After spending the last 12 years building a career in digital marketing working for other companies, partnering in a startup, and then starting a few businesses of my own, I've learned a thing or two about building brands, both large and small. Here are a few things I think every entrepreneur/small business owner should know/consider when building a brand and marketing their own company.
10 Branding & Marketing Tips on Starting a Small Business
- Know your audience. This is first and foremost for all things marketing. Now, when you're first starting out it may very well be the case where your audience is anyone who will pay you a buck. I get it. I did that too. But trust me when I say, figure out EXACTLY who your audience is as soon as possible. More on this below, but people are really what matter most - both in life and business. Without knowing who you're talking to, you might as well be pushing your messaging out into a big, black, scary, dark void.
- Figure out your brand and stick with it. If you want to start a freelance business, try to envision if you want it to be a solopreneurship or if you think you'll want a team someday. Not always, but often, companies with an individual's name tend to stay rooted around that person and sometimes miss out on bigger opportunities. That's not a bad thing if that's what you want. Just something worth noting so two or three years in, you're not kicking yourself wishing you had thought more long-term from the beginning.
- Do your due diligence in creating your brand upfront. By doing this, you'll ensure the time, energy, finances, and resources you put into building your brand are worth it and you won't have to go back and redo it a few months or, worse, years down the road. You'll also want to make sure this brand has legs and you can grow with it over time. Be realistic, intentional, and simultaneously, visionary.
- Build a website. If you don't exist online, it'll be pretty tricky to build a business in this digitally thriving world. Especially in this post-COVID world.
- Claim Google My Business. Google is the largest search engine in the world. Use their tools. By claiming Google My Business, you'll root yourself in your local community. You can decide if you'd like to do that or not, but, personally, I think it humanizes things more. Even though we live in a digital-centric, cloud-saving, video-conferencing day-to-day, I think it makes it more real when you know the address someone claims as their own. It helps make things more tangible.
- Set up a business address. As stated in the previous point, it's important to have an address, but please, for your own safety, do not use your personal home address. At a minimum, pay for a P.O. Box, but preferable a mailbox at a local coworking space. Don't give the world your home address, it's just not safe.
- Invest in content marketing. Believe it or not, content marketing actually works. Content marketing was a core contributor to a national 100-year-old company's highest year of sales to date with almost a 300% increase in conversions year over year and it helped a national nonprofit increase donations by 53% year over year and the number of donors by over 500% the year after that. But to top it off, in a study done by Aberdeen, they also sited that "traffic is 7.8x higher for content marketing leaders compared to followers (19.5% compared to 2.5%)” and “marketing’s contribution to revenue is more than 6x higher for content marketing leaders than followers." 6x the revenue people. SIX. I rest my case.
- Go niche as quickly as you can afford to. I know when you first start your business, oftentimes you have to take every dollar that comes in. I get it. But as soon as you can afford to say no, say no to the business that doesn't position you in the way you want to be positioned and narrow your target audience.
- Do a few things and do them really well. You will not have the bandwidth to do everything and do it well. So pick a few things that are really important to your brand, your business, and your target audience and do them well. This way, when you're recognized, your reputation will proceed you in the way you want it to. So yes, this means, do not try to build up your Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and YouTube profiles all at once. You'll hate yourself for it.
- Make sure your marketing supports your business development strategy. Because if it doesn't, why are you doing it?
Check out my other recommendations and lessons learned on business basics, business development, finances, and the operations and systems of starting a small business! And if you'd like a full step-by-step guide on how to start your online/virtual business, I documented all of those steps in great detail in my Work From Home Playbook, so check that out too!
Staying on top of marketing trends, platforms, and best practices can be exhausting. But in the end, know that less truly can be more if it's smart, strategic, and intentional.