So you’re a small business – 1 million, 5 million, 20 million a year in sales. And you want to brand like the big guys. You know, like having your logo be well known enough to stand for something. (Such as being able to use the Nike logo in a powerpoint presentation instead of writing the words “Just Do It”.)
Have you asked yourself why you want this? Big companies build a brand because they often don’t have a face (there are a few exceptions – Purdue jumps to mind). The brand steps in and substitutes for a trusted person, a real person that can answer a real phone call. Doug Rushkoff, in his great book “Life Inc.”, goes through a lengthy history of the development of brand and how corporations used it to replace the relationship with the local merchant – the person you could have a trusted relationship with.
But if you are a small business, you – the owner, the president, the sales VP – you are the trusted business. Your unique difference. The quality of your product. The personalized nature of your service. The way you bring value to your ideal customer. That is your brand.
I would submit that we are all looking for a personal connection today. While technology has helped us all do more, know more, understand more, it has also created a divide that keeps us from interacting with people that we get to know, like and trust. This is where small, personalized business have a killer advantage.
When I need help with a sticky household repair. When I need my lawn mower serviced. I go to the local hardware store (yes we still have one). I get to talk to an owner or someone there that can really help. When I am buying a commodity – sand, lumber, etc – its off to Lowe’s I go. So if my local hardware store were to really focus on what they do best – great advice, personal service – they could clearly separate themselves from the big box store. Can the local store compete on price – absolutely not. And they should not try. They can however, profile their ideal customer and focus on servicing them better. Getting to know what that shopper wants and can’t find elsewhere allows them to create clear separation and difference.
So don’t try to out-brand the big guys that have more money, time and people than you do. Take your money and focus on out-servicing them. Take the time to really understand your niche and the value that your customers really perceive, and then promote the heck out of that. By doing so, your name, your company name, your reputation will become a brand unto itself with the customers that value you the most.