and who their target audience is.

To build a brand online, a business must have a clear understanding of its audience, before it begins creating content for the company website or builds a presence on social media. There are many tools available to help a business owner identify his target audience, including Google, Nielsen, Compete, and comScore. These tools can reveal vital things about your audience, including gender, marital status, age, household income, and location.

As you study your audience, you will be able to determine what they want to hear and from that research, you will be able to create your message and give your brand a voice. When deciding on your brand’s voice, it is important that you be open-minded and consistent, and create content that will speak with your audience, not at them, because branding is a dialogue, not a monologue.

Branding and Social Media Integration

According to Search Engine Land, the types of integrations that you want consumers to have with your business will help determine the platforms you use to work your brand. A little research will help you understand where your target audience lives, be it Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. This research can be done by simply listening to who is talking about your brand and taking note of where the conversations are taking place.

If no one is talking about your brand, be the one to start the conversation that will lead to customer interaction, which is decidedly different than forcing a message on consumers. If you remember to treat social media as a conversation, your brand and reputation will be well on the way to growing in popularity online.

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PHOTO: Kevin Dooley

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 License: Creative Commons image source

Jan Hill is a freelance journalist writing for Vistaprint, offering personalized business cardsand other marketing products that help businesses establish their brand. Jan has written an eBook on small business advice, and has covered netoworking topics for a variety of publications, including The Rapid City Journal and Paralegal Today.