According to Rich Gorman, most entrepreneurs have fairly lengthy to-do lists as they seek to set up their company. There is the legal structuring of the business, the recruitment of a team, the procurement of necessary facilities and resources, the marketing of the company—and oh yes: Branding. This last item, sadly, fails to make the list on some occasions, and if it does, it is often considered as a low priority. According to online marketing pioneer Rich Gorman, though, this thinking is backward—and potentially destructive to the business.
“Branding is not an afterthought, but rather it is the crucial first step toward establishing a successful, reputable, and authoritative company,” Gorman opines. “What does your business stand for? What kind of reputation do you want it to have? How should the public perceive your company? Don’t leave the answers to these questions entirely up to chance, but rather, take charge of them through disciplined and proactive branding.”
This might sound easy on paper, but Rich Gorman emphasizes the fact that branding is an ongoing process, and something that requires more than a little work—especially because many new business owners are not even clear on what the concept of branding entails. “A brand is whatever people associate with your company, products, or services,” Gorman explains. “People associate Starbuck’s with consistently high-quality coffee, and the ability to have it made however you like it. People associate Coca Cola with red-and-white colors, a squiggly font, and feelings of refreshment.”
“The question is, what do people associate with your company or products?” Rich Gorman continues. “More to the point, what kinds of associations do you want people to make? Whether you brand your company as the most authoritative in its field, the one with the fastest response times, or the one with the best products, you need to brand your company in a way that ultimately promotes your corporate objectives.”
Easier said than done, some might say—but Rich Gorman has some tips, which he offers in the paragraphs that follow.
Rich Gorman Delivers Tips for Small Business Branding
To illustrate the methods small businesses can use to brand themselves, Gorman highlights a recent report from The Chicago Tribune, which notes that it takes “more than a great idea to sustain a business… To be successful, you’ll need to first focus on building a powerful brand identity.”
The article then delves into a few practical tips, the first being that it is important for entrepreneurs to be sure of themselves. Gorman offers an explanation of what this means. “As the owner of the business, and the one who establishes the company’s vision, you need to make sure that you have a clear understanding of what the company stands for, what makes it unique, what particular benefits it offers, and who the target audience is,” he says. “If you struggle to identify these things, then you may need to think long and hard about consolidating your brand identity.”
Indeed, the second tip from the Tribune article is for business owners to create a distinctive identity for their company. “Branding is all about establishing the public perception of your company,” Gorman remarks. “As such, it is critical to brand your company in a way that sets it apart from other brands.”
There are practical steps that companies can take to render themselves distinct. “Creating a distinctive logo and tagline that captures the essence of your brand can increase your visibility,” says the Chicago Tribune article. “A quality website can also help differentiate your business while also introducing you to online customers and boosting credibility.”
Rich Gorman goes on to highlight the importance of social media and content marketing, which each play key roles in successful branding. “You need to create a voice for your brand, and put the proper social media channels in play to convey that voice to consumers,” he suggests. “This requires you to do some research, finding out which social networks are most used by the members of your target audience, and then to build profiles on those pages.”
As the Tribune makes clear, however, successful social branding involves much more than just signing up for a Facebook page or a Twitter account. “Next, create compelling communications that emotionally connect with and motivate your customers to love your brand and buy from it!” the article states. “Powerful brands are great at listening so be sure to respond to online comments and questions.”
Still another tip is for companies to be consistent and congruent in their branding. “Consistency is the key to branding, because even if you have all of the other elements in place, inconsistency will cause them to fall flat,” Rich Gorman says. “The verbiage you use, the images and color schemes—everything you use on your website and marketing materials needs to be congruent.”
The Chicago Tribune also advises companies to consider leveraging cause marketing. This might mean anything from supporting a local homeless shelter to donating services to a local charitable organization. “Take Dawn dishwashing liquid, a great example of effective cause marketing — its promise, to donate one million dollars this year for rescue efforts to save wildlife.” Unsurprisingly, the article says, Dawn is the best-selling dishwashing liquid on the market, so powerful is the effect of cause marketing.
A final tip from the article is for companies to deliver on the promises they make. “Failing to do this will render all of your branding efforts null and void,” Gorman opines. “After all, if you are branding yourself as the company with the best products, yet you fail to offer up great products, then you will immediately lose all consumer trust—perhaps forever.”
The bottom line? “Companies need to put some real work into branding themselves— ensuring that they are the ones setting the tone for how consumers perceive them,” says Gorman.
Rich Gorman is a leader in the field of online marketing.