Is Branding really that important?

I was listening to Ben Thompson and James Allworth’s podcast Exponent. If you love technology and want some great insight, give Exponent a listen. Episode 084 – The Old World Order was about Television advertising and the future of TV. They briefly touched on branding. I was listening while I was driving and it got me thinking (in Atlanta traffic, you get plenty of time to think). Is branding important to small businesses?

My short answer is YES! It’s very important to small businesses. It really defines who you are to potential customers. Specifically I”m talking about Branding in advertising. Many businesses I have worked with are very hesitant to do branding advertising. Why? Because its hard to judge the results. Bigger brands can measure intent to buy and other analytics with research. Smaller brands don’t have the budget for these services.

Why Branding is Important in Advertising

First and foremost it tells a potential customer who you are and what you are about. A customer can’t buy from you if they aren’t aware you exist. Your brand has to get out in front of potential customers and explain who you are and why they should buy from you. It’s your chance to differentiate yourself from competitors.

Next, it keeps you top of mind when your customer needs the good or service you offer. Some brands may have shorter sales cycles than others. If you are a restaurant people eat every day and it’s a shorter sales cycle. However, if you are a mattress seller, people buy them ever decade or longer. These two examples mean you may not see results immediately.

Lastly, it gives your brand a level of authority. By level of authority, I mean that people trust your business. A level of trust is so important for consumers to buy from you. Think about when you find a new online store. How likely are you to buy from them? If no one you know has ordered you will think twice. If I look them up online and see them advertising and trying to prove who they are, I will likely try them for a small order. If everything goes good. I will continue to order and be a customer.

How do you gain Authority? 

One way to gain authority is take a thought leader position in your industry. This can be done via a blog or content you put online. The prime example of it is the HootSuite Blog post, I posted yesterday. They are showing their expertise in the world of social media. You may not need a social media management system. If you do, HootSuite will be one you would consider.

Another way is to drive conversations online. You may not have time to create your own content. Being a small business owner time is never on your side. Post links to articles and ask your followers/fans questions. When asking questions respond to peoples comments. Let others see you know what your industry. When you gain their trust  they will consider you for their next purchase.

What is the consideration set? 

I have mentioned this a few times in blog posts. In the Buyer Decision Making Process (as noted on Wikipedia). There are five stages. They are Problem/Need Recognition, Information Search, Evaluation of Alternatives, Purchase Decision and Post Purchase behavior.  The consideration set is “Consideration set is the subset of brands that consumers evaluate when making a purchase decision. A consumer has a limited information processing abilities and limits the comparison to a subset of brands that is termed as consideration set is “Consideration set is the subset of brands that consumers evaluate when making a purchase decision. A consumer has a limited information processing abilities and limits the comparison to a subset of brands that is termed as consideration set” as defined by Jyu. The consideration set is in the Evaluation of Alternatives. It will rule in and out brands to purchase.

What are the difficulties in Branding? 

The biggest difficulty is that it’s very hard for small brand to measure. Unlike a coupon code or sale advertising which are clicked on or used in a specific time. Branding is something that is used over the long term. They may see your brand and not need it for a few weeks, months or even years. Many small brands see this as money that is not well spent. I would disagree and have told clients this in the past. It may not bring in business right then but its a long game you play. That in time they will remember you and buy from you when they need your product. If you are in doubt, alternate sales and branding into your advertising mix. Also, use your social media for branding purposes. It requires no money to post and share content.

Branding is one of the most important things small businesses can do in their marketing. Small businesses need to get their name out to a wider audience.

Tim is the founder of Element33. A social media agency specializing in education, management and strategy for small businesses. He comes from a traditional marketing agency but has embraced all things digital. He considers himself a marketing nerd and believes that all marketing is tied together. This means no matter what silo you are in, social, email, seach, etc, changes in one will affect the other!

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