How to Promote Your Small Business Brand
Promoting Your Brand to Influence Your Customers
In our last brand post, we discussed how create a killer brand identity is to promote it. Brand awareness is, you guessed it, all about getting the word out about your small business so that your prospective customers are aware of its existence. Promoting your brand is crucial because the amount of awareness you garner is one of the main deciding factors in the amount of sales you’ll make.
Many small businesses start by asking the wrong questions right off the bat. Instead of focusing on “how do I sell more?” the question entrepreneurs need to be asking themselves should be: “how do I get more customers?”
This is not an easy question to answer, but far from impossible with a little legwork and determination. It requires that you spend some time thinking on and understanding your customer, more specifically their purchasing decision process.
The customer decision process for almost all small businesses has 5 main stages (although additional stages have begun to appear for many online businesses); the goal is to understand the steps your customers go through before they make a purchase, and try to influence them at every stage, that is the hallmark of a truly effective brand.
Stage 1: Need recognition
First off, the whole process starts when the consumer recognizes that they have a need. It could be something as simple as “I’m hungry, I need food” or it can be more complex, as in a need they didn’t realize they had until that very moment like, “The new iPhone looks pretty impressive, I think it’s time to upgrade”. Usually, need recognition is triggered and influenced by brand awareness activities like advertising. The consistent visual repetition of a brand through advertising helps to reinforce familiarity in your prospect’s minds, but traditional advertising can be expensive so here are some alternatives to influencing this stage on a dime:
- Establish your brand’s relevance and expertise through a blog; create engaging and interesting content that adds value to your customers. This is also a sly way to “create” the need for your product or service. For example, if you own a flower shop a possible blog post could be about how to use fresh cut flowers in new and interesting ways that people may not have thought of.
- Build communities on social media. Even more important as customers take to social media to help make their buying decisions, a well-managed, branded community is a key ingredient to creating an emotional connection between your customers and your brand. A positive and vocal supporter for your brand on Social Media can even act as an evangelist for your brand. Social media also acts as another channel for you to push your company messages, product information, solve customer service issues, and advertise with very little monetary investment.
Stage 2: Information Search
At this point, the consumer starts gathering information about the product, whose selling it, for how much, and what kind of product attributes they should be looking for. Generally, there are 2 kinds of information searches, internal and external. Internally, they will attempt to recall if they’ve had previous experiences with brands and products in this category. If past knowledge is lacking, they tend to rely more heavily on external search, which can be anything from web searches, to reviews from friends & family, consumer reports, and advertising.
- Expand your reach and make sure you’re visible when people are searching for what you’re offering by optimizing your site with SEO (search engine optimization) best practices and investing in pay-per-click advertising.
- Increase your credibility with online reviews. Gather testimonials for your website, ask your customers to review their experience on social media, or send out a customer satisfaction survey. There are some great, easy to use online survey builders available (and they’re free!)
Stage 3: Evaluation of alternatives
Now the consumer is armed with the criteria for their purchase and they are in the process of evaluating brand A vs. brand B. These criteria are personal but usually include both objective characteristics, like basic product attribute and subjective ones, like the aspirational value and prestige of luxury products.
- Make this painless for the consumer by making information easy to find on your website. A prominent FAQ page is great way to accomplish this quickly and easily.
- When choosing how to highlight your product, keep an eye on your competitors and which product attributes they are focusing on, this will allow your customers to easily compare apples with apples.
Stage 4: Purchase
This is the moment of truth when the consumer chooses whether or not to buy, if they choose to buy at all, from whom and when.
- Make the shopping experience pleasant and seamless, great customer service is always key here. Making sure to solve any customer issues quickly and professionally will go a long way to making sure your product is chosen over your competitors and ensure positive post purchase behaviour. With easy access to social media and Yelp, a dissatisfied customer can easily damage you brand if their complaints are not addressed.
- Incentivize purchase with promotions, coupon codes, or a loyalty program. This gives shoppers more reasons to choose your product over another product, and to make their purchase sooner rather than later.
Stage 5: Post-purchase behaviour
The purchase has been completed and the consumer evaluates whether or not it meets their expectations, they come out of this stage either satisfied or dissatisfied. Their level of satisfaction will affect how they perceive your brand’s value, how they talk about you to other consumers who are in earlier stages of their decision journey, and whether or not you will get their business again.
- If possible, follow up with your customer. Ask them how they are enjoying their purchase and if they have any feedback on their experience. Let them know their opinion matters.
- Customer service is just as important post-purchase as it is in any other stage. Resolve any post-purchase issues quickly and seamlessly. Ensure that your service is accessible and convenient, and you will have one satisfied customer on your hands!
We have just outlined how you can build brand awareness and influence the various stages of the consumer purchase decision process on a dime. Thanks to the internet, you don’t need hundreds of thousands in advertising dollars to make an impact anymore (but it sure does help!). We suggest you do think about investing some budget into advertising to maximize your reach potential. Consumers will usually only consider a limited number of brands when making their choice, that’s why top of mind awareness is so important.