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Brand building tips for small businesses (1): Market strategy

For small businesses in Nigerian and pretty much everywhere else, being able to successfully differentiate yourself in the mind of your market can be the difference between life and death, literally.

The two key disciplines that executives (of both small and large businesses) constantly need to execute to achieve this are brand building and brand management. Many a-times, successfully applying the principles of these disciplines have been responsible for taking a brand from small to great.

The first part of this series will focus on 'brand building' and will take a close look at what you as a small business owner needs to keep close eyes on such as

1. Your market strategy

2. Your communication strategy

  • - Brand persona
  • - Visual identity
  • - Message
  • - Platforms and channels
  • - Promotion
  • - Engagement
  • - Evaluation

The second part will focus on brand management.

According to Jerry McLaughlin, co-founder and CEO of Branders.com, “brand is the perception someone holds in their head about you, a product, a service, an organization, a cause, or an idea.  Brand building is the deliberate and skillful application of effort to create a desired perception in someone else’s mind.”

1. Market Strategy

We will start by talking about the importance of product/service market strategy in relation to brand building and especially the place of a proper analysis of your current position. An understanding of this will help provide clarity for other steps you will need to take. What are the factors you need to analyze?

a. Know your market ...very well

So, you need to know your market. No point in trying to communicate your brand, product or service if you have just a vague idea of who you want to talk to ...or no idea at all. First of all, ask yourself questions like "what is the estimated size of the market for your product or service? You can measure this using either by number of customers, total revenue of your product of service. You can even go ahead and break this down and categorise them into segments.

This will help you identify the top segments, their place in your product adoption life cycle, where they reside, where they can be found, where they consume their media diet, etc. Identify your ideal client/customer.

"To have a strong brand you need to know, see and appeal to your key demographic. The best way to do this is to create your ideal client avatar in crystalline detail. Consider geography, age, parental status, favorite tv shows, goals, online status, education level, fears, dreams, weaknesses, dislikes, etc. When you know who this person is, you can shift messaging to speak directly to this person." - Laura DeCarlo, Career Directors international.

Do not neglect to identify what their current pain points for your industry are. What are the things they wished were done differently? This can be from a product or process perspective. All of these details will come in handy when fine-tuning your product/service and designing your messaging strategy.

b. Know your competition ...also very well

Next you need to research your competition. Not just who they are but what they are doing and how effective whatever they are doing is with relation to your target market. Research both your direct and indirect competitors. How much appeal does their brand have upon your market? You need to know this especially when you start trying to design communication and strategies aimed at achieving a brand switch. And let's face it. You are really never going to grow if you don't steal some customers from the competition. Your true success as a brand comes when customers begin to prefer you over their initial preferred brands.

c. Know yourself ....very, very well

Take out some time to do some basic SWOT analysis (you can get some free templates here). You need to know your strengths and weaknesses and that will give you insight into what approach to take. Always leverage on strengths and cover weaknesses as much as possible. Your key product/service offering should never rest on a weakness. This will place your brand on the defensive rather than the offensive. Also be very vigilant in identifying opportunities and threats. Tap into the opportunities as efficiently as possible and use them to strengthen your offering.

Collect all of these details, use it to shape your product/service and how you intend to deliver them to your consumers. Do this and you are on your way to deliver a high quality product/service. Only then will you be prepared to take the next step.

Want your brand to be hot? Be cool

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