Small businesses are unique in that they can create a valuable customer experience that the big guys can’t always deliver. Their services and products are often niche and operations are unconstrained by corporate policies that can be unfriendly to consumers. Small businesses are also trusted for their integrity, community engagement, and customer service. When was the last time you called a small business and got forwarded to an automated call center? Here are some tips to help you increase the appeal of your brand in the coming year.


Remember… brand perception matters

Your brand is more than just your logo, merchandise, or products. It is the complete experience customers have with your business. This includes what you do and how you do it, visual elements, customer interactions, and what you share on social media. All of these elements help establish the trust and credibility of your business. Just remember, everything you do matters.


Stand out

What differentiates you from other companies in your industry? Standing out means being different – being better than the competition. Make sure you pinpoint what it is that makes you unique. Whether it is your company’s mission, message or marketing, try to make your company stand out so potential customers will remember you. Also, don’t forget the importance of creating that “ultimate” customer service experience for your customers. In these days of automated customer call centers or businesses that don’t even give you a number to call, consumers value a more personal experience where they can have issues resolved quickly and efficiently with a personal touch. Be that business for them!


Be the go-to source for great products and services

Word of mouth still goes a long way, and having great products and services that people talk about and tell others will greatly help your business. Customers will keep coming back if they experience great service and think your products exceed expectations. Don’t ever lose sight of your products. Keep refining and testing if need be. Ask for feedback and be willing to make adjustments to meet your customers’ needs. If you put product and exceptional service before profit, you’ll build a loyal customer base.


Make sure your customers know you… for the RIGHT reasons

One of the reasons small businesses fail is because of the absence of the business owner. Don’t let your business run by itself. Employees lose motivation and structure, which can quickly turn to bad service when the boss is absent. Your leadership is the glue that holds it all together and makes your business what it is. And nobody has more to lose than you do if your business doesn’t stay afloat. Obviously your business needs to be able to function at times when you can’t be there, but try to strike a balance. Make sure your customers know your face and connect with you on a personal level.


Have a consistent, distinct voice

How you and your employees interact with and communicate with customers will ensure your distinct brand message is delivered consistently. Make sure your team of employees know and understand your company’s mission, values and vision – and consistently portray that to your customers. This applies to social media, in person, and how you speak to customers on the phone. Look at other companies and what they do, maybe there is something that you would like to emulate. And, if you need to clarify your brand’s identity (including mission, values and vision), contact an expert in this area. There are a number of great branding experts out there, but Lethia Owens of Next Level Branding & Marketing is one of my favorites.


Be reliable

Letting your customers down by failing to live up to your own promises and brand standards can be particularly harmful for small businesses that depend heavily on referrals. A happy customer is a loyal customer. So make sure you aren’t making promises you can’t keep. The foundation of brand loyalty lies in great service and consumer trust.


Streamline your business for efficiency

All of these things go a long way toward building a positive brand image for your small business. But it can be next to impossible to provide the kind of service that promotes customer loyalty without the organization systems and time-management processes in place that streamline day-to-day operations. When business is booming and you’re trying to juggle multiple tasks, nothing will help your sanity (or your business) more than organization, proven time-management strategies, and having your business finances under control. If those facets of running your business are a challenge for you, give me a call. I can help you pull it all together so you can successfully build that positive brand for your business in 2016!