Most small businesses today cannot afford to pay for expensive advertising campaigns. That doesn't, however, need to be a serious problem. Businesses can become profitable when they learn to take advantage of social media and mobile marketing. A business that can connect with their potential customers and work to maintain those connections through social media succeed in building the kind of brand loyalty that isn't possible with the traditional methods of advertising.
In an article in the June 2012 Small Business section of the New York Times, Austin Texas independent advertising agency founder MP Mueller tells the story of how Tito Beveridge successfully turned his one-man distillery operation into a vodka company that won the double gold medal at the 2001 World Spirits Competition, beating out 72 other vodkas by garnering the votes of 28 judges. At that time, Tito had no budget for advertising, and social media didn't exist as it does today.
Tito understood that without the money to spend on advertising, the only way anyone would find out about his product was by taking it to the people. He did so by going to non-profit events and gallery openings and taking his vodka, setting up a station where he poured, and serving drinks himself. He convinced bar owners to conduct blind taste tests, using his vodka and other brands for comparison. He even handed out vodka samples at liquor stores on weekends. His vision of what his brand should be was simple: produce a great tasting vodka that was reasonably priced. That vision hasn't changed, despite his success.
Tito's Handmade Vodka is now a very successful, thanks to exposure from the New York Times, CNN Money, Martha Stewart, the Wall Street Journal, and Buy American Challenge. He still uses his original, but simple logo design, which he prints on recycled paper.
Engaging in conversations on social media sites with followers can turn them into potential customers. That kind of personal interaction is what customers want. They want to do business with companies or people who are willing to go the extra mile, to talk to them and to figure out what they need or want. To do that, you have to earn their trust, and then listen to what they say. Businesses that focus on customers, provide outstanding customer service and address customer needs can take advantage of this kind of concern and customer service and make that part of the overall design and vision of the brand.
Angela Hausman, a professor of Marketing at Howard University, and the owner of Hausman and Associates, a marketing firm, stresses the importance of using social media to build a brand. She has five simple strategies that anyone can use to build and strengthen their brand. First, a business owner needs to identify their target market. Once they've done that, they can engage with that target market.
Influencers are people who will spread the word about your product or business. Consider them fans or loyal customers because they can help you build your brand simply by mentioning it. Make a point of looking for people who mention you and/or your business, the frequency with which they mention it and what they say about it. Once you've created interest in your product through social media, then you have to make sure that the people who express interest are truly sincere in their interest. If you have a product that you sell to retailers, or sell online, offer these interested people a free sample.
You need to keep them interested and to do that you've got to offer incentives. Consider asking them to test new products, or offer regular coupons so that they will continue to engage with you and offer feedback. Another incentive might be to offer something free to social media followers and fans for inviting friends and family members to follow your company or participate in activities you create through social media. Make sure that they know that you value their opinion.
"When a business can give consumers something they may not know they need or aren't sure they want, and do so in a way that convinces a customer that they really do want it, the business has succeeded in doing something that makes it stand out above other businesses."
Create a website that becomes a visible representation of your brand or product. Many companies offer webhosting, but take the time to compare them on sites like webhostingchoice.com before deciding which one will serve your needs. A visible presence on the Internet, coupled with active engagement on social media networks is an excellent way to reach potential customers, engage with them regularly, get honest feedback and take advantage of the benefits of modern technology without the need to use print, radio or television advertising. At some point, once you've established your brand, you may want to consider converting your website into a mobile-optimized one and engaging with actual, loyal, and potential customers through text messaging.
Successful branding requires that a business be different. The ability to create something unique, a special message, logo or service, or an offer that other businesses can't compete with are all things that will make a business standout. When a business can give consumers something they may not know they need or aren't sure they want, and do so in a way that convinces a customer that they really do want it, the business has succeeded in doing something that makes it stand out above other businesses.
by Rob James