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Insights for Entrepreneurs

Brand Messaging 101 for Small Businesses

Your product or service may be one of a kind, but you need the right kind of marketing message in place to ensure your customers feel the same way. Beyond just a catchy tagline, you need to brand your company and tell your story in a way that gives customers an idea of who you are and what they can expect when they work with you.

While coming up with the perfect messaging can seem like an arduous task — especially if you don’t fancy yourself a copywriter — there are some proven tactics you can take to get the creative juices flowing.

Take a look at your competitors.

It’s important to do a competitive review, however informal or formal, to make sure you know what’s going on in your industry. How are similar businesses positioning themselves? How are they speaking to customers? Going through this process can help you spot the gaps in communication and see where you fit in. What makes you different?

Talk to your customers.

Interviewing some of your own customers can be a crucial piece to figuring out how to position your business. You want to talk about your business using their words, not your jargon. Try and start conversations broadly to learn more about the customer’s background and then drill down into how he or she specifically uses your service. This will help give context to their opinions and also open the door for identifying new opportunities you might not have thought of before. How people use your products and services can define your company’s message and position.

Craft a message.

To begin to craft your message, look at your competitor and customer takeaways. Then try and answer the following questions about your business in a few concise sentences: What do you stand for? What problems do you solve? What is the thing that you do that makes you stand out? After you can comfortably answer those questions, you should be able to craft a few key messages that speak to your target audience and communicate your values, too.

Create a voice and tone that match.

How you say something is just as important as what you’re saying. After you determine your brand story, define your brand voice including the language and tone you’ll use in all communications. Having a consistent brand voice will help solidify your company’s message, and it’s a great way to stand out from the crowd. MailChimp offers a comprehensive, Voice and Tone Guide that gives you a look at how this wildly successful e-mail marketing service approaches its communications across channels. MailChimp always considers the audience’s emotions and context first and adjust its voice to delight and help as appropriate.

To help you figure out what your voice and tone should look like, you can try a card sorting exercise where you list off a bunch of adjectives across the spectrum to determine what you do and do not want to be (i.e. ‘Cutting-Edge’ versus ‘Traditional’, etc.). You can readjust your brand messages to fit this tone after it’s been defined.

Measure and tweak.

A brand message is not set in stone, and it’s even preferable it evolves from time to time to reflect the new and interesting challenges of your business. Don’t be afraid to put a message out there and gauge the reaction amongst your customers. You can readjust as necessary until you get it just right.

Remember, “people don’t buy products anymore — they buy your business’s story.”

  • http://TungstenBranding.com Phil

    Great advice for any small business looking to make its mark and establish a niche in a crowded market place. Grasshopper is a prime example of a unique and compelling brand name that stands out and says “tell me more!”

    To fellow “hoppers” out there, we have a library of small business branding articles, specifically written for entrepreneurs and startups. Feel free to browse them to help build your brand message, community and identity. http://tungstenbranding.com/branding-articles/

    • Allison Canty

      Thanks for sharing Phil!