You have 20 seconds to name 10 Malaysian brands. Go! What number did you get to? We’re almost 100% sure you did not name any SME even if you got to 10. That is because many SMEs consider business branding to be a luxury. But there is a reason why you can instantly remember AirAsia, Padini or Ramly. They built their brands and have the customer base to show as a result.
Think about it: you managed to have the greatest and most game-changing idea in the history of the world and create a business from it. As we highlighted in the first article of our SME Branding series
, the last thing on the minds of many entrepreneurs and SME owners when they start their business is marketing and brand building. Why? Because of factors that include limited resources and funds, and even time constraints.
But in a world that has become more globalised and is going to get even more so, with competition for financial and human resources getting more intense, you will get ahead by your ability to get more customers. Even if your product or service is the best in the market, it will not do well if people do not know about it. However, no amount of marketing or branding will make a product that does not fit into the market into a success in the long term.
That makes sense. What can I do?
There are many ways you can build a brand; offline and online. We will be focusing on how to build your brand online. This does not mean that you must be an e-commerce merchant with an online store to take advantage of these strategies. Your offline, bricks-and-mortar store could also generate some traffic by increasing your visibility online and making potential customers aware of what you offer.
1. What is your story?
This will be the foundation for your brand identity. Some questions you should ask yourself at this stage are:
What makes you different?
We are sure there are other similar businesses out there or there will be after you start. So, what makes you stand out? Why did you decide to start your SME? What is your mission?
Who are your customers and what do they expect from you?
Your considerations should include how old your customers are, their incomes, their gender, and when they will use your product or service and why.
2. Get some personality
First, think of your brand as a person. Who do you connect with better; a faceless company name or someone you can relate to like another human being? We will take the human being any day. That is what you should create for your business, a personality that your customers can connect to. It will also make your brand more memorable.
Things to consider here include your brand name (does not have to say exactly what you do), logo (should represent the story you tell about your business), and your voice. Your brand voice is what decides how you communicate with your customers. For example, you can be formal and corporate or informal and witty. This also depends on who your customers are. Being casual and chatty may not work for business customers.
3. Focus on the long term
Building a brand is not a one-off assignment that you do and forget. The reason you should have the first two items before you get to this stage is to make it easier for you to be consistent in the way you deal with your customers.
Customers should be able to know what they are getting when they buy a product or get a service from you. That is how they become repeat customers and spread the word about your brand.
It is now time for you to put your business out there. It is important that after you have followed all of these mostly internal strategies to put your brand in the market, and see and hear what customers say about it. At this point, you should have some social media skills or hire someone who can listen to customer feedback which you can use to improve as you go along.
In our next post, we’ll explore some of the mistakes that entrepreneurs and SME owners make when branding and marketing their businesses online. See you then!
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