5+ Ways to Brand Yourself on a Budget

Branding is an interesting topic, mainly, because most people do not have a clear understanding of what a brand is. I'm going to bypass all the colloquial notions of what a brand is and dive right into the juicy stuff. The definition I most agree with is mentor and marketing genius Seth Godin's (which you can see here).

It goes as follows:

A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.

A brand's value is merely the sum total of how much extra people will pay, or how often they choose, the expectations, memories, stories and relationships of one brand over the alternatives.

I couldn't have said it better myself (which is why I didn't try).

So what does that mean for you?

It means that there are a slew of easy ways to brand yourself or your company without needing the budget of these Fortune 500 guys. Let's  break this down so that you have some actionable tactics you can initiate today to begin to better expres yourself in the business world.

Opportunity #1: Customer Expectations:

What are you promising your customer and are you consistently delivering? If you tout that customer service is one of your most important values and yet you don't respond to emails, have horrible reception for your phone and your assistant has an attitude, well that doesn't make sense, does it?

Do you show up on time?

Do you follow through and do what you said you would?

Do you offer quality?

Are you trustworthy? Honest? And how is that trust expressed?

Does your service or product work in the way you said it would?

Your brand is reflection of your organization's ability to answer the above questions with a resounding yes. The key piece here is that you need to ask them to know. You create the product to wow them and then get rapid feedback to see if it landed in the way you had hoped.

Opportunity #2: Industry and Customer Memories

Why are  events memorable? Why are super bowl commercials sought after and why are sponsorships such a popular part of marketing?

Because they tell a story (see below) and create generational memories.

"Hey Bob, remember Miller Lite's commercial from last year's Superbowl? That baby was hysterical." 

"Are you going to the GQ ball this year? I haven't been able to make it in the past few years because of a crazy travel schedule, but this year I'm going to make time for it."

"McDonalds was a sponsor of the US Open and when I went they had these bounce tents all over. My kids loved them."

Interesting engagements are not only for the present moment wow factor. They create a storyline that gives history and richness to your company. It becomes not only something people fondly remember, but what they look to with eager anticipation.

It also is the catalyst for testimonials. The examples I used above, while they are nothing more than conversational small-talk, could be used as testimonials that show longevity of the event/company, customer loyalty and trust and customer appreciation.

What are you doing for your customers that creates something worthwhile and memorable?

You could:

  • Send a hand-written thank you note to each of your customers when they make an order.
  • Call your clients up on their birthday and sing them a song.
  • Host a free event every month that brings together interesting people in your industry.
  • Create a benefit for your favorite cause and host a massive outdoor party annually. Barbecue, beer, hot women. Maybe even do a crazy stunt and get on the news (think RedBull guy practically skydiving from outer space).
  • Sponsor your kid's youth basketball team and as a gift, take the parents out for pizza and wings after every game.
  • Send each of one of your clients a copy of their favorite book as a surprise when they sign up.
  • Gift $50 cash to your customers randomly when they leave a review for your company on Yelp.

And so much more…

Opportunity #3: Tell a Story 

This is the story arc for not only your company, but also for each interaction you have with a customer. This really deserves a whole 50 blog posts or dedicated tutorial, but the basic idea is to tell the world who you are and then create interactions with others that support that.

For example:

  • Write out the reason you created the organization and why it's so powerful. What problems are you aiming to fix and how do you intend to do so?
  • Create sales materials. This can include case studies and testimonials of how your customers benefited from your product or service. These should support the story you're telling. If you tell people you can help them lose weight using organic, whole foods, but your clients claim to have gained weight from chowing down McDonald's smoothies (based on your recommendation), that doesn't work. No one is impressed and it creates a massive disconnect, which is the opposite of a solid brand.

Opportunity #4: Create and Leverage Meaningful Relationships

How do you treat the people who believe in you? This is the simplest and most profound concept.

Your brand is your reputation with the people who physically interact with you. How you dress, what you say and mostly, how you make them feel are some of the biggest indicators of if you're trustworthy or not.

Do you say thank you to your customers?

Do you listen to them and help them?

Do you strive to improve and look for feedback?

Are you clear on who your customer is or what they want?

Do you have a system in place that shows your clients how much you care?

Opportunity #5: Design.

How you look matters. People tell you to dress to impress for a job interview and the same applies to your business.

  • Invest in a nice template for your blog or website. You can get great Wordpresss templates for $70 or so. WooThemes and Studiopress are two of my favorites. Super easy.
  • Hire a designer on Elance to create a logo that you can use on all of your marketing and sales material (website, business cards, stationary, email) to keep it consistent.
  • Get rid of all the ugly, cheap looking stuff on your website. This includes weird music, poor quality images and strangely colored fonts.

Branding is not just one thing you do to make yourself memorable. It's the integrated effort of many actions and insights that over the long term turn into something magical. There's also an entire tutorial on branding insights here to review if you want even deeper information.

But I want to hear from each of you.

How do you think your brand measures up?

What is your biggest pain point? Finding a designer, figuring out Wordpress?

Comment section is a great place for me to get insight into what you need more information on, so post away!

 In fact, post ONE of your biggest paint points surrounding your brand now in the comments below.