5 Creative Ways To Build Your Business’ Brand

When we think about branding for business, we tend to consider only the most obvious examples such as our logos, names, perhaps the basic design and layout of our website. In doing so, however, we are neglecting all of the different customer interaction points through which we can establish our brand.

Consider the following five examples of branding at its best, all of which you can replicate in your own business fairly easily.

Interactive Login & Sign Up Buttons (Wufoo)

Wufoo is a company that helps you create forms and store data. Let’s face it, forms have never been interesting. People hate forms; myself included. So how do you make a brand around forms interesting?

Wufoo made their website dinosaur themed and took it to the extreme.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 2.31.11 PMOne of the customizations I love about Wufoo is how the top right of their website, where a user logs in, turns into a RAWRR! on hover. Trivial? Perhaps.But consider that the login button is likely to be one of their most clicked areas on the website – in fact, all users wanting to log in by definition have to click it.

So a little experience like that reaches a lot of people and has probably put a smile on the faces of many.

Personalized Cards And Gifts (FreshBooks)

Another topic that isn’t particularly high on everyone’s favorites list is bookkeeping and accounting. But someone has to do it, and one of those companies that does it well is FreshBooks. They are well-known for sending their customers cakes on their birthdays.

How is this branding, you ask? In and of itself it might just be seen as cakes to customers, but combined with universal phone support, an extensive FAQ section, and a help guide, it conveys the message that they care about their customers and back it up with excellent support.

Direct Customer Service Hotline (Zappos/NinjaOutreach)

Speaking of customer service, another company that I associate with top-notch customer service is none other than Zappos. They allow customers to wear a pair of shoes for up to one year and still return it if they decide they don’t like it for a full money back guarantee with shipping!

Additionally, they proudly display their customer service number at the top of the website.  This is something we at NinjaOutrach have adopted. I post my personal cell phone number at the top of the website, and yes, sometimes people do call.

Owning Social Media (Taco Bell)

Most businesses understand the basic principles of Twitter for promotion. But few truly know how to utilize it like @TacoBell.

Taco Bell is famous for the amount of wittiness they can cram into 140 characters on a daily basis. They are so good at it that BuzzFeed wrote an entire article featuring Taco Bell Tweets. Eating at Taco Bell isn’t like going into surgery (though surgery might result if you eat there too often). It’s meant to be light and fun, and that’s how they run their Twitter account.

Leading With Transparency (Pat Flynn – SPI)

Let’s take a step back from the more traditional businesses, to look at one of the leaders in the online branding space, Pat Flynn. His homepage is ripe with several examples from which we can all benefit.

Here it is:

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 2.32.43 PM

Perhaps the most noticeable features of Pat’s site can be classified as transparency and personalization. Here he leads with a picture of himself instead of hiding behind his brand or relegating himself to a small picture in the sidebar. It is accompanied by a friendly greeting (“Hi! I’m Pat”) with font that makes it appear handwritten.

Conclusion

This is just a small portion of other ways that you can extend your brand into your website and messaging. When done correctly, branding isn’t just about building visual appeal, but ingratiating particular concepts like excellent customer service or ease of use into the minds of the customers you are trying to win over.

daveDavid Schneider is 1/3rd of an exciting new marketing software company called NinjaOutreach.  He blogs about entrepreneurship at SelfMadeBusinessman and tweets @ninjaoutreach.

3 Advantages to an Experiential Web Presence

webpresenceI spend a lot of time online. Whether it’s at work researching and managing my clients, at home browsing my favorite blogs and shopping, or on the go using Uber and Google Maps, I usually always have a way to access the Internet. Throughout all of my Internet time, and in the last few years especially, I have noticed a shift in how businesses portray themselves online. Gone are the days when there was a specific formula for mapping out website navigation, organizing content and images, and displaying a prominent call to action. Now with greater accessibility to the Internet through various devices, coupled with the advancements of modern technology, browsing the Internet has truly become an experience for the user, with tremendous advantages for businesses.

Just as a brand’s physicality is an experience in itself, the digital presence of a brand should reflect that experience in a similar light. The evolved user experience is no longer the traditional model of providing information. It’s using technological enhancements, like responsive design, better navigation, higher resolution visuals, storytelling capabilities, and many more techniques in order to attract your visitors, keep your visitors, and finally, convert your visitors. Below we elaborate on these advantages of an experiential website.Advantage: Attract your visitors.

1. Advantage: Attract your visitors.

There are many ways to create an experiential website. When you find your creative team to design and develop it, part of their market research entails researching your competition and your customers. They will be able to tell you what your competitors are doing correctly and where they are failing, so that you can take the opportunity to surpass them. More and more companies are investing in the user experience, because their customers are expecting it, especially those of the millennial generation. The importance of responsive design and mobile marketing, for instance, is more important now than ever, as studies have shown that businesses that incorporate this into their experiential website, are thriving. Take advantage of the opportunity to stay ahead of the competition and attract visitors to your website!

2. Advantage: Keep your visitors.

When users have a positive experience on your website, they are more likely to return. This in turn provides you with loyal customers who then become brand advocates, in other words, your greatest referral database. The research that is used to attract your visitors is additionally applicable to the ways in which the website will retain them and keep them coming back for more. Bounce rates have exceedingly increased, due to the lack of an experience. Once you have this research that demonstrates what your users are looking for, it will be far easier for you to tweak your user experience to their tastes. Give your customers a seamless digital experience so that they can find all of the information they are looking for, when they want it, all while enjoying it. The best way to retain your visitors is to constantly and continuously give them what they want!

3. Advantage: Convert your visitors.

We often hear from business owners that the user experience of their website comes secondary to their bottom line, which is to simply have a digital presence so that they can increase online sales. They don’t know how to justify the ROI of an experience. However, now that we know that your visitors are looking for these experiences and transforming into brand advocates because of these experiences, we can expect to see results in the sales cycle and in revenue flow. Guesswork and experimentation are no longer necessary when your users are entertained, moved and understood via your website.

In an increasingly data-driven world, businesses are finding ways to understand the motivations behind consumer behaviors and then applying that knowledge to a website that gives their potential and current customers a unique and memorable experience specifically catered to them. As a company experienced with the user experience, we at ParadigmNEXT hope that you take these 3 advantages to your advantage and launch a beautiful digital presence, with the focus being an experiential website.

 

YANA_PIC (1)Yana Nirshberg is the Co-Founder, Managing Partner and Creative Director at ParadigmNEXT, Inc. ParadigmNEXT is a digital marketing consulting agency headquartered in Chicagoland. We service brands both directly and via their nominated agencies, ParadigmNEXT delivers a seamlessly integrated Brand Experience and a greater measurable return on marketing investment (ROMI). Services we provide include brand identity, integrated marketing, inbound marketing strategy, art direction, web-design & development, startup incubation and product development services to a wide array of clients ranging from bootstrapped startups to successful longstanding companies. We’re deeply rooted in the tech startup community in Chicago and abroad, and have great relationships with emerging seed funds, VC’s, startup founders, and collegiate entrepreneurs.

Elevating Customer Experience a Must When Marketing Luxury Brands

It’s no secret that luxury brand buyers’ needs are quite different from those of traditional buyers. With more resources and generally less time available than the average consumer, competition for their money and attention is fierce. So how do you amp up your brand and make it stand out to the luxury customer?

Cutting through all the noise in marketing and advertising nowadays means ditching the old school practice of simply promoting the characteristics and features of your product. Today’s luxury buyer is not sold on solely the benefits of what you are selling but on the overall brand experience; an experience that must be conveyed at every possible touchpoint whether digitally, on a customer service call or in person. Capture the attention of luxury buyers by focusing on these three aspects of your brand experience.

Know Your Audience

This may sound like a no-brainer, but it is a practice ignored by brands all too often. Not all luxury buyers are driven by the same motives or respond the same way to marketing tactics, and failure to tailor your efforts to your specific audience’s needs could be costly.

kuhlman cellars

Example: Kuhlman Cellars

Those who book tastings at this Texas winery are not the average wine guzzlers, but rather aficionados with an appreciation for learning the ins and outs of wine making and tasting. They knew that their visitors would be more impressed with the high level of knowledge their staff possessed about their products and the industry than showy, grandiose surroundings. Rather than compensating with over-the-top interiors as many high-end wineries do, they chose to keep their tasting rooms simple and keep the focus on creating a personalized learning experience tailored to their visitors’ interests.

Tell a Story

Today’s luxury buyers also favor substance over style, meaning they are more likely to connect with a brand that has the marketing savvy to tell a story and align with their personal values rather with a brand that relies on its product’s flashiness. Your customers are educated, so treat them that way by ramping up your content and avoiding gimmicks and commodity marketing language.

5th and west

Example: Fifth & West

Future downtown Austin luxury high rise Fifth & West is one of the area’s most exciting residential ownership opportunities, and their marketing tactics needed to express this landmark development to potential residents on every level. While stunning renderings of the building certainly spoke for themselves, any accompanying copy needed to speak to the carefulness and thoughtfulness put into every aspect of the project. Vivid yet concise language and even quotes from interior architect Michael Hsu in marketing pieces effectively conveyed the heightened luxury living residents would experience. In fact, more than 60 percent of residences had been sold within three months of groundbreaking.

Convenience is Key

Now that you have hooked your customer with your brand experience and story, give them the ability to interact with your brand in a way that is most convenient for their demanding lifestyle. Providing ample options to suit their unique needs during every stage of the buying cycle allows them to shop and make decisions in a manner of their choosing. Accomplish this by pushing the creative envelope and utilizing technology in a way that both accommodates your buyers’ unique needs and provides that Wow Factor.

lexus of austin

Example: Lexus

Lexus of Austin’s launch party for two new vehicle models needed to set the standard for how grand and technology-centered the event would be. The invitation’s attention-grabbing, animated graphics captured invitees’ interest and created an interactive experience while allowing readers to gather information about the event and RSVP with ease. Convenience? Interactivity? Wow Factor? Check, check, check.

Fine-tuning your marketing efforts to focus on the needs and preferences of luxury buyers is a surefire way to create deeper connections with your audience and build loyalty. Doing so is the difference between your brand being uninspiring and being unforgettable.

Maria OrozovaMaria Orozova is the President and Creative Director of The MOD Studio, a boutique marketing and design agency based in Austin and the creative powerhouse behind many local and national brands. www.theMODstudio.com

Content Creation is Dead – Long Live Storytelling!

Photo via BlogMutt's CEO, Scott Yates

Photo via BlogMutt’s CEO, Scott Yates

Since the first cave drawings, storytelling has been an integral part of society and the intellectual evolution of man. And that’s what we always called it: storytelling.

And then the Internet happened.

And somewhere along the way, storytelling started getting replaced by “content creation”—a term that didn’t exist before the Internet. Google’s Ngram viewer (a tool that charts the usage of words in printed sources from 1800–2008) shows the precipitous rise of the words “content creation” around 1993-1994. This was also the time web browsers like Internet Explorer and Netscape launched.

Coincidence?

As companies started coming online and search engines became the de facto discovery tool for prospective customers, the battle for keyword relevance on SERPs grew. Content volume outperformed content value, and that’s when we stopped telling stories and started creating content.

Storytelling’s Triumphant Return

As search engines become more discerning about content quality and consumers more shrewd about how they spend their time online, storytelling works and content creation doesn’t.
There’s simply too much out there to read and not enough time to read it. And wouldn’t you rather read a story instead of something called “created content”? Stories are what make us uniquely human and different from monkeys. Content creation sounds like storytelling between two search engine algorithms.

Tell Your Story

It sounds obvious, but only you can tell your story. So many marketing articles talk about having a content strategy. Having goals. Having an editorial calendar. Having a call to action.

First: Tell your story. Then worry about all that.

It doesn’t matter if you’re Patagonia or Joe’s Plumbing Service. Every company, of every size, has a story to tell. Potential customers get jaded with clickbait, listicles, and inaccurate information every day. Article headlines over promise. Content underwhelms. Rinse. Repeat. Customers want something to sink their teeth into. Something meaty and unique.

Start with a Belief

Good storytellers don’t need an MFA in creative writing. Telling your story starts with a belief. A belief in your business and your customers. Your belief justifies your company’s existence. Every piece of communication should contain elements of your belief.

Ted Manasa offers this definition of belief to get you started: A brand is a belief in a better world that differs from your competitors’ worlds and is a world that your customers want to live in.

Belief is the glue that holds a good story together. Ever sit in a movie and see something happen that was so unbelievable it negatively impacted your opinion of the whole thing? That’s the power of belief. And the same rules hold true for your business. Customers have to believe you before they’re going to buy from you.

Act on Your Belief

Since the Mad Men-era, we’ve been inundated with get-rich-quick schemes, “As Seen on TV” cure-alls and healthy-looking people in cigarette ads. We’ve become cynical consumers.

The companies who act on their beliefs end up telling the most authentic and compelling stories. Some of the most discerning consumers aren’t just buying a product anymore. They’re buying a belief system. A product gets prospective customers in the door. A belief system keeps them there.

Don’t Forget the Human Element

The best stories have a human element. Without a personal connection, a story is just information. Don’t forget about the human element when you communicate to customers on your blog, through your newsletters, videos or on social media. Remember to believe in a better world that differs from your competitors and your customers also want to live in. Show them this world so they can believe in it too.

Become a Great Storyteller

Start with a belief. Act on your belief by showing customers the world you believe in. Make your belief a reality in your eyes and your customers’ eyes. This is accomplished through your customer service, the emails you send, the blogs you write, the product you sell, and the relationships you develop.

Every outbound piece of communication should have an element of your belief within it. Successful companies use each element as an opportunity to show customers a better world than the one they live in today.

patrick armitagePatrick Armitage is the Director of Marketing at BlogMutt—a content writing service helping businesses and agencies get their blogging done. Follow his miscellany (@Pat_Armitage) and all things BlogMutt (@BlogMutt) on Twitter.

Why Your Brand Must Own a Single Word

Let’s just start with the fact that every business has a brand – regardless of size, product category or market share.

A brand is the collective perception of those that interact with your business – good, bad or indifferent though they may be, they still put their stamp on the overall experience and promise.

So, the only real question is how do you intentionally guide that stamp and promise so that people have an experience in line with what you want it to be.

In my mind, the ultimate mark of brand success is when the community that interacts with your brand, in any fashion, comes to define it using a single word. This takes work, it may take money, but it certainly takes systematic consistency.

If we are to define a brand, as I have above, as the collective perception of those that interact with your business, then it’s safe to say you must consider elements beyond the traditional marketing identity set.

Further, if we are to point the brand towards a single word, every element of the experience must be filtered through the lens of that word.

The first task then is to determine what that word is or should be. It’s an important first step because it must have the legs to support everything you do – perhaps every decision you make.

Ask your community

A great starting point is to measure what you community thinks your promise is today in their view. Start by casually asking 8-10 or your ideal clients what one word they would use if asked to describe your business to a friend.

You may find some consensus or you may find that your brand promise is apparently as muddy a farm pond in July. (For reference this is when the cows like to go swimming.)

If your brief research projects validates a word for you then your job is to simply exploit that word. If, however, you end up with soup variety, you must back up and determine where your brand promise is lacking or worse, careening off track. Start by mapping all the actual and potential touchpoints you have with prospects and clients and see if you can inject the promise of a single word into each.

Decide on owning a word

I decided long ago that the word I wanted to own was practical. First off, I saw an opportunity in the world of marketing because small business owners thought marketing was anything but practical. To me, this spelled an opening that I could charge into.

The fact that I actually enjoyed making seemingly complicated things simple was all the more reason to own practical.

A rose by any other name

One of the first elements of a brand promise might be your organization’s name and colors – so, in my case it was essential that we projected practical with leanings toward trust. This is an area that often leads to trouble because so many businesses are named without any thought of a brand promise – Acme Plumbing, a name likely chosen to get listed earlier in the phone directory comes to mind.

Style is a promise

Once past the obvious logos and typefaces the real impact of design starts to show. A sense of style says as much about the personality of a brand as it does about a person. Think about those people you know that always look sharp, not overly dressy, just somehow more tailored. That’s what paying for good design delivers. You don’t always know just why you like it, but you know it makes you feel good about something.

Cliche as it may be to point out, Apple, for example, is a design company as much as a tech company.

Decisions need a filter

Perhaps the most valuable element of this way of thinking is that it makes it easier to decide what to build, how to market it, how to talk about it, who to hire, and how to prioritize.

Every time I write a blog post I think practical. Every time we create a course or product, every time we take on a sponsor, and yes, every time we look for fit in who we hire.

This is how you build the brand promise into something you can keep rather than something that sounds kinda good.

Culture is brand

Finally, every way, shape and form your business comes into contact with your prospects and customers a marketing function is being performed. That’s every email, every phone call, every sales pitch, every help desk request and maybe even every cocktail reception down at the Chamber.

The brand promise is something your people must live as well. Obviously this starts with teaching, but it must be reinforced as you edit email templates with your people, as you go over responses to customers as you design powerpoint decks.

The most important job of the leader of an organization of any size – including an army of one – is to build, project and protect the brand promise and that begins and ends with using your one word as the basis for everything you teach your staff to do – it’s how you create more decision makers and leaders and that may just be the best brand promise you can make.

Experiential Design: the Importance of Cohesive Event Branding

Today’s Guest Post is by Tori Atkinson – Enjoy!

Event branding offers companies, organisations and collectives a chance to massively amplify awareness – using experiential design best practices to offer an impactful and unforgettable experience. Through the power of distinctive, dynamic design, businesses can harness the immense potential of event branding – but it’s only through an intelligent and cohesive approach that you’ll experience the full effect.

Here’s how it’s done.

The Campaign Trail

The success of any event depends on how you execute the countdown. This phase is often neglected by businesses and organisations during the run-up to the big day – but taking the time and initiative to plan the preliminary elements, with a focus on cohesive design, is the key to ensuring the best possible results on the day of the event.

A strategic approach to event branding involves the creation of elements designed solely to build awareness and maximise the hype prior to the event itself. Considering how professional event design could enhance your invitations, tickets and even social media pages during the proverbial drumroll will generate as much interest as possible – boosting attendance and creating some welcome buzz around the event during the weeks or months beforehand.

Try it: bring some design cohesion to your event campaign materials by using one consistent tagline across the invite emails, print media and physical or online tickets to create a sense of recognition. Using one core aesthetic theme throughout, like one unifying symbol or colour scheme, adapt and embellish this as you see fit across the various design elements so that all materials are complementary without being visually identical.

From the Drawing Board to the Big Day

Event branding is an involved, ongoing process that starts with the drawing board and develops and evolves continually until the day of the big event. A sense of cohesion is crucial to experiential design – as no event will have the aesthetic or conceptual impact it should have without some harmony among its various parts. From the initial design stages to the production of event elements, the overarching concept should ring loud and clear across the campaign.

Ensuring that the unifying idea behind your event isn’t forgotten along the way will prevent the core message from being lost or diluted. So whether it’s pre-event advertising, the all-embracing branding or the experiential design itself, keeping a firm grip on the concept of the event will guarantee that it’s cohesive, connected and delivers on every promise.

Our work with 100%Design involved creating a holistic campaign design and carrying this concept throughout all elements made to support, promote and populate the event. Settling on an idea of ‘inspiring connections’ that tied everything together, we were able to guarantee total cohesion across the event branding.

Try it: keep a rigid focus on the overall purpose and concept of your event and create every element with this in mind. Promotional materials give you a chance to hint at your concept in a more abstract way, whereas the event itself is where you can bring these abstractions into the tangible, three-dimensional world.

‘Inspiring Connections’ was a theme that simultaneously offered inspiration for the pre-event promo design and informed the way the actual event was populated and presented. All elements of the event served as a translation or physical representation of this key concept.

Photo by Shaw+Skerm

Photo by Shaw+Skerm

Attendee Journeys

Creating a sense of togetherness throughout your event branding is especially important where the attendee journey is concerned. Whatever the ultimate aim of your event is – whether it’s to increase brand exposure, raise awareness on a given topic or drive sales and subscriptions – the journey an attendee takes from entrance to exit needs to be subtly and strategically designed.

With all elements of the event working in synergy, the journey from A to B should be seamless – that way, your audience will have the most immersive and engaging experience possible. Maintaining a sense of perspective throughout the event branding process guarantees results. It’s by keeping one eye on the big picture, exploring how different elements interact and how they work to communicate your core message, that you’ll deliver a meaningful and memorable event.

Try it: when designing the event itself, keep all primary components connected by enforcing one overriding aesthetic theme – whether that relates to colour, form or the message your displays communicate. Guaranteeing that all elements contribute to the central theme in a way that’s clear to all attendees will ensure you leave a powerful and lasting impact.

Tori AtkinsonTori Atkinson is a creative design blogger for Shaw+Skerm – providing professional event branding services to SMEs and organisations throughout London.

How to Make Your Brand Matter

Today’s Guest Post is by Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Georgie Gallagher, Enjoy!

Every business has a brand – even if it thinks it doesn’t.

Your local coffee shop has a brand. Your local accountant has a brand. Your local vet has a brand. And your business has a brand.

I can see you rolling your eyes. Isn’t branding just a lot of 90’s marketing hype? Does a brand really matter in today’s world?

Yes, your brand does matter. In fact, it matters a lot. Why? Because in a world where we’re bombarded by thousands of messages a day, your business needs to stand for something to set it apart from the pack. What’s more, understanding your brand means that you control how people experience your business. This is your brand, and you’re in the driving seat.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s begin by understanding what a brand is.

What is a brand?

Here’s what it’s not. It’s not your brand name. It’s not your registered trademark. And it’s not your great logo you spent $10,000 on. It’s much more than that.

I love this definition by the father of branding, Al Ries. It’s stayed with me through the years while working with B2B and B2C clients.

“A successful branding program is based on the concept of singularity. It creates in the mind of the prospect the perception that there is no product on the market quite like your product.” – Al Ries

I like to think of it as that little piece of someone’s mind that you own – it’s all that person’s collective thoughts and experiences that pop up when they think of your business. We have the same process when we think of people. Some people make us happy. Some challenge us. Some are downright annoying. You want your brand to be one of the good guys.

Your brand is the look and feel of your business. It’s how people experience you as a company. It’s your promise to people – a kind of silent understanding about what you’ll deliver when you do business with them. And it helps create your unique identity.

But aren’t brands just for big business?

Absolutely not.

latte coffee on wood with space.Take the café that’s buzzing. It’s interesting. The guy taking orders gives you a great smile and good-humoredly banters with you. The girl making coffee is an artisan at her craft. Everyone’s busy. The tables are packed but clean. The service is fast and fun. There’s atmosphere. There are great magazines. There are quirky and fun things to look at. And you feel like you’re a part of something special, part of a club.

What you don’t necessarily realize is that this is all crafted as part of a well-orchestrated brand.

These guys know exactly what they stand for – great coffee, great food and great service in a fun, quirky atmosphere that people just love. EVERYTHING in their business is about delivering on this brand promise. From the quirky service and funky music tracks to the handwritten thank you with a chocolate-coated coffee bean on your bill, every detail has been attended to and shapes your experience.

Building your brand

So how can you go about creating your unique brand? What’s your business’s unique stamp on the world? How are you going to build a business that gets talked about and referred?

Here are four guiding questions that may help you develop your brand.

What are the real benefits of dealing with you? Do you deliver anything unique or special? Is there something over and above your competitors that you could offer? I’m looking for REAL benefits here. Think like your client or customer – why are they using you?

What’s your brand style? Are you professional, aspirational, quirky, fun, friendly or something else? How can you deliver this style with every client interaction and communication offline and online?

Branding - sign series for business terms.What are your brand values? You may value professionalism, the environment, people, your community or something else. How will your business live up to these values? How will this alter your clients’ experience with you? Be honest and true. Today’s social media savvy consumers will not tolerate falsehoods.

What is your essence? What is your reason for being? Why does your business exist? This is the toughest question you can ask business owners. But if you can nail this, you really do have a driving force that can shape your entire business offering. It’s a very powerful thing.

Once you answer these questions, then you need to work out how you can deliver and create a seamless brand experience.

There are some fantastic ideas on delivering on a brand promise for a huge variety of businesses in this eBook created by some very clever marketers at Duct Tape Consulting – download it now.

Until next time…

Georgie GallagherGeorgie Gallagher is the founder of Wildmoon, a specialist consultancy focusing on brand development, marketing strategy, marketing communications and strategic content marketing for SMB’s. Georgie’s a Duct Tape Marketing consultant and a CPM of the Australian Marketing Institute.

Like this article? Follow her on her blog here, or connect with her via Twitter or LinkedIn.

 

Grow your Personal Brand to Benefit your Business

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing – Enjoy this post from Chris Bibey.

Growing your personal brand is easier said than done, however, this can go a long way in benefiting your business.

What can you do to set your small business apart from the competition? If you are just another “egg in the basket,” you will find it difficult to take your company to the next level.

Rather than rely on the “same old” marketing strategy as the rest of your industry, it is time to take a unique approach. And for some, this means putting more resources into growing their personal brand.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are approximately 23 million small businesses in the United States. If you don’t have a strategy for outdoing your competition, you could find yourself treading water for years to come.

Your Personal Brand

If you are the face of your company, it is essential that you grow your personal brand. Doing so will go a long way in showing your market that the person in charge knows the business inside and out.

Here is the question you need to answer: what are the best ways to grow your personal brand? There are many answers, with these three sticking out in the crowd:

help others

1. Go out of your way to help others. If I could only choose one strategy for growing my personal brand, this would be it.

You won’t always get paid for going out of your way, but this has nothing to do with the results. I am never shy about jumping on a phone call, connecting with an interested party via email or even meeting in person.

Simply put, this generosity will pay off in the long run.

2. Build your online following. In today’s day and age, there is no better way to grow your personal brand than through a strong online following. This has treated me well in the past, despite the fact that my social media presence is anything but robust.

Remember, you don’t need tens of thousands of followers, friends, or connections to grow your personal brand. What you do need is the ability to provide guidance, advice, and information to those who care about what you have to say.

Many years ago, back when I was first getting started with LinkedIn, I took the time to strike up conversations with every new connection. Doing this eventually led me to a conversation with the founder of Brosix, an instant messaging company. Shortly after that, the team reached out to me after checking out my experience online, and it led to a strong business relationship.

3. Always provide value. Remember, everything you “put out there” is going to reflect on both you and your business. If you aren’t providing information of value, you might as well take a step back for the time being.

This doesn’t mean every tweet and blog post should be earth shattering. What it does mean is that you should think twice before you update your social media profiles or blog. Also, don’t throw around advice, such as on a phone call, without thinking about what you are saying. The other party is likely to implement the advice you suggest. Do you want to steer him or her down the wrong path?

Final Thoughts

The time has come to strongly consider the benefits of growing your personal brand. If you follow the three tips above, it could have a profound effect on your business in 2015.

chris bibeyChris Bibey is a corporate blog specialist based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He specializes in providing content and consulting services to organizations of all sizes, ranging from start-ups to publicly traded companies.