Tips for Branding Your Small Business

Branding your small business is crucial, especially in the current economy. But with so many means of communication these days and social networks on the rise, it’s hard to figure out the most effective strategy.

Check out the video to learn branding tips from Dan Schawbel, a personal branding expert and author of Me. 2.0, who has worked with big-named clients like Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) and CitiGroup (NYSE:C).  Below Schawbel offers more smart advice for making your business stand out.

Q. How do you differentiate yourself from the competition?

A. Figure out what your values and what you represent. Having a great logo is extremely important right now. Companies invest $800 to a few thousand dollars in a logo which can really help you out. You’ve got to figure out what your competitors aren’t doing. A lot of people still don’t have blogs. There are only 145 million blogs, so taking advantage of social media is extremely important. Getting the right people on board because talent equals brand, so if you have really smart people that will complement your talents, that can really help out. And then to enable people who work for you to put themselves out there because they can be your brand evangelists and attract positive attention back to your company.

Q. What does a good logo look like?

A. Well, I mean, good logos differ. What you do is you create a few different logos. You bring in a focus group or ask a certain number of people to say what that logo means to them and that’s how you will know if it’s the right logo or not. So it’s definitely good in the online space to experiment and test because you’re going to get instant feedback.

Q. A survey from America Express shows a third of small businesses actually go on social networks--why do you think that is? Do you think they don’t know what they are doing, that they are scared of the unknown?

A. They are scared of the unknown. A lot of large companies are scared of the unknown too. Sixty percent of the Fortune 500s use social networks now so the reason why, besides them being scared, it’s because there is really no strong roadmap and differs to each company. So it depends on your talent and your personality within that company. Plus, you can make mistakes pretty easily and people are scared to make mistakes and show people there is a sign of weakness in the company.

Q. But you say it’s better to risk it?

A. It is better to risk it because people are very forgiving and people want to do business with other people that they know they can trust and people trust people who make mistakes and are human beings.

Q. And what should you absolutely not do?

A. You should not overly promote yourself and your company. You have to be seen more as a value contributor than a self-promoter and that’s how you can be more successful online. You want to put out free content that can attract the right people and benefit them so they will want to do business with you.

Q. But what do you mean free content. What if you’re a coffee shop --what free content would they be giving out online?

A. Recipes. You know, tales from building a coffee shop. You can be very creative with this. You can show the inner workings of a coffee shop, what’s behind the scenes by doing a video. And a lot of people are taking advantage of content creation and publishing online and it’s free. It’s easy to do. And people are going to be interested in that and want to do business with you.

Q. Any other tips?

A. I think it’s all about staying relevant right now. The technology keeps on changing and the same basic rules do apply on how to engage online. But you have to understand how technology is changing and what is going to work for your company and what’s not going to work.

Q. And what you said earlier is you don’t necessarily need to be on Facebook and Twitter. Maybe for a certain business it would just be better to be on one or the other --not necessarily every social networking site?

A. Correct. Facebook is really good for B to C, business to consumer. And LinkedIn, for instance, is really good for business to business, B to B. So you need to see what works and what doesn’t work and adjust accordingly over time.