The terms Brand and Brand Marketing are usually associated with large businesses. Having a brand is seen as something significant — something that only businesses with big ideas and even bigger wallets can afford to invest in and create.
But that’s not true. Businesses of all sizes can be Brands. A brand can’t be built in a day, but over time, any business can achieve brand status in their own niche and/or location.
Local marketing is typically focused on lead generation with performance measured by website traffic, inbound calls, appointments and customers walk-ins.
But in the quest to deliver new customers, the opportunity to build a local Brand should not be forgotten or sacrificed on the altar of direct response.
Branding gives a business an identity. A brand encapsulate the product, personality and values of a business and enables these to be easily understood and appreciated by customers. A picture speaks a thousand words and so does a brand.
Mention the names Nike, Coke, or Starbucks to most people, and they form an immediate mental picture of that business and its products.
Having a strong brand builds familiarity between a business and its customers, which makes selling to customers much easier. You already have an advantage over competitors because customers know your business, so they’re more likely to choose you — and this has a positive effect on any lead gen/direct response marketing you do.
As local marketers, we spend most of our time obsessing about optimizing for keywords and locations that our clients want to rank/attract customers for. We need to deliver quick, positive results to reassure clients that their money is well spent with us.
This situation isn’t going to go away, but can we deliver brand building opportunities along with traditional local marketing results? Absolutely! And the upshot is that, by helping to build their brand, we create value in a business which serves them well in the long term.
(By the way… established SEOs with a strong reputation and proven track record are under less pressure to prove themselves to new clients and are given more time and space to deliver for customers. Why? Because they have a brand with a good reputation, which bestows trust and authority on them.)
Direct response and brand building don’t need to be marketing foes. Both can be tackled together to deliver short-term revenue and long-term value to your client’s business.
I’ll cut to the chase on this. We (should) all know about the value of a consistent NAP (Name, Address and Phone number) across the web. The business name is the brand for most businesses, so ensuring that it is correct and consistent is obvious. But the branding opportunity in citations goes well beyond the NAP:
Descriptions – Use these to reinforce the brand name, company history, customer volume/retention, accolades, accreditations, and so forth. It’s always good to include details of the people behind the business to bring some personality into it. Descriptions aren’t just there to stuff full of keywords!
Images & Photos – Always upload as many photos as you are allowed to on a citation, but ensure you are consistent with the images and photos used. Make sure they are crisp, sharp, and attractive. Use a mix of image types for maximum effect:
Here’s a strong example of a Yelp profile making good use of images for branding.
Video - Produce a short, professional video that showcases the people and personalities in the business and highlights the work they do. Make sure the brand/logo is prominent throughout the video and that you incorporate some form of customer testimonial to reinforce that your business is a reputable, trusted business.
A positive reputation is the bedrock of many successful local businesses.
Providing good service to loyal customers is important, but it’s just the beginning when it comes to building your reputation. For a business to grow, they need to exercise the strong relationships they have with their customers to get them to share their experiences via reviews and personal recommendations.
Having fresh, positive reviews builds the trust and authority of a business. This reduces the risk for potential customers in using that business for the first time and thus makes it easier for the business to convert them.
This is brand-response marketing at its best.
Going one step further, businesses can further enhance their reputation by actively responding to good and bad public reviews. This shows that they’re engaged and responsive, that they care about what their customers think. Who wouldn’t trust a business that demonstrates these traits?!
If you create or manage profiles on any or all social networks, then ensure that the use of imagery and messaging is consistent across them all. Create a smart, branded graphic or photo montage, re-size for each site and upload.
Again, be consistent with description on each profile. No need to reinvent the wheel each time.
The objective of blogging and content marketing should be as much about brand building as it is about link building and social engagement.
Pick topics that allow your clients to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise. Make sure the content is useful and helpful, that it answers the questions that customers have. This establishes authority on a topic, which gives would-be customers confidence in contacting and using the business.
Use author bios to qualify the author’s expertise. Include their position, experience, qualifications and why they are passionate about their job.
Also try to use a consistent style of author photos that reference the brand — it doesn’t need to be corporate, just representative of the business (think coffee shop baristas behind the bar or fitness instructors working in gym with customers).
Many local business owners simply don’t have the time to participate in forums, contribute comments on a blog, or be active in online communities. But these are a great grassroots way to build a brand.
By monitoring relevant blogs, forums, and communities, and answering questions or adding helpful comments, it allows a business to reach customers they wouldn’t otherwise. It proves that they are knowledgeable and helpful.
So as well as generating links that can deliver direct clicks, it also builds the reputation of the business. It’s not a silver bullet solution for success, but it builds the brand one brick at a time.
If a picture speaks a thousand words, a video is like War and Peace. As I touched on above, the value of video is that it allows the personality of a business to shine through much more than either text of photos.
Every business has got a least 1 video in them, but if you can create a series of videos around the products, services and expertise of a business than you have a great asset to enhance their brand.
These videos don’t need to salesy — in fact, the less salesy and more content-focused they are, the more useful they will be in answering the questions of your potential customers.
Authority first, sales second. Get the first part right, and the customers will come knocking.
The other joy of video is that there are tons of distribution points for them these days, so you can spread the content such that it reaches the widest audience possible.
Building a brand doesn’t need to dilute or diminish the ability to generate leads and new customers. It is something that can be achieved in the process of delivery short term sales for your clients. I believe that it can enhance the service you give your clients and if you pitch it correctly it gives local marketers & consultants a competitive advantage over their competitors.
And don’t forget your own brand in the process either — build your own brand and it will make winning new clients so much easier down the line.