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Small Business Branding: The Personal Connection
by William Arruda

Business is becoming more and more competitive. Small Business is the fastest growing segment of business in most parts of the world. And thanks to the internet, your competitors are no longer just the businesses down the street. They are the businesses in the next town, the next country and even on the next continent. So, as the leader of a small business, how do you succeed in a dynamic world of increasing complexity with a much larger set of competitors? The answer seems too easy to be true:

Be Yourself.

To succeed with your small business and keep it on the right track, use your personal brand - your unique promise of value. Because in the world of small business, the corporate Brand is the personal brand of its leaders. These brands are inextricably linked. You need only look at successful entrepreneurs like Ben and Jerry, Richard Branson and Bill Gates to see that entrepreneurial ventures take on the values and passions of their leaders. According to Nation's Business Magazine, "Branding is the hottest concept in marketing today, and, it's an idea that is not just for the deep-pocketed, highly glossed Coca-Colas and Nikes of the world. An increasing number of independent-business owners are embracing branding as the guiding philosophy for building their companies."

Being true to your personal brand ensures that your business stays on course and remains highly differentiated and valuable to your target market. Christophe Ginisty, Managing Director of the Communications Firm Rumeur Publique, says ”Buyers are putting their trust not only in a company, but in the leaders of that company. For small businesses, the leaders are often even more important. It is critical to ensure that the leaders are an integral part of the corporate communications strategy and that their personal brands are clear, relevant and accurate.”

Building your business around your brand also enables you to obtain the highest level of satisfaction and fulfillment from your hard work. The first and most important step in brand building involves uncovering your unique promise of value. This helps you to identify what is truly important to you, what makes you unique and what values will drive your business decisions. Understanding your true personal brand enables you to stay on target with your business and make strategic and tactical decisions that are consistent with your values, your passions and your goals.

Once you have a clear understanding of your differentiation and its relevance to your ideal target audience, you can build a brand communications plan to get your message out to those who will make your business a success. These communications need only be focused on your target market. If your target market is everyone in the world, you will need a communications budget the size of Coca Cola’s. That’s why focus is the key. Although it seems counter-intuitive, the smaller you make your target market, the greater your chances of success.

Like with all strong brands, once you have established an authentic and differentiated brand that is relevant to your target audience, you must ensure that all aspects of your business are reinforcing this brand message. Developing brand guidelines that clearly describe what is on- and off-brand for your business will help guide you as your business grows.

So when developing a branding strategy for your small business, take a good look at your personal brand. And through the clear and consistent expression of your unique promise of value, your business will thrive.

SIDEBAR: The three steps to using your personal brand to build your business: 

1. Unearth Your Brand. Document your vision, purpose, values and passions Be clear about the goals for your business Describe your ideal target audience Understand your competitors Define your unique promise of value (what separates you from your competitors and is compelling to your target audience)

2. Build Your Brand Communications Plan. Define the communications tools you will use to reach your target audience Clearly document your brand message and ensure that it is included in all your communications Develop a communications plan that will keep you constantly visible to your target audience

3. Manage Your Brand Environment. Make sure that everything that surrounds your brand (your office, web site, customer service organization, etc.) communicates the same brand message. Build and nurture your professional network and ensure that all members understand your brand message. Establish appropriate partnerships to extend your brand and gain complementary brand value.

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Dubbed the ‘Personal Branding Guru’ by the media and clients alike, William Arruda works with individuals and organizations to build strong, memorable brands. He has worked with major brands like KPMG, IBM, Lotus and Microsoft and is the founder of Reach. (www.reachcc.com) He is also the co-author of Bullet Proof Your Career.

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