To do this, you can buy print ads, spruce up your website, network, and employ other traditional means to differentiate yourself in the marketplace. But advertising and site-building can cost money, and networking takes time away from your core business. And many times, you can't really tell if your efforts are paying off.
Wouldn't it be great if you could build your brand while staying within your budget?
There are ways to utilize inexpensive and free avenues to foster your image in the market. It all starts with the most economical marketing tool of all: the Internet.
It's not about constructing the fanciest-looking website. It's about leveraging the power and scope of the Web to turn heads in cyberspace and focus the attention of the public onto your brand. And in today's online world, what's the easiest and cheapest way to do this?
Social media. Facebook. LinkedIn. MySpace. Twitter. And others like them.
Obviously, the biggest advantage is that using these outlets costs you nothing but a little time. What's more, people are now responding more positively to social media "advertising" than to traditional commercial messages. Plus, these approaches can yield tangible results that you can monitor in terms of hits, page views, and other online metrics – which can assist you in honing your marketing plan even more.
Here are a few suggestions about utilizing social media to help build your brand.
Figure out what makes you unique. This may be Advertising 101, but your options are broader when using social media. In addition to meat-and-potatoes methods of carving out your market niche, you can be creative by using various techniques to solidify your image.
Set a specific tone for your website. Become known as an "expert" in a tangentially-related (or unrelated) area. Create interactive content which get people in the habit of coming to your site. Before long, your business may come up in conversations like this.
"Oh, XYZ Company? You mean the guys with the sleek blue-and-green home page that keep a blog about the hottest restaurants and put out that daily trivia question? Yeah, I know it. So what do they do?"
Keep your content fresh. A blog can be an effective way of generating new potential customers and maintaining interest in your site. It also assists you with improving your page ratings on search engines. But they only succeed if you keep them updated with new content.
You don't have to write about the same topics every day – nor do your blog posts even have to relate directly to your business. Discuss the latest trends, issues, and news stories and how they affect your industry. Talk about how your company is involved in the community. Highlight a small part of your business that people may like to hear about. Even humorous or poignant stories that you might tell at a cocktail party or dinner gathering might be appropriate to appear on your blog.
Steal ideas. If you see a tool or tactic that's working in another geographical or business area, don't be afraid to grab it and modify it to work for your business. Whether it's a group on a social media site or a feature on a web page, if it's working for someone else, it can certainly work for you.
Link your social media presence to your traditional advertising and vice-versa. Make sure your Facebook address is on your print ads. Offer coupons or discounts that can only be received via Twitter. Getting your traditional and nontraditional marketing approaches to work together will help your business grow exponentially faster.
Have fun. People surf the web and join social media sites because they want a diversion from their daily grind. So don't be stuffy and businesslike when you're marketing through these channels. Lighten up. Be relaxed and friendly with your tone. People are much more likely to listen to your message if they're being entertained while they're doing it.
You don't have to have a Madison Avenue budget to effectively create your own brand. Just be creative, think outside the box, and make the most of cyberspace. You'll be surprised at the return you'll get on your investment!