Corporates spend tens of thousands of dollars (or more) on creating and maintaining their brand - but what about the home-based or small business operating from less-than-public premises? Does it need a brand? Can it bring one into being on a shoestring?
There are more than 200,000 home businesses throughout New Zealand, and a great deal more small businesses operating without actual business premises. but does this mean all of these businesses have unique brands out there? Does a home business, or a business without premises, need a brand? Is putting time, money and effort into branding not "over the top" for a home-based or small business enterprise?
The "great" brands conjure up strong visual imagery, an immediate sense of their position in the market, a sense of trust and purpose, and an all-embracing "feeling" about the product. In essence, it's unlikely that a home business would need to build a brand with the reach, power and penetration of the big brands (and if it did, it would probably not be home-based for much longer). However, every business - even the smallest home business - can benefit by creating a brand. Deciding what that brand is, and how to achieve brand recognition (at least within your target market), is a critical part of making it work.
Compare these two scenarios.
A plumber comes to repair a leaky tap, arrives on time, removes his shoes at your door, explains the problem clearly, gives a proper estimate, works quickly and neatly to fix the problem, checks you are happy with the result, provides a clean, neat, bill and receipt, and provides you with a nice-looking fridge magnet bearing the same logo you've already seen on his truck and paperwork as he leaves. The second plumber arrives late, leaves muddy footprints on your hall carpet, mumbles something about what's wrong with the tap, spreads his tools over your entire kitchen bench, leaves greasy marks he doesn't clean up, and hands you a wrinkled bill with black finger marks obscuring a faint rubber-stamp of his details. Incidentally, the tap is fixed just as well - but will you call the second chap again?
What we have just seen are two home business brands in action. The first plumber does not need glossy brochures, a flash new sedan, or a suit and tie, but he does need to project an image consistent with the work he does. What's more is, he can charge a bit more than the second one, he'll generate more referrals and repeat work and his business will be worth more when he comes to sell or even franchise it. The relatively small amount of money his branding has cost him has definitely been a worthwhile investment.
How do you brand your home or small business?
Home businesses and some other small businesses don't have formal business premises to help convey their brand, nor do they usually have big budgets to invest in top-of-the-line marketing materials or pay an advertising agency to develop and promote their brand. So what, then, should a home or small business operator be looking at?
The factors will vary according to the type and location of the business, as well as the target market, but generally include:
- The name of the business (and whether it is registered or not)
- The logo, positioning statement, any slogans or straplines, and the general quality, feel and "look" of the website, social media presence, business card, stationery, documents and marketing materials
- Attention to presentation, grammar and spelling
- The way the phone is answered, and the sounds going on in the background when it is, the answer phone message or service, and how efficiently calls are returned
- How soon and effectively emails are replied to, and the tone of the replies and number of typing errors
- Whether the web address is the company's own domain name, or one which says "freebie"
- Whether promises are delivered on, the quality of the work, the efficiency of the billing and collection
- If customers come to the home - ever - the general impression the home creates, whether there is enough parking, whether the garden and entrance are tidy, how the door is opened and they are greeted, the general impression created by the home and the areas of the home they go into or even walk past (don't forget the bathroom!)
- The way the home or small business operator dresses when meeting clients, how they shake hands, how they present themselves and their proposition in meetings
- Their vehicle (is it appropriate to the work they do, clean, tidy and presentable)? (Park around the corner and walk if necessary!) For some, the signwriting on the vehicle is an essential part of the branding and needs particular attention - and for the vehicle to be tidy, in good condition and nice and shiny (even if you've spent all weekend doing offroad activities in it!)
Home and non-premises-based small businesses often offer unique services, products or capabilities to their customers. They don't need the kind of brand a bigger company does, but they do need to create one which is strong, consistent, conveys trust, adds value to what they do and can endure and grow with the business. Paying attention to the details, contracting professionals (perhaps other home and small business people) to develop a suitable identity, making sure stationery, marketing materials, facilities and the work environment project the image they need to attract the customers they want, are all investments in their brand. Seeing a return on investments often takes time - but the rewards can be great. Build a strong brand for your business, and it will give back much more than you put into it!
- Home business