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Why Branding Should Be Your SMBs Competitive Advantage

image of ipad with branding graphic
Corey Quinn

Want a simple and straightforward way to beat the competition in your local market?

Easy: Start investing in brand marketing for your business.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a dentist, lawyer, or plumber...chances are you’re like most local service businesses—you’re probably not doing enough to drive brand recognition for you and your business in your local market.

“Why do brand marketing in the first place?”

Smart businesses invest in brand marketing.

Brand marketing is how you occupy permanent real estate inside a customer’s mind. It’s how your name becomes the first one people think about when they’re in need of your particular product or service.

Brand marketing is why, when I say ‘soda’, you think of Coke.

It’s why people say, ‘I’ll just take an Uber,’ instead of ‘I’ll just take a ride share.’

It’s why the word ‘tissue’ has been virtually replaced with the word ‘Kleenex.’

Brand marketing is why Coke, Uber and Kleenex outsell their competitors (Coke outsells Pepsi by 212%Uber outsells Lyft by 247%, and Kleenex outsells Puffs by 190%) and own roughly 49%64%, and 50% of market share in their respective industries.

Yet in spite of the abundantly clear benefits, few SMBs give brand marketing a chance.

Instead, they rely too heavily on referrals and direct-response tactics (advertising in the yellow pages, direct mail, couponing, fliers and brochures, pay-per-click advertising, social media advertising, etc.) to drive leads.

Does this sound familiar?

The reason why is easy to see:

Direct response marketing is straightforward.

It’s measurable, trackable, and powered by a clear call-to-action.

The results are black and white—the campaign either generates ROI or it doesn’t, end of discussion.

But brand marketing isn’t black and white. It isn’t really measurable per se. It’s based on the perception and feelings people have when they think about a company, its services, or its products. This reality is why it's easy for cash-conscious local businesses to overlook the merits (and critical importance) of brand marketing.

Now, I’d like to shift the conversation a bit and talk about how to implement a brand marketing campaign without burning through cash that will result in more local recognition, leads and business.

“How can my SMB business start an effective brand marketing program without burning through cash?”

STEP #1 — Establish a compelling brand vision for your company.

Your brand’s vision is your North Star.

It answers the question: “What do we want to be in the future?”

Here’s an example of a compelling vision statement...

“To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
—Amazon.com, Inc.

STEP #2 — Establish your brand’s mission.

Your brand’s mission should complete this sentence:

“What we strive to do and achieve every day is _____.”

It should be aspirational and motivate your employees to strive towards your vision.

Here’s a great example of a clear mission statement...

“Grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.”

STEP #3 — Establish your brand’s values.

Your brand’s values simply answer the question:

“What’s most important to us?”

As an example, here are Starbucks Coffee’s core values:

With our partners, our coffee and our customers at our core, we live these values:

  • Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.
  • Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other.
  • Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.
  • Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.
  • We are performance driven, through the lens of humanity.

Step #4 — Communicate your vision, mission, and values to your company on a regular and ongoing basis.

This is how you clarify what your brand stands for and get the company on the same page.

It’s the only way to transform your brand’s vision, mission, and values into a source of inspiration for your employees.

But most importantly, it’s the only way to ensure your company offers people a congruent customer experience no matter where they encounter your brand.

STEP #5 — Establish your unique position in the market.

Find the ‘white space’ in your market—the mental real estate that isn’t already claimed by a dominant competitor in your field.

Is everyone you compete with focused on being the low-price leader? Then focus on marketing your quality, service, or speed.

Find your white space, grab hold of it, and don’t let go—use it in all your messaging going forward.

STEP #6 — Refresh your brand identity to reflect your vision, mission, values and positioning in the market.

Your brand identity includes every visual aspect of your brand—your logo, your website, your business cards...all of it. In refreshing your brand identity, you will clarify and reinforce who you are, what you stand for, and where you’re going in the years ahead, making it easier for your company to lay claim to the mental real estate you’re looking for.

A final note...

If you aren’t working to build your brand, you’re exposing your company to competitive risk (remember, direct response marketing isn’t brand marketing).

A smart, strong investment in brand marketing today will, over time, position your brand as the first and best resource in your market.

Don’t allow your competitors to figure out the true ROI of brand marketing before you do—don’t let them steal that all-important real estate in the collective consumer’s mind from right under your nose.

So, as they say, the two best times to plant a tree are 30 years ago and today. If you aren’t investing in building your brand in your local market, now’s the time to get started.