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While the economic situation seems better now than it has for some time, cash flow is still a problem for many of the small businesses that we talk with. A resulting challenge is how to build your brand when there’s little or no money to invest in brand development? Keep in mind that it’s absolutely essential that you continue your branding efforts even in lean times. Stay committed to a long-term strategy.
Here’s six practical ways you can brand with a small budget:
1. Research. Do your homework. What’s your competition doing? Strengthen your knowledge of your industry and competitive products. Read books on branding. Take the time to evaluate your brand – possibly repositioning it to ensure that you differentiate from your competitors.
2. Embrace free and low cost tools. There are many online tools available to you that you should consider integrating into your branding strategy. Use social networking tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Delicious and others to promote your products and services. Use a blog or comment on other blogs to help build your network. For that matter, network by phone or in person in an effort to extend your brand presence.
3. Work in phases. Consider your needs and categorize them into Essential, Non-Essential, and Potential categories. Focus your efforts on the essential needs, and work on other areas when possible.
4. Build relationships. Create a list of your customers or clients outlining strategic marketing information such as their industry, and their general interests etc.. When you come across relevant articles or information send these to the appropriate contact. And while email works… don’t under estimate the power of a hand written note attached to a torn out article or a simple card.
5. Co-brand. Look for colleagues, fellow business owners, or others who may be interested in co-branding their organization with yours. Discuss ways to help boost each others’ businesses. Possibly host marketing initiatives together such as seminars or webinars sharing the cost of the marketing materials.
6. Negotiate Terms. Chances are your consultants, designers, and agencies are hurting too. Don’t shy away from negotiating options such as deferred compensation with interest, a percentage of future revenues, or payment plans. Depending on your business, you may even be able to work out a barter arrangement. Some may not be able to make such arrangements, but others may be willing.
So even if finances are stretched out, you need to stay positive and keep focused. As long as you’re working hard towards your goals, you’ll be closer to achieving them. Bottom line is that when it comes to growing your brand there are ways to do so even with a small budget. Be creative. Stay informed. Develop a strong brand idea, and solid brand strategy, and you’ll profit from you branding efforts.