One of the most often asked question of small and medium businesses is: “how can we unseat our competition”? Often times, the incumbent supplier has the benefit of a long-standing relationship, along with a reputation of quality products and services. This is understandably, a serious issue when you may have a better solution, at a better price and even better service. I call it the “if we build it better why don’t they come?” syndrome. They don’t come because customers don’t want to take chances. Most people will avoid risky decisions, even when their current supplier makes mistakes.
How do we change this behavior?
It can be changed, but it takes time and money. What’s more, it takes building a reputation. Creating a promise and making good on it time after time, influencing your target market, and in other words, even SMBs must build a brand! Sometimes, simply saying the word “brand” sends shudders through the very beings of senior management. “Build a brand? Those are only for big companies who can afford it—not us!”
Let’s take it one step at a time.
Building a brand for your SMB doesn’t have to cost multi-millions of dollars, but in order to be successful you must think SYNERGY. Remember we’re talking about a building process, not an instant solution. In the brand building process you start with the basics, and those basics include asking the right questions:
- Assess who you are: What is your company’s corporate culture? What is the perception of the company in the marketplace? Does your reputation reflect the true nature of your company? What is it about your company that makes you better/different than your competition?
- What do you stand for? What core values best describe your company?
- What can your company promise? A distinct, clear, attainable brand promise must be articulated. Example: GE. imagination at work. The perception of a high quality company dedicated to turning imaginative ideas into leading products and services that in-turn make our lives better.
Building your brand is not just advertising.
Your brand must be incorporated into every aspect of your company. From your corporate culture and customer interface, to advertising, social media, internet marketing and public relations. Your brand personality must come through consistently. Example: The Body Shop has developed programs that reflect its core identity called Values and Campaigns. It contributes to rain forest preservation efforts, is active in women’s issues and even has a program called COMMUNITY TRADE that embodies their commitment to trading fairly and responsibly with suppliers. The Body Shop’s vision carries right through to the in-store experience. Walk into a store, and you’re greeted by a salesperson wearing a T-shirt with both the logo and a social message.
In the end, building a brand for your SMB takes time, effort, commitment and money. It’s not a quick fix. It’s a long-term strategy that leads to growth, profitability and stability. After all, don’t you want your company to be your customer’s “supplier of choice” no matter what?