Imagine the situation. Myself and 20 other keen networkers arriving at one of our regular networking meetings recently, excited to hear the speaker (a branding expert from Ebay), who then didn’t turn up!
Q. What do you do when you’re running a meeting and the speaker doesn’t show?
A. Organise an impromptu roundtable discussion!
Ably facilitated by one of our merry band, we enjoyed a very interesting “round robin” branding discussion. A few insightful questions was all it took to fire us up and we were soon sharing tips, stories and a wide range of experiences. What a useful session it turned out to be. So much so that I wanted to share it with you.
I love these types of sessions. Not only do you always glean lots of juicy tidbits, you learn a lot more about people than you can from the standard one minute elevator pitch. Everyone shared their #1 branding tips and stories, and this is the result:
21 tried and tested branding tips you can use in your business today
If you need help, there are plenty of professionals out there from the very cheap (think fiverr.com) to your friendly local graphic designer. Or take the mid-ground and try a site like 99designs.com where designers bid for your business, and submit their designs, giving you the pick of their ideas. Note: Remember, you usually get what you pay for, so don’t expect a fiverr.com designer to answer questions or help you with your message and strategy (if you need help with that get in touch)
A blog is a great way to showcase your expertise and promote your brand promise and values. Every time you blog make sure your brand promise and graphics are consistent and your message is clearly on target. (If you need help blogging check out my free blogging ecourse)
3. Tell Stories
This is a key one. Your brand is about so much more than just your logo and graphics. They are the visual representation of your business, but your stories are the emotion behind it. Tell stories that demonstrate why you do what you do, what you stand for, what you believe in.
4. Social Media
Loads of scope and potential here to increase brand awareness and build trust with your audience.
Social media can be overwhelming so I suggest setting up profiles on the major platforms (Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube) with eye-catching graphics, and your keywords. Then focus your energy on one or two platforms until you get great engagement. Here’s how to get started on Social Media and How to Brand yourself on Social Media.
Before commissioning a graphic designer or web developer think about the colours that will represent your brand. Will they be bright and quirky, primary colours, minimalistic one colour on a white background, a masculine or feminine feel, or perhaps think in terms of Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter colours. Pick colours (or a colour palette) that gives you some flexibility to be creative, or expand your brand offerings in the future.
Probably the branding tool we think of most, after logos and graphics. Your website is the main hub of your business so make sure you get this right. Here are some ideas on making your website pop (which you can also use to help you design a new site, or makeover a tired site). Remember, if you get it right your website should function as your 24/7 sales and marketing team, as well as look nice!
7. Business cards
Your business cards should reflect your brand, and you can use it to reiterate your brand promise,
8. Trust your instinct and believe in your brand
This comes down to being honest and authentic. I’ve recently come across situations where people are copying others (and have been copied myself). Of course, no-one can copy your personality, your energy, your experience, your brand promise and values (it won’t stop them trying!). But if you spend more time focussing on your brand, the value you offer and the feeling you want your clients to experience, rather than looking at what others are doing, you’ll be “branding from the heart” (as my friend Cathy Ballard says) and that’s when amazing things happen. Just be yourself!
9. Consumer champion
Start a movement rather than selling something. Be a champion for your customers and be a force for change.
Don’t forget that branding isn’t just marketing. It’s about how you present your products and services. You could brand your stationery, packaging, delivery vehicles, support team. And think about your brand values. Will you include a hand-written card with every order shipped? Or remember your clients on their birthdays? Recognise repeat buyers?
Position yourself as the expert in your field with the content you share. Part of your brand might be high quality how to videos. Or quirky memes on social media. Make a content plan to ensure your message is consistent across all your marketing channels.
12. Be a networking tart!
Um, well, yes, if you do it consistently. Networking (both online and “live”) is a great way to build awareness of your brand. If you’re your own brand think about how you dress, and make sure you’ve got plenty of decent business cards!
Does how you present yourself represent your brand in the right way? Have you got at least one professional profile picture or headshot that you can use on business cards, your website, blog and social media? (I was at a meeting recently where someone’s #1 action point was to get professional pictures taken because she’d realised the only picture she had on her website and social media was with sunglasses of and a glass of wine in hand!).
A bit like the dating sites, make sure your picture is up-to-date. If you promote yourself with a picture from 20 years ago and then turn up to meet a new client they may be rather surprised (don’t laugh, this does happen!) .
14. Allow your personality to shine through
This is something I struggled with, coming from a corporate background. I was conditioned to toe the company line and not shine myself. All our marketing sat behind the company standard design and logo (their branding). When you’re running your own business, and especially if you’re your own brand, you need to let your personality shine through. Remember, people like to work with people. So be reliable and provide value, but also be yourself (we’ve already covered that, there’s definitely a theme here)
15. Public Relations
Your brand should shine through with the press. Always present your brand message consistently, and always send a good photo, preferably a professional looking image or headshot.
16. Guerilla tactics
Do you remember the days of Jay Conran’s Guerilla Marketing? It still works well today. One of the stories shared was from someone who walks past a bike shop on the school run every day. The school don’t allow any marketing on or near its grounds so the clever bike shop have put a big sign up on the path leading to the school. Still within the rules, but a little bit cheeky!
17. Social Proof
Get others talking about you, and your customers raving about you, and you won’t need to do any marketing at all. You’ll have a queue of potential customers a mile long. If you have a strong and clear brand presence it will be easy for your fans to share your brilliance.
What better way to showcase your brand, get yourself in the paper, and get people talking about you (and get a shiny “Winners” badge for your website) than by winning an award. How? Make sure you enter (sounds obvious but most awards you can apply for yourself) and give solid evidence of your results.
As well as the video itself you can brand your YouTube (or video hosting company) channel with “Channel Art” (which should match your branding). And include title and closing slides with your branding and logo. The video can include your colours, message and you!
As with videos (see above), you can brand your slides with a title and closing slide. And customise your slideshow channel and bio.
21. Case studies and Testimonials
Similar to social proof but get written testimonials – or better still video testimonials – which you can brand with your colours and logo.
That’s a big list. Pick out a few top tips for your business and get started. Ready, steady, brand!
–> What’s your favourite branding tip or story? Share on the MMSpark Facebook page – I’d love to hear your ideas and tips.