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Build Your Brand – Without Spending Lots of Money!

Brand concept on blackboard

Branding is all about emotions. Branding is still a relatively new field that has risen in importance recently but remains an emotional aspect of marketing that is often not well understood. According to Nielson’s recent Global New Product Innovation Survey, 59% of consumers prefer to buy new products from brands familiar to them. A recognizable and loved brand is one of the most valuable assets an SME owns. Think of Starbucks, an SME that started in Pike Place market, Seattle. Nowadays is a global brand to which travellers unconsciously migrate in a foreign city. Because they know what they are going to get, and they like it. Many SMEs may be bombarded by ‘Brand Consultants’ or consultancies offering branding, often at high cost. Different approaches deserve different degrees of attention and careful assessment. If you want to build your SME brand without spending lots of money why not do it yourself?

All Points of Contact

A simple definition of a brand is that it is ‘all points of contact’. This can cover a multitude of things ranging from the CEO to the product, the country of origin or more recently your choice of social media and content. If you are a sole trader SME then the majority of your brand is probably you, the person. Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself what is my own identity and then take a look out of the window and ask yourself ‘how can I build myself in to a brand?’(without spending lots of money).

Branding Yourself

Personal branding is important and can range from your physical appearance to your personal reputation, where your office is located and the five people you spend most of your time with. Personal branding starts with awareness. How do people see me? Listen to feedback carefully, ignoring some of the negative comments, and then reassess your ‘self’. Set your own goals and then analyse the gap between how your clients and friends see you now and who you want to be seen as in the future. Wouldn’t it be nice to be known as a successful SME owner? Someone who provides good services and products with value at reasonable prices, someone who is likeable and reliable and makes a lot of money. To get to these goals start with profiling your own identity, then look at your personal positioning.

Branding your SME

The brand of your SME is defined by your customers’ overall perceptions of your business and your SME brand should be aligned with your market positioning.

Here are some lessons from one female entrepreneur in Singapore about her experiences building her SME brand. She is confident of designing quality shoes valued by customers, yet, at the same time, she is aware that succeeding in retail goes beyond simply having good products. “Businesses also have to invest in branding to ensure sustainable business growth,” she says adding, “branding is important not only to gain visibility and traction in Singapore’s tight retail market where consumers tend to be brand conscious; but also to ensure that the time and resources spent on developing the business is headed in the right direction.”

  • Establish clear business and brand values
    It is key for an SME to have clarity on its business and brand values before starting on a branding exercise. “Nobody knows your business and brand better than you. Knowing what you stand for makes a branding exercise easier to start and work on,” she emphasizes adding, “Anchoring your business on your brand values helps keep the company focused, and this enables a strong and consistent identity to be built over time.”
  • Get external feedback before positioning your brand
    Getting feedback from an objective third-party view is helpful when establishing your brand’s positioning.  “I needed an outsider’s point of view to develop our tagline; ‘Fine. Formal. Funky.’ which not only encapsulates a majority of our target audience but also opens up a new market segment: individuals searching for funky yet good quality shoes,” she explains.
  • Develop a visual identity aligned with  your brand vision
    “Developing a clear market positioning and a suitable visual identity has helped my SME to relate to our target audience more accurately,” she says, adding, “It not only guides the company, but also helps us to focus product development.”Today, 40% of her customers are repeat shoppers.
  • Implement your brand identity consistently across your business
    From the branding exercise, the SME also realised the importance of implementing their brand identity consistently across all aspects of their business ranging from their products to their marketing efforts and shop front. “Our shop’s interior was initially designed towards high-end luxury, but this was not in line with our brand’s product range and image,” she explains adding, “We are now in the midst of aligning the look-and-feel of our retail store to be consistent with what our brand stands for.”

Your Branding Journey

Brand building doesn’t happen overnight, or even in a few months. It’s a journey. Brand building can be helped by processes and the ongoing effort will result in establishing and maintaining long-term relationships with your customers. This should lead to an increase in sales, more projects, word-of-mouth referrals, and advocacy for your products or services. A well-known brand is able to command a premium price in the market, which leads to higher profits. It is also easier for a strong brand to raise funds, attract suppliers and negotiate better deals with large institutions. As your SME brand grows, you will find it easier to find acceptance with powerful buyers and distributors.

Branding is all about emotions so why don’t you get emotional about building your SME brand without spending a lot of money. A personal approach with pragmatism and small changes to yourself and your SME don’t need to cost the earth. A strong brand increases the chances of your SME business succeeding in the highly competitive markets of SE Asia and a clever brand building process can transform your business from a small player into a successful competitor. You’ll discover that your customers will develop a deeper level of trust for your brand, and be more likely to buy and keep buying what you are selling.

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