It’s often believed that branding is limited to large-scale businesses. However, in today’s world of keen competition, building a brand is important for any business, whether large or small, to flourish and keep the revenues flowing in.
So, how can small businesses create a brand identity?
With all big names to compete with, how can small and local businesses attain brand recognition?
Well, branding for small businesses differs from branding for big businesses.
Though small businesses may need to compete with big brands, what many small businesses get it wrong is they compete with the big names on their platform. For instance, trying to equal a big brand on selection or price poses an immediate disadvantage to a small business.
Small businesses should rather compete on their strengths and turf. Small and local businesses are valued by consumers for quality work, trustworthiness, and personalized service. Branding for small businesses should focus on these areas.
Nevertheless, the greatest asset of a small business is its location. Being a part of the community, a small business is able to understand the culture and dynamics of local consumers and can become “one of them”. This is indeed an asset small and local businesses should leverage.
Local businesses are trendy and their appeal to consumers is gradually increasing. 82% consumers have reported that they have shopped from local businesses in the past few years, and almost all of them (98%) would continue to shop or increase shopping locally in the years to come. It’s smart to brand locally; it enhances your online visibility, raises your profile, and eventually heightens your bottom line.
If you are a small business based in Kolkata, and want to build your brand, grow your reputation, and increase your search ranking locally, following are some effective tips to help you do so. Read on…
1. Engage in Person and Online with your Community
Amy Cuddy, a Harvard social psychologist, states that when people meet a person, they develop two main impressions about the person – firstly, people decide if they can trust that person; secondly if they can respect that person.
Well, people make the same evaluations about small businesses and their brands. To prove that you are likeable, personal, trustworthy, and active, you need to engage and communicate with your audience, thereby increasing your familiarity with them.
With the popularity of social media increasing steadily among consumers, it’s a great medium for branding. Engage with your audience on social media to build brand awareness. This would result in social media activity like check-ins, followers, fans, and likes. The volume of social media activity serves as a brand signal for Google indicating that your business and products/services are liked by consumers, and your products/services are a likely match for people looking for similar products/services.
Ensure that engagement is frequent and regular. It need not be long; in most cases, simple and short works best. It’s better to split your longer posts into shorter pieces and break up the content into a number of posts.
2. Let Consumers Share Something
Consumers love sharing their unique experiences and moments. Getting treated specially, receiving pleasant and unexpected surprises – all such things trigger positive responses from consumers. Try offering them ad hoc discounts or an extra cake piece. A shout-out through a post or picture or a personal note, are all free but amazing ways to make someone smile. Such moments inspire people to share, whether, through a like, comment, post or review, and Google take notice of it.
It’s also effective to involve in the community that is outside your shop. Sponsoring or participating in local events suggests that you belong to the community. It would also provide you content for sharing that is likely to facilitate consumer interaction online or chatter from the local media outlets.
3. Get Customer Reviews
Reviews represent your reputation. In the present times, consumers project their impression of you and your brand through different review outlets. A recent survey by Moz shows that the decisions of around 67% of consumers are impacted by reviews.
The quantity of reviews is an important signal to Google indicating your business’s popularity amongst independent, third-party consumers. A large number of consumers leave a review when asked. So, ask your customers for reviews not only on Yelp, but TripAdvisor, Google, Yellow Pages, and other directory listings also.
Bad reviews matter too, both to search engines and public perception. The inevitable bad reviews should be managed individually and it should be realized that a number of good reviews would counter the effect of the bad ones.
4. Target the Local Publications of Kolkata
Who’s talking about your business and brand is important. Getting a world-renowned magazine, website or other sources to link to your website or mention you would indeed be a big deal; however, local sources are even better for you considering your purpose. Why? Because local community magazines and news sources are the places people most often go to for getting local information. Hence, when your site is linked to or your business is written about by a local news source or magazine of Kolkata, it builds brand recognition for you through the audiences of those publishers.
All major cities have local publications, and when your business is mentioned, linked or listed in them, Bing and Google would reward you with an increase in your local search ranking.
5. Target the Smaller Hyperlocal Publications of Kolkata Too
Being mentioned or linked to by the hyperlocal publications can prove that your business is truly local. There are several publishers serving specific communities, such as communities residing in a particular area of the city, or the ones speaking a particular language. There are other hyperlocal sources that publish hyperlocal content like current events in a specific area, restaurant and store openings, road construction etc. Your small business can get valuable citations and links from these hyperlocal sources.
6. Use Lingo Showing you’re Local
In every locality, certain districts, streets, or areas have nicknames. Use these nicknames when describing your location. Additionally, use local landmarks. This suggests that you know the locality and are a part of it.
Celebrate the culture and local events of the area in which your business operates. Consider offering special offers or discounts during local festivals or occasions. Local sports teams – of a high school, college or a pro – often have large fan followings. Conducting events surrounding games depicts your local roots.
7. Leverage Content to Showcase your Expertise
The second prong of Amy Cuddy for creating an impression is – whether people could respect a person. This, in other words, means whether the person has adequate competence or expertise. Small and local businesses are expected to offer better customer service and high-quality services or products. So, you need to demonstrate your ability.
Publishing content that’s not sales-based, but is related to your business niche and is educational, would demonstrate that you know your business. It would also provide confidence to consumers that it’s right to make the purchase. You can publish blogs and send out email newsletters offering useful information and helpful tips related to your business vertical. This is a great way to demonstrate your expertise.
Once you get consumers’ confidence, you would get higher clicks to call, greater click-through rates from searches, and other online activities that can be captured as customer engagement with your local business.
8. Concentrate on Branding, and Not on Conversions through Ad Impressions
Ad measurement ‘impressions’ usually has a bad reputation in the world of digital marketing. Right from small and medium businesses to the big brands – all are critical of its ambiguous reach, transparency, and pricing structure.
This criticism arises from the lack of measurable ROI generated by impressions in comparison to calls, clicks, and the question of whether an ad is truly viewable. To assure ‘viewability’, it’s necessary to redefine what comprises a viewable impression, which includes, among other factors, requiring the time given to an ad to be a minimum standard of 1 second.
However, it was found by MIT researchers that human brain has the ability to process an entire image in just 13 milliseconds, which is 0.013 of a second. This implies the human brain is capable of processing 77 images every second. Hence, a viewer can process even an ad’s very brief view. While the viewer may not always take an action, there is value in building familiarity of the viewer with an image, or the brand.
9. Borrow Some Prominence from National Brands through Co-Op Programs
Co-op programs offer compensation to local retailers when they display national brands in their advertisements. For instance, if local tire dealers display logos of Bridgestone, Michelin, and Goodyear in their own marketing, they, in return, receive payouts for brand exposure. Nevertheless, the benefits of co-op programs to you, as a local business, extend beyond financial subsidies. National companies make heavy investments in their branding, and when a local business is affiliated with a national brand, the local business’s reputation gets a boost.
From SEO perspective, brand names have authority with the search algorithms. The brand names would help correlate your local business to the business niche those national companies are associated with.
10. Sponsor Local Charities
Sponsoring local charities is not only an effective way to get your local business name out; it also indicates that your business works for causes within the community. When sponsoring a charity, request the organizers to mention the name of your small business on their social media pages, website, printed materials, t-shirts or signage. This would raise your business or brand name recognition locally.
11. Use Custom Hashtag
Take the use of hashtags on social media a step further by using a custom hashtag. Using a custom hashtag would boost your brand recognition in the local market. Use it when posting on different social media channels, especially on the visual platforms like Instagram. Such a strategy helps your target customers associate the hashtag with your business, increasing the likelihood of name recognition.
12. Flaunt your Business Name
Make your business known to the world…especially to your locality! Increase your business name recognition by posting the name of your business anywhere you can. You can list your business name on your personal Facebook profile under the section of employment. Create a page for your local business on Linkedin. If you post at industry or community forums, include the name of your business in your bio. People on these platforms might not be aware that you are the owner of a business, and they might seek the services you provide. You might even get your next customer from these platforms!
Use pens that have the name of your business on them and carry extras when going out. When making new personal connections, hand them out your business card that has your contact number.
There are two challenges involved in marketing – the first one is being found and the second one is being chosen.
Google’s search algorithm considers the brand to be an important factor. Local businesses can boost their chances of being found by promoting their brands in their community, where it matters the most.
Increasing brand recognition helps with the second challenge of being chosen too – when the search results feature your local business and your business name is recognized. If your brand name happens to be on top of the minds of your audience and they enter it as a search term partially or in whole, that’s even better. Hence, brand building should be a part of all your marketing campaigns and strategies. And the winning tips mentioned in this post would greatly help you build a solid local brand in Kolkata.