Experts Weigh In: How did you build your brand?

office chatterBuilding your brand is a huge step in starting a small business. Once you’ve gotten all the funding you need, hired your staff, and done the paperwork, the next step is getting the word out! Your brand tells your customers who you are as a business, which is why it’s so important to take the necessary measures to protect your brand once established.

We asked our small business experts how they got the word out about their brands. Here’s what they had to say… 

“My last two businesses were setup with you guys. My latest one PopNet Media LLC. is a new startup in the Online Marketing and Web Design business. The first thing I did to establish my brand was to setup all the necessary social media pages where people will expect to find you. This included Facebook , Twitter, as well as a complete profile on Google+. In addition I know that establishing your business pages on sites like Yelp, YP.com and others like this will give you that business authority when people are researching you online. After this foundation for branding was set I started reaching out to other businesses in the area that were in a supportive position to see if there are any JV or cross promotion opportunities available. This turned out to be the smartest thing I could have done to grow this brand. What we specialize in, others only did the basics with. So by leveraging our expertise to other companies, we were basically creating a stronger presence in the space. The business partners reputation is increased in the eyes of their current customers because now they are offering a new level of service where they were lacking previously. They always say that it’s harder to take the journey alone, so why not partner with someone that you compliment. You are only helping each other when you do so.” –Rob Boirun, PopNet Media LLC

“I realized early on that the only way to create a brand was by building authority. On the internet, one of the most sustainable ways to build authority is by contributing to reputable websites – I did this by contributing to websites like Entrepreneur.com and TheNextWeb. This helped me immensely since a lot of myprospects were already aware of me (or my writings) when I reached out to them. This helped me significantly in converting them into customers.” – Anand Srinivasan, LeadJoint

“We launched the company from scratch 1.5 years ago and knew there were two very key components to building our brand: the company name and an excellent logo. We hired a local graphic designer (Vicki Wahl of vwahlacreative) who did all of our branding and logo design. Once this part of the process was complete, we hired a local web designer who did his best to incorporate the overall branding into the look and feel of the website. 

To continue building our brand, we have hired a PR spokesperson, are very active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest and have a very good following – especially after only having launched 1.5 years ago. 

Our goal is for people to continue to recognize the name, Georgia Crafted, but to also be able to spot our logo from a distance and know exactly what company it is for.” – Erin Zwigart, Georgia Crafted 

“As a bootstrapped (self-funded) business, when we first opened our doors we worked hard to establish a robust presence online and then combined those efforts with a very aggressive local marketing program. In addition to our web strategies, we hosted seminars and marketing webinars, gave talks at local Chamber of Commerce events, networked constantly, and sent out direct mail. As our team grew, we got them engaged in our brand-building efforts. We provide them with lots of free branded Blue Corona gear and allow them the opportunity to share their expertise on our blog, which is read by more than 5,000 people per month.” -Ben Landers, Blue Corona, Inc.

“Along with my twin brother and business partner, I run the websites The Popular Man (thepopularman.com) and The Popular Teen ( thepopularteen.com). I am the author of six books on the subjects, and my brother and I do consulting, speaking, etc for guys and teens who need help developing social skills. Since this business idea is so unique, we have had to brand extra hard. 

When I started these brands a few years ago I had no idea what to do. I figured that if I published books and offered services people would simply come to me. What it took to get my business where it is now is a combination of a lot of little things and big things. The most effective were getting in front of people with whom I could get into partnerships with (local Matchmakers and a major online romance advice site). We have gotten about 500 recent Facebook likes and clients from these endeavors. We also had to get out there and pitch – to not only find an angle to get on radio, TV, and in print, but craft great ways to get our message heard.” – David Bennett, The Popular Man, The Popular Teen

“I decided to rebuild my brand (after coming out of semi-retirement) almost entirely on Facebook and I’ve had the most amazing results using mainly that platform because rather than use FB merely to market my brand as many appear to do (which really turns many people off rather than attract them), I instead engage with as many people as I possibly can on a one-to-one basis and I build rapport and relationships that have helped catapult my brand name and brand message in record time. 

I started off using a Facebook page, then when reaching my audience became difficult due to FB reducing organic audience reach, I started my own FB group which completely positively transformed my brand marketing instantly.These days I’ve taken to connecting with many actual friends on FB and introducing them to what I do. It was slow at first but after just a few months more and more people have started to take a serious interest in what I do. More people now see my brand in a positive light and thus naturally want to relate to my messages.” -Kunle Olomofe, Adtwist Publishing Company Ltd  

“My name is Karina Rabin and my product Hang-O-Matic is an Easy Wall Decor Hanging Tool. There’s nothing like it in the market place so we built our brand from scratch. What worked for us was doing trade shows, Twitter Profile Page and finding articles online that are relative to our product and making comments below the article. To my surprise those comments do get read and we’ve received a lot of traffic and sales that way. It’s a lot of time but is definitely worth the effort when starting from scratch.” –Karina Rabin, Hang-O-Matic

“For us, Facebook was a huge tool in building our brand. We also participated in local events to promote our business. People seem to respond to social media very well and that’s been the best tool. Using social media helps us interact with others to make our brand more 
personable. Another tip is to create a strong mission statement and stick with it.” –Luciana Torous, 3 Leaf Tea

“My name is Kim Shamsiddin and I am the founder of Al Shams Exceptional Islamic Apparel. Al Shams is a luxury Islamic clothing line for Muslim women whose style embodies sophistication and elegance. We launched back in December 2014 and we have quickly built a large following and significant brand awareness with our target population across the globe. Our marketing efforts have largely been on Facebook and within a few short months we have garnered over 90,000 followers. We now have clients from all over the world primarily due to Facebook advertising where we not only feature our clothing but also cross promote other Islamic brands featuring jewelry, scarves, handbags, baked goods and others. I think our clients connect with us because we don’t constantly push product and they appreciate that we cross promote other brands.” –Kim Shamsiddin, Al Shams Exceptional Islamic Apparel  

“Our real estate agency has an annual free ice cream sundae picnic twice a year for our local community that is a key part of our marketing and branding startegy. We have found these fun events to truly cement our involvement with the neighborhood and also help our agents build relationships with people. At bottom, selling real estate is all about relationships and building strong ties to our community. We are always trying to communicate that we are not detached real estate professionals but that its our neighborhood too.” –Martin Hess, Flushing Homes 

“Growing up with the last name Cheek was kind of a pain in the butt (excuse the pun) “cheeks,” but it finally came in handy. For weeks, I was racking my brain about the verb that was going to finish the statement, “you’ve been _________” for my brand. And then one day it hit me in the head. You’ve been “Cheekd!” 

I definitely have taken advantage of every resource possible to help spread the word about my business. On a shoestring budget, I quickly learned that I had to get creative about how to build brand recognition. I’ve gone around the world and back pitching my business and speaking about my mission of changing the world of online dating. Not only does practice make your pitch perfect, you never know who might hear your story. I take the stage or a spot in front of a camera every chance it’s offered and it seems as if every time I’ve shared my vision (whether it be in a newspaper, a blog, on TV or at an event,) the experience almost always transpires into a new opportunity. One of my favorite quotes is “Hustle until you no longer have to introduce yourself.” It’s wild after all the years of running non-stop, almost everywhere I go, someone screams out, “CHEEKD!!!”” –Lori Cheek, Cheekd.com

“As the sole financier and builder of my burgeoning business, JWalking Designs, every dollar and minute I spend have to bring me the greatest return possible. And while my free-to-create Facebook and Pinterest pages do garner a growing audience to my website/online store the best attention grabber is showing my Made in the USA eco-friendly, funky, functional fitness fashions in-motion. As a runner and triathlete myself, I put much of my marketing money towards race entries for marathons/half marathons/triathlons that I race across the country. I meet many potential customers and JWalking ambassadors running/walking/biking alongside them for many a mile, and I have been known to show off our active skirts’ pockets and flash our sewn-in shorts at start lines. Seeing and feeling our kilts, skirts and shirts is truly believing, and the fact that I can fit in my fitness while marketing my brand is a win-win!” –Alison Obrien, JWalking Designs 

“I personally project led our Brand Development and had two main goals in mind. I wanted visitors to feel assured, confident and comfortable with our company and the services we can offer. I also wanted prospective clients, to not only remember us, but to get a good understanding of what our ideologies are, with respective to working environments, and how we differentiate ourselves from the competition. 

To achieve these goals we looked at our competitors and identified the aspects of their branding we liked and disliked. We noticed most, if not all of them, were doing the same thing… they were using bland colours and formal stock imagery. It was very cliché. 

We decided to go against the grain and run with a bright pastel colour set, so the website not only looked fresh, clean and inviting, but distinctly different to all the other websites out there. 

Although we are in the business of both physical and virtual office space, we strongly believe that the future of working environments should be flexible and allow the individual freedom, by promotion of remote working. You don’t need to be tied down to one physical place of work anymore. Technology has allowed us to be able to work anywhere, so why restrict yourself to one type surrounding? 

With that in mind, we decided our logo would be a tree in an open field with the slogan: The Natural Way To Work. Again, distinctly different from the competition. That’s exactly what we want our clients to be made aware of; That the workplace is changing and we all now have the ability to work in a more natural, flexible and efficient way.” –Simeon Howard, City Office 

“When building my brand it was important to me to get back to the basics: Create my digital real estate with a website and setting up my social media platforms. Produce a few key events and at those events walk around introducing myself. Using the tried and true, shaking hands and kissing babies.” –June Archer, Eleven28 Entertainment

“In order to build awareness for our business, we started with a Facebook page to build an online community. We ran Facebook Ads to target our ideal customers in our local community through Facebook’s extensive demographic information. We also built a website for $18 with WordPress to begin sharing helpful marketing information for small business owners. Lastly, we wanted to give the online community a chance to meet us in person, so we joined several local networking organizations and printed t-shirts and coozies to share with them as we met them and told our story.” -Thomas Lashier, Freaky Fresh Marketing

“I sell Caribbean rum balls. We sold exclusively to tourists in local retail shops. We recently started a website on shopify and promoted our brand through travel planners and bloggers. We sent samples to 38 travel sources and have seen a significant rise in our sales both online and in stores. Shoppers are now asking for our products by name.” -Michael Motylinski, Blue Sky Ceremony

“We built our brand by starting small. Once we tackled our smaller hurdles and goals, then we used our momentum to keep moving forward. Relationships are probably one of the key factors for success in building any brand, as are a website in this technological boom. A brand can’t be established overnight without some type of virility, but even that won’t last. It’s one foot after the other.” –Jason Fisher, Best Life Rates   

“I have found Reddit to be one of my most important brand building tools, more-so than Facebook, Twitter, etc. What’s great about it is there are communities (subreddits) for just about any topic/interest you can think of and people are *very passionate*. I am active on the /cordcutters subreddit where there are 78,501 current subscribers and usually a few hundred online and active at any time. There I have both learned a lot from the community and been able to drive tremendous traffic to my site. For example, I published an article called 5 Reasons to Hook Up Your Antenna to Your Xbox One Rather than Your TV and received over 5,500 hits in just 24 hours. Obviously, I don’t spam the site with my own content, but I remain active and contribute to the community by answering questions or debating relevant topics of the day. I occasionally add to the conversation with a meaningful article that may or may not be my own.” –Steve Belk, Cut Cable Today 

“I have built my brand through a combination of social media, social commerce sites and also some great PR tactics which has significantly grown our following, and has shown in number of sales. We have customers shopping at Bijouxx Jewels from all over the world on a day to day basis and have plans to grow this year by adding new products, accessories and a new website design! 

Most recently, we were seen on Good Morning America’s Shark Tank Court with Kevin O’Leary and in Inc. Magazine!” -Nicole Bandklayder, NB Talent Services 

“We took many steps to build a brand, and we’re still building 15 years later! However, one of the steps we took, that’s often overlooked, is moving to a highly visible location. Our company used to be located in an office park with no real street visibility. We moved to a small building on the busiest retail road in our area with a large street sign. While we’re not a retail business, the signage on a busy retail road helps draw attention to the business.” –Kurt Simione, Technology Seed

“I have an outdoor promotions company and we’ve been in business since 1989. Up until about 9 months ago, we were not on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, anything! Our website was very basic. We built our brand on good old fashioned word of mouth for being the best at ‘Getting you Noticed’. I believe when you focus on delighting your existing customers each and every time, word spreads.” –Marty Buckholt, Air Ad Promotions

“I started a global marketing firm 14 years ago and I built the brand mostly through speaking engagements, writing articles, networking and word of mouth.  I am based in Cambridge, MA and started here in New England speaking to local groups then brannched out to industry conferences and events all over the country.  I wrote an article for a local technology trade publication then a monthly column for Entrepreneur ad Forbes for years.  I joined local and global networking groups and raised my hand to help plan events and organize activities.” –Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls

“We just launched Wildfire Experiential and Events in February of 2015. Outside of spending the time pre-launch to create a true brand strategy and promise we also had a lot of fun with some of the brand elements we created at launch. Wildfire is all about creating memorable experiences that keep people talking well after the experience is over. To bring this to life we created business cards that you could actually light a match from and 
create fire. I’ve attached a sample video with this email. 

You don’t have to blow the bank on a huge launch campaign, you just need to stay true to your brand and brand message and provide some interesting content for people to engage.” –Bianca Knop, Wildfire Experiential and Events

SHARE:

Deborah Sweeney

is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best.