It’s National Small Business Week in the US and we’re celebrating entrepreneurs across the world that make ShipStation a part of their daily hustle. It’s already a third of the way into the year, so we’re in full swing and we hope it’s going great so far at your organization.
We’re taking this moment of #SmallBusinessWeek to focus on how you can boost brand awareness for your small business for the rest of the year. Most of the strategy that we outline focuses on creating valuable content, whether it be informative or fun. We’ve also got some creative ideas for how to improve your customer experience, boost brand loyalty, and organic brand evangelism.
Great products and customer service go a long way and granted, should be the cornerstone of your company mission. Building a brand, however, takes effort in understanding your customer’s values, lifestyle, and needs so that you can deliver relevant content that inspires them to grow.
Here are three ways you can build your brand with education, entertainment, and engagement.
1. Educate Your Target Customer
Share your knowledge and experiences with the world to gain brand trust.
Find Out What They Need
When you want to figure out how to do something, you’re going to search online or look up a how-to video. The same applies to your target customer when they’re looking for help with a problem or trying something new. Whether it’s how to groom a beard, stand-up paddleboard, or bake a paleo dessert, they’re relying on experts in the industry to tell them how it’s done.
“Figure out what people are searching on and provide that content. It’s as simple as what questions are people asking and answer those questions and answer them well.” – Stephan Aarstol, Tower Paddle Boards
Customers are super smart these days when it comes to buying products. Their interest leads to research and brand hunting before deciding to buy anything. Building a brand takes some digging and hard work to figure out what people are looking for before they find your company. Your product might be the best solution for their end goal, but having the right content ready to address their initial needs is key. Consider what common questions, pain points, and resources people might need before making the next step in the buying journey.
Create Valuable Content
Sometimes when you create a product or start a brand, you are your own target customer. This is a huge advantage in itself for understanding the lifestyle of your audience. Regardless, making a great product can only go so far without creating an impactful brand around it. That requires offering your customers value aside from what you’re selling.
How can you get started? Start a blog (if you haven’t already), create a resource page with how-to guides, and get articles published on industry-leading sites. Build a content marketing strategy for your small business and research the best keywords to boost SEO for your site. Some web surfers not looking to buy anything may stumble upon your content and learn something. The value they discover in your brand may lead them to become a customer. Some customers don’t know you offer a product or a solution to their need until you convince them they have the problem in the first place.
At Tower, they sell inflatable stand up paddleboards, skateboards, sunglasses, and other beach apparel. Founder and CEO Stephan Aarstol understands the value in providing content for his target consumer (people who love to paddleboard) to get traffic to his website. It features guides, videos, and articles on how to do the sport and other activities associated with the beach lifestyle brand.
Become a Thought Leader
It takes time to build a personal brand, but the value is huge in establishing yourself as a thought leader in your space. Working with mentors and influencers can give you an opportunity to learn beyond your own experiences. Growing your network is key to building influence and authority.
Get your content published beyond your blog and have key industry leaders share with their audiences. Be bold, daring, and drive new efforts with your company in your space. Don’t be afraid to innovate or make mistakes along the way. People can learn from your experiences and gain valuable insight for their own lives.
2. Entertain Broader Audiences
Be personable, relatable, transparent, and a fun brand to watch grow.
Provide An Atmosphere For Creativity
Selling to your customers, even longtime loyal ones, can be a complete turn off. That’s why it’s important to give your brand efforts some air to breathe and not come off as a marketing ploy. Everything you produce doesn’t have to be tied to directly gaining customers. Rather, providing a message people can enjoy and rally around will build that audience organically.
At ShipStation, we like to post motivational quotes, fun photos, and customer generated content that make us smile. For our brand message, we aim to create an atmosphere where entrepreneurs can feel inspired and motivated to be the most efficient versions of themselves. It’s important to give our followers some light-hearted entertainment and encouragement to finish off their workday strong.
“If you want to create a brand, you have to provide value to the life of the consumer beyond just the products. So much of that is the content, whether it be education or entertainment.” – Eric Bandholz, Beardbrand
Create engaging graphics that tell fun facts about your industry or company. Make a fun video just for the heck of it. Who knows, maybe it’ll go viral! Dare to inspire people. Create games or quizzes that make your customers think about what they want or desire. Start a conversation.
Tell Stories That Resonate
Telling stories is the cornerstone of almost every culture in the history of civilization. That doesn’t change for your brand either. Sharing your personal story as a founder can resonate with your customers and industry leaders alike. Whether it just be a quick blurb on your ‘About Us’ page, or a personal video under an ‘Our Story’ section, sharing your story is powerful.
Your customer testimonies are also a great way to capture the attention of a broader audience. Maybe you create a product that a wide variety of people or businesses may use. Sharing their stories can get eyes on your brand that may have never known you existed. At ShipStation, we have a diverse base of business that use our shipping software for selling online. Customers who follow our users can sometimes get a glimpse into what it takes to ship out their online orders when they see our success stories.
Share Your Journey
It’s never been more important than now to be a fun, hip brand that maintains a certain level of transparency. That doesn’t mean you need to share your trade secrets or invite everyone to your team meetings via Facebook Live. Your followers would, however, love to watch videos that show off your fun office culture. You can easily take behind-the-scenes photos of things going on or tease new product launches as well.
At Bearbrand, Founder Eric Bandholz is all about creating great videos and engageing content. On top of creating amazingly informative content for men’s grooming, he actively keeps his followers updated on what’s going on in his life and around the company. His personality and brand image has become synonymous with his company. Every video he makes you can tell he pours his heart and soul into. His authenticity about his company brings on a huge brand following.
3. Engage Your Customer
Don’t just sit around and hope that your customers will visit your online store.
Design A Website That Fits the Brand
As a small business, you should sell online if you haven’t already. There are many different ways to sell online, and it’s never been easier to handle the shipping process. Start small with select products that are easy for you to handle, if needed. One thing to keep in mind is to create an online webstore that matches your brand. The last thing you want is for shoppers to choose another company’s product because you didn’t take the time to make a great website.
“When you’re a small business, you’re wearing a lot of hats, so you need something that’s effective and something that works.” – Lee Selman, Paleo Treats
It’s also important to offer great shipping and returns policies on your website. Shoppers always take these into consideration when deciding to make a purchase. Shipping rates are a fact of life when it comes to shipping online, but you can use shipping software with discount rates on shipping. A great return policy that is easy, and painless shows confidence in your product. Consider this: over 49% of retailers offer free return shipping and 67% of shoppers check your return policy before making a purchase.
Stay Active With Your Online Presence
One of the simplest ways to ensure success with your online presence is to take ownership of everywhere your business has an online footprint. It’s crazy how sometimes small businesses have a Google My Business page, a business page on Yelp, an auto-generated Facebook business location, or an event a location on Apple Maps, but never claim it as their own.
“It’s extremely important for us to engage with our customer base for all of our brands because if you’re not listening to their feedback, you’re not doing them justice.” – Brian Lim, EmazingGroup
Research where your brand has already popped up online organically and take control of those pages so you can own the content and branding! Review sites, forums, and social media are a great place to listen to your customer’s feedback and respond proactively. If you don’t already have an online presence on certain social channels and platforms, make one! Even if you’re not ready to use it just yet, you want to be sure that you can try to claim a great username for your brand accounts.
Deliver Your Brand All the Way To Their Doorstep
An often overlooked branding touchpoint is opportunities where you can brand the shipping process. It all starts with the shipping and returns policy you post on your website. Reasonable or even free shipping options are a great way to convert shoppers into buyers for your product. A great returns policy instills confidence, assurance, and trust in your brand.
Once an online order is shipped, there are plenty of moments to reinforce branding for your small business. Send branded confirmation emails to your customer that link them to a branded tracking page. Most tracking emails have an open rate over 100%, so a customized page that shows off your company is ideal over a generic carrier tracking page.
What does your customer’s unboxing experience look like? If you have no idea, there might be a problem. The unboxing experience can sometimes be the most exciting moment of the buyer’s journey, and it’s the first physical touchpoint with your online store. As a small business, it’s important to wow the customer over the competition. Think about not just what your box looks like on the outside, but also what’s on the inside that will keep customers engaged the whole way through. This means including inside packaging like colored tissue paper, a thank you card, a mini-guide on how to use the product, or even a coupon for their next purchase.
“When you open up the box, you realize that you’re dealing with a company who cares not just about making the sale but about the product that you’re getting.” – Nik Hawks, Paleo Treats
Consider these tips on how to boost brand awareness for your small business. If you haven’t already, start creating valuable content to give your brand intrinsic value within your industry. You won’t be a thought leader overnight, but putting the effort into your hustle will gradually build your brand and open up opportunities to get your name out there.