Building a Brand on a Small Budget

One of the greatest marketing challenges that small and midsized companies face is building a brand.  If you can build strong awareness of your firm and its capabilities then all your other sales and marketing efforts become easier.  You will receive more inbound leads.  People will seek you out.  Differentiating your offerings with the key decision makers becomes easier.  They will already be familiar with you.  But how do you get build awareness of your firm and its product without a Madison-Avenue budget to spend?  You cannot afford to have the largest booth at your industry’s tradeshow.  You cannot afford to run television or print advertisements.  You cannot afford an army of sales people to take your story door-to-door.

Influence the Influencers

Find out who the 10-20 most influential people in your segment are.  Who is the short list of people that everyone seems to be listening to?  Who are the ones shaping opinions about vendors, technologies and standards?  Your list will probably include analysts, journalists, bloggers and consultants.  Get them to spend a day with you and your leadership team.  Force them to sit in your conference room to listen to your story.  Ideally they will walk away, not only educated, but inspired.  And they will then “name drop” you to their contacts during formal presentations and casual conversations with end-user customers.  Read my earlier post on influencing the influencers.

Tell a Great Story

An even better approach than sharing your story through the influencers is to tell the story directly yourself.  To do this will require a non-traditional approach.  The pitch can’t be about your company and its products.  Instead, you will need to tell a story about the impact you are making.  It could be educational.  It could be consultative.  It could be visionary.  It could be entertaining.  But it must be interesting.  Ideally, you would be able to show how your technology is changing the world.  Think about how you would explain your mission and vision if you were presenting at a TED conference.  Tell the story to the press.  Tell your customers.  Tell your employees.  Put it on YouTube.  Consider writing a book.  If you do it right people will begin to seek you out to speak at conferences, seminars and breakfast meetings.

Own Your Category

Seek to inform and educate the market not just about your products, but the overall category.  Consider writing an educational book.  Think “Insert Your Technology Here” for Dummies.  Build an educational microsite.  Create a twitter account which is the first to share breaking news about your industry (including your competitors).  Don’t use these resources to promote your products or your company.  Keep it vendor-neutral and generic.  Newcomers to the space will purchase your book, read your microsite and follow your Twitter feed.  Soon these resources will start to be bookmarked, “favorited,” “liked” and linked to hundreds or thousands of individuals.  The more successful you are the more success will come virally.

Build a Great Product

The easiest way to build awareness of your company and its products is simply to build stuff people love.  If you have a great product that results in a great customer experience you will not need to spend much money on marketing.  News will travel via word-of-mouth.  Facebook. Zappos.  Apple.  People will seek you out.  Growth will come virally.

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