As a small business, you might be wondering why you should care about your brand. Do you even have a brand? Why invest time and money into it when you are busy managing other aspects of your business?
Well, research shows that managing your brand pays off in multiple ways:
- The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that 63 percent of consumers won’t purchase products or services from businesses they don’t trust.
- A study by LinkedIn revealed that businesses with strong employer brands experience a 43 percent decrease in cost per hire.
- Further research from LinkedIn indicates that companies with a strong employer brand are much better able to retain talent. In fact, they have a 28 percent lower turnover rate than their counterparts.
With research like that, it becomes evident that no matter the size of your business, ignoring your brand isn’t a possibility in the current business landscape. Want to manage your branding to reap these benefits? Consider these 3 tips.
1. Understand Your Brand and How to Communicate It
To begin managing your brand, you first need to develop a thorough understanding of your brand. Developing a comprehensive understanding of your brand means including those who know it best in the discussion — yourself and your employees. Start by answering these questions to audit your brand:
What narrative do you want to tell about your business? What differentiates you from your competitors?
What is it like to work for your business? To shop at or use your business’s services?
What values does your business stand for? How do these values translate to how you operate?
Who do you serve? What do you offer to this group of people?
Once you have answered these questions with the help of your employees (or even customers!), start fleshing this narrative out, so it is cohesive and not only easy to communicate, but also to use as a shining light when it is time to make hard decisions. Make sure it is broken down into key messages that are easy to get behind and distill. Your brand story should avoid industry-specific jargon and focus on what makes your business unique to both employees and customers.
The next step is communicating this narrative to your employees. Your employees should have a solid understanding of what your brand represents. This will then translate consistently to customers and prospective employees, which in turn translates to your online reviews.
2. Amplify Your Brand By Responding to Online Reviews
Even as a small business, you are practically guaranteed to receive online reviews, whether it is from customers on sites like Yelp, Yellow Pages, or Google reviews, or from employees on sites like Glassdoor. Small business owners should take these reviews seriously and see them as an opportunity to showcase their authentic brand. With 70 percent of Americans looking for advice or opinions before making a purchase, these reviews cannot be ignored. And don’t fret if not all of your reviews are stellar; in fact, 68 percent of consumers trust reviews more if both negative and positive reviews are present. Responding to customer reviews allows you to show your dedication to a superior customer experience, while responding to reviews from employees allows you to show your employer brand.
So how should you go about responding to these reviews? Consider these tips that are relevant for responding to both customer and employees:
Respond in a timely manner. Whether this is once a week or bi-monthly, develop a cadence that works for you and the number of reviews coming in. However, be careful not to let long periods of time pass without responding.
Address any issues brought up. Don’t just gloss over negative parts of the review. Be sure to include how the issues are being addressed and what change is being implemented to fix the problem.
Highlight the positives. This allows you to amplify the areas of your brand that are strong.
Say thank you. Leaving a review takes both time and effort. Acknowledge that.
While this might seem time-consuming, keep in mind that by responding to reviews, current and potential customers and employees are seeing that your business cares about feedback and is responsive to issues raised.
3. Craft a Social Media Strategy
Social media is a cost-efficient way to boost your brand and is just as accessible to small businesses as it is to Fortune 500 companies. You should engage on social media in a way that is cohesive with your brand, which can help build it out and make it more visible to your customer base and potential employees. Follow these social media best practices:
- If you don’t already have profiles, get them set up across a variety of platforms. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+.
- Employ a multi-platform strategy. Share photos, videos, and updates across all of your social media channels. Show what it is like to work there. Reveal what it is like to shop there. Be sure to emphasize what differentiates you from the competition.
- Post updates about any new products, sales, and specials to keep customers informed.
- Post any job openings that become available. This is a prime spot to attract future employees since they are most likely already familiar with your brand if they are following you on social media.
- Share insider information about what it is like working there. Hosting a happy hour for your employees? Post a picture on Instagram!
- Encourage employees and customers to share what your brand means to them using social media. Whether they are tweeting about their most recent purchase or posting a picture on Facebook of your store, it will help communicate your brand online to their networks, which will likely reach people outside of your brand’s network.
With small businesses comprising 99 percent of companies in the United States, now is the time for them to embrace the power of their brand. While it might seem daunting to begin the process of managing your brand image, begin slowly by employing just one of the tips provided. Before you know it, you will be well on your way to managing your brand… and reaping the benefits!