Sometimes, as a small business in a saturated market, the fight to stand out feels a little like David and Goliath. With limited resources, teams, or accessibility, there may be some boundaries on what a small business can do, but making a good first impression and standing out doesn't have to be one of them.
Imagine meeting someone at a conference and they don't have a business card. What if their email is still firstname.lastname@example.org?
Not so impressive anymore, is it?
Branding is key to customers viewing your business, no matter the size, as a legitimate one. This includes developing a consistent voice across all platforms you're on, providing reliable and consistent customer service, showcasing your value, approaching your niche, and having a clear aesthetic (including a website that could pass for one designed in the last year, fonts that are easy to read, appropriate white space usage, and a professional email address).
One more thing: branding doesn't have to be expensive. Design tools like Canva and PicMonkey, color palette sites like Coolors, web platforms like Wix, and inspirational knowledge bases like Pinterest are great resources for creating an inexpensive, cohesive, and professional aesthetic.
Knowing who your business, product, or service caters to is absolutely critical. You may have heard of niching down on social media as an influencer, but this applies to other industries as well.
By building a business catering to a particular audience, you've done part of the work already in making yourself stand out by remaining attractive your ideal client. And attracting ideal clients will further allow exposure as word of mouth is one of the most effective marketing tools out there.
Not sure how to identify your targets? Who is the persona of your ideal customer? What do they do? What do they like? What interests do they have? What are their demographics? Let these pieces of information guide you.
Every point of interaction with your customers, from janitor to CEO, should exude the same values as you've built your business on.
And equally, if not more important, create a culture for your employees to feel special. As companies like Spotify scaled, they became known for unique benefits offered to employees. Even small businesses can do the same--whether it includes fully paid health insurance, "take your birthday off" holidays, or weekly potlucks, your employees feeling valued touts your company's values...and thereby makes them its biggest fans!
By utilizing a steady discount code, return policy, or unique service rule, customers are further bound to remember what you have to offer. Companies like Zappos, for example, allow a full year to return shoes - because it takes time for customers to try them and decide whether they are comfortable. Look at what you have to offer as a business and see where your unique offer or guarantee could be useful - and then use it to stand out further.
Companies like Toms offer one pair of shoes to a person in a developing country for every pair bought. Companies often offer a percentage of sales to particular causes during awareness months. Ben and Jerry's is also known for cause marketing, a branding strategy used to draw awareness to political causes as well as their own brand.
But be cautious with this - ensure you follow up with any offers, and that the cause itself aligns with your company's platform. Calling yourself inclusive but donating to a charity known for non-inclusive practices might not be the best move. Ensure that what you stand for as a company carries over into your marketing and then carries into your cause.