Small businesses can often find it challenging to build a brand due to their limited resources and budgets. However, the industry is full of such examples where entrepreneurs started businesses from scratch, which later became powerhouse brands. There are several brands in the industry that essentially started as small businesses like Lego. Having started off as small brands, they found their way to the top by understanding customer needs and through clever marketing.
Positioning and branding are important for small businesses just like the large ones. Small businesses aiming for successful positioning and branding must be focused and consistent in their approach because of their limited resources. They also need to be very creative in their approach. The good thing is that they can accomplish their objectives despite financial constraints. Marketing new ideas about products is possible if a small business creatively does it. Often when small businesses engage in positioning and branding, their biggest constraint is financial. They do not have a large marketing budget, but building awareness often does not require a lot of financial investment. They can successfully position their brand and win in a competitive marketplace by following some specific guidelines.
According to Kotler,
“Positioning is the act of designing a company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the minds of the target market.”
The chief goal of positioning is to locate the brand in the minds of the consumers in a manner that maximizes the benefits for the firm. A good brand positioning strategy guides the marketing efforts of a firm. It clarifies the brand’s essence, identifies the goals it will help the consumers achieve, and shows how it does so in a unique way. The positioning strategy of a brand should guide decision making in the organization. Therefore, people at all levels should understand the positioning strategy.
In Kotler’s words, branding is all about creating differences between products. Marketers need to tell the consumers who the product is by giving the product a name and adding other brand elements that the consumers can identify it by. They should also teach the consumers about what the product does and why the consumers should care. Consumers need a framework or mental structure to organize their knowledge of products and services. It helps them make informed decisions and in the process provides value to the firm. Both positioning and branding are just as important for a small business as a large one.
Positioning and branding guidelines for small businesses
Conduct low cost marketing research:
Small businesses just need to get creative when conducting market research. There are many low cost methods of marketing research that small businesses can employ to connect with customers and study their competitors. For example, by setting up course projects at local colleges and universities, small businesses can access the expertise of both students and professors.
Build one or two strong brand based on one or two key associations:
Small businesses must often rely on one or two brands and one or two key associations as points of difference for those brands.
Brand associations include all brand-related thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, experiences, beliefs, attitudes, and so on that become linked to the brand node. These associations must be reinforced consistently across the marketing program and over time.
Employ a well integrated set of brand elements:
Small businesses must employ a well integrated set of brand elements. They should maximize the contribution of each of the three main sets of brand equity drivers (brand elements, product/service and supporting marketing and other associations). Small businesses must develop an integrated and well developed set of brand equity drivers. It will improve both brand awareness and brand image. Small businesses must develop brand elements that are memorable, meaningful and having a strong creative potential. Since small businesses do not have a large marketing budget, they must employ other tactics like innovative packaging to help catch as much attention as possible at the point of purchase.
Create a buzz and a loyal brand community:
Small businesses need to depend on low cost alternatives to advertising and promotions. Often they need to rely upon word of mouth to establish their positioning. Apart from public relations and social networking, other low cost alternatives, the small businesses can use low cost promotions and sponsorships. They should also focus on creating a vibrant brand community that includes their current and prospective customers. Apart from reinforcing customer loyalty, it is also a cost effective means to spread the word among new prospects.
Leverage secondary association:
Secondary associations are often of great help when it comes to building brand equity for small businesses. They can include persons, places or things with potentially relevant associations. Especially the secondary associations that signal quality or credibility can be of great help for small businesses. Suppose a small business that serves government customers can leverage these associations to strengthen its brand equity.
The bigger brands have sufficient resources to run large scale marketing programs. Often the small businesses do not have the luxury to do so. They do not have sizable budgets or other resources like large store chains and enough marketing personnel. As a result, they have to ensure that every marketing dollar they spend drives results. They cannot make mistakes since in that case their existing budget might be wasted. Therefore, small businesses must design and implementing marketing programs quite carefully.