There was a time when I mentioned the word "brand" to small business and they would shrug their shoulders at the idea. "We don't have a brand, that's big company we stuff. We have a business and we busy ourselves trying to build some name recognition, sure, but we don't really worry much about branding."
Image Infusionsoft via flickr
I suppose with the advent of social media small businesses have come to realize they do indeed have a brand - it's not that anything has really changed - it's that it has become much easier to hear it. The days when the collective perception around a brand was kept to the neighborly chat across the fence have given way to mentions that can be tracked, filtered, scored and aggregated to create a very vivid picture of the existence of a brand. Even the smallest of companies can now turn to Twitter, for instance, and turn up mentions and conversations about their brand from prospects, customers, competitors and journalists alike, all in real time.
This fact, combined with our market's ability to freely publish and distribute content, comments, ratings and reviews, both good and bad, about any product or service they like, has given new life, meaning and importance to this word brand for businesses both large and small.
While traditionally brand attributes were confined to product features, service approaches and tangible identity elements such as logos, colors and mascots, increasingly small business brands are turning to something else entirely - purpose as brand.
In what may in fact be a simple wrinkle in time, due in part to a depressed economy, there seems to be a real yearning to do business with businesses that draw you into their reason for being, their story, their personal human touch.
I've always believed that one of the greatest aspects of owning a business is that it affords you the ability to create something that can serve your own unique higher purpose. That notion is something that can move to the forefront of the building of a powerful brand.
One of the most effective ways to build a brand today is to focus on, understand and communicate purpose.
Now I'm not suggesting this as a tactic that can be faked, I'm talking about taking what's real and authentic for you and making it the centerpiece of your business. In doing so, whether you ever craft a tidy marketing message around it or not, you will be creating the most attractive brand possible.
Below are a handful of ways that this notion can manifest itself in any business.
Culture as purpose - Creating a culture where people are free to be who they are, grow, prosper and generally love to come to work is possibly the simplest way to create a brand that radiates out to the customer. I didn't say creating this kind of internal culture was easy, but if you do it, if the creation of it is your primary purpose, a positive brand is almost guaranteed.
Simplicity as purpose - I think we're all longing for some simplicity these days. That can be in how something works, how we find it, how we engage it, how we buy it, how we understand it, how we explain it - make your goal and purpose to create simplicity and you are on your way to creating something that attracts even the most tech savvy among us.
Story as purpose - Small business is personal, or at least it can be. Building a compelling story about why you started your business, what you overcame to get to where you are and where you're trying to take this baby is a strong tool for connection. I write about story building often.
Difference as purpose - An essential element for any brand is the ability to stand out from perceived competition. Making this your purpose allows you to focus every ounce of your attention on getting very good and serving and communicating your unique way to doing and being. This is one of the surest ways to build a business that charges premium pricing. Warning here though, good service is not unique - this must be something that wows!
Why as purpose - Many companies spend the bulk of an annual retreat trying to craft a mission for their organizations only to frame a few sentences for something to hang in the lobby. True mission manifests itself as a single minded reason for doing and can't be faked or framed. Find your single minded purpose for being, use it as a filter for every decision and the rest of your business will fall into place profitably. We are a customer happiness company that happens to sell plumbing supplies!
You have a brand, you know, the only question is whether or not your actively participating in its creation.