Branding and marketing is as important to micro businesses and the self employed as it to larger companies but it can seem out of reach, costly and time consuming. However this doesn’t have to be the case.
We know what it is like to run a tiny enterprise because we run one ourselves. We know that even small costs seem huge and anything that takes up too much of your time causes stress and long hours. So here are our top tips on how to brand and market micro-enterprises:
The thinking is as important as the doing
Having a clear strategy in place before any design work is done will save you both time and money in the long run. It can be tempting to rush straight in and put together a logo without fully understanding your business, your audience, your positioning and your business plans but that logo design will almost certainly date quickly as your business grows. Time spent at the very start of a project getting all the deep thinking clear is the best thing you can do. Think about what makes your business unique, who your audience are, who your competition are and where you plan to take your business over the next 3-5 years. We have a brand worksheet to help you create a design and marketing brief unique to you.
Start with the basics
The most simple ingredients you need for a brand are a logo, a set of colours and one or two fonts that you use consistently. If your budget is tight then start with these and build from them when you can. We have a simple branding package that gives you the basic elements which you can then create marketing materials with.
Use experts in the right places
In business, as in life, there is generally a choice between paying someone else to do it and doing it yourself. One will cost you money and one will cost you time, both of which you probably have in short supply. But using the right people only in the right places can keep bills down and limit the time you spend doing things you’re not familiar with while keeping the quality of your marketing high. For instance getting a designer to set up templates for you means you can produce presentations or flyers as you need them without having to come back to the designer each time (and getting charged for it) but ensuring they look consistently on-brand and attractive.
Use technology to help
Doing some of the design work youself can seem daunting but there are loads of great online platforms, apps and software that will help you create marketing materials:
Sites like Canva have templates for social media, presentations and stationery ready to go which you can personalise as much as you need and export for use the web or as high resolution files for printing
Photoshop Fix App lets you edit your product images via an intuitive interface so they look amazing.
Free is good but has it’s downsides
Always have a healthy suspicion of free, whether that’s someone who offers to work for free or free advertising and events. There will be a compromise somewhere. Free design work tends to slip to the bottom of a designers list pretty quickly so you could be waiting a long time for any results. Free promotional platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are great but they take a lot of time and there are no guarantees of success. Free events are often under promoted and take up a lot of time. Be aware of the downsides before taking the plunge.
The best marketing is word of mouth
However there is one free thing that is (nearly) always brilliant – word of mouth. If you impress your clients and customers and give them reason to come back to you they will recommend you to other people. You get great, couldn’t pay for it, marketing just by doing your job! Although bear in mind that the opposite is also true, if you upset them then they will tell people about that poor service – we did say free has it’s downsides.
Strip away away anything unnecessary
The world of branding and marketing is huge and it can be tempting to do it all in an effort to help your business but this isn’t really needed. If you have a clear idea of your unique selling points, your audience and your messages then you can be ruthless about what you choose not to do. Maybe your customers don’t hang out on social media – so forget about setting up profiles there, maybe your website only needs to be a single page with contact details – that’s quick and easy. Put your time and money into the things that will really work and don’t stress yourself out about the others. A clear, concise strategy based on research and planning is far better than a messy, do it all approach based on whim, fear and that thing you read yesterday.
Don’t delay because you want to do everything
People often put off launching their business because they don’t have the whole suite of marketing elements ready to go but, as Seth Godin said: “Just ship it”. You’ve already prioritised your key marketing platforms so ensure they are awesome and do the rest when you can. For example, if you know that Instagram is the platform for your business then focus on getting that right and update your website next time your having a quiet week in your business. Or if local press advertising is your most important marketing medium then hire a designer to get those ads sorted and don’t worry about getting to grips with social media right now, that can come later.
Consistency is key
Whatever platform or strategy you choose, consistency is key. Doing something once is not good enough, you need to keep doing that thing over and over again. One advert, or social media post is very unlikely to have any effect, but seeing your messages, branding and content over the course of weeks and months will mean people start to notice. Remember you are very close to your business but the rest of the world doesn’t know you exist or that they should care that you do. The best thing you can do is pick a few things you want to say about your business and keep hammering those messages home to your prospective audience. We have a social media guide that will help you curate and schedule your messages and it can be tailored to advertising or event strategies if that is your chosen route.
For most businesses local custom is important and advertising and marketing to local people and businesses can be very cost effective. Local papers, magazines and event programmes all sell advertising space and it may cost less than you think, especially if you are willing to provide content or something else they need. Online and on social media there are many groups that are for local people and businesses to network and promote themselves so it’s worth searching or asking around to see if there are any in your area. And don’t forget real-life networking and meet up groups, there is nothing more powerful than pressing the flesh!
We can help with your micro-business marketing. just get in touch today and we can talk about the best way to get your branding and marketing looking amazing without any scary bills!