02 Sep Branding on a Budget: Market Your Personal Business Without Paying a Penny
Let’s play word association.
What comes to mind? Maybe you’re old school and think of cattle and cowboys. Perhaps you picture a character from the wildly popular online game League of Legends or the comedic actor from Get Him to the Greek. But because this article is part of a business blog, you’re likely thinking about business brands.
Maybe it’s not actually words that first come to mind. You might visualize Nike swooshes, golden arches, or an apple with one bite taken out of the right side. Branding could also conjure up a reminder that Google changed up their brand image a few months ago—perhaps you’re still reeling from the font flip.
If you’re the owner of a small, personal business, you understand the importance and power of a distinctive brand identity. But you might not be sure how to develop your brand as a personal trainer, therapist, or tutor. How does a personal business compete with the swooshes and golden arches of the corporate world?
Fortunately, branding involves more than just memorable logos—a brand represents how the entire world views your business. Keep reading for four frugal tips on how you can build your personal company’s brand image. I’ll also include some ideas for when a surplus in your budget allows you to splurge.
1. Develop a Plan for Your Brand (If You Haven’t Already)
Your personal brand decisions will influence the expectations customers and future business partners set for you. This can be a great thing—for example, the most famous franchise restaurants are built around recognition and reliable expectations. You know that any given Starbucks will carry your favorite latte, and you can expect the McDonalds in a neighboring state to still serve Big Macs.
However, if your branding decisions set the wrong expectations, you set yourself up for eventual failure. Avoid future departures from your brand message by painstakingly planning out your brand strategy. Get introspective. Weigh your personal and professional values, and decide which values you need to market most.
Consider your passions and your personality in the process as well. If you aim for a supremely professional brand presence, you’ll need to stick with that tone or risk upsetting your brand expectations. If you’re a nerd that likes four-letter adjectives, start branding yourself now as the kind of guy or gal who makes too many damn Star Wars references.
If budget permits, hire a professional designer to help you create the perfect logo or choose the perfect typeface and colors. You can even look to prospective designers for a cheaper option—Nike’s distinctive logo was originally designed by a student.
2. Incorporate Your Brand Wherever You Can
Imagine crafting the most impressive meal of your lifetime. Hours of prep work. Careful deliberation over the perfect spices. An agonizing wait as the oven wafts taunting, tantalizing scents in your direction. Finally, you pull the main course out of the oven, and place it on the dining table. Before you sit down to eat, you walk over to the couch, turn on Netflix, and fall asleep watching reruns.
Maddening, right? Well if you’re going to put effort and creativity into designing and building your personal brand, don’t forget to use it.
Use your logo, typeface, and colors whenever it won’t seem tacky or forced. For example, create an email signature using your brand details, and use that signature for all of your professional correspondences. If you use packaging of any kind with your business, incorporate your brand in the packaging. Don’t allow all that hard work and creative energy go to waste while watching reruns.
If you have a bit of money to spare, consider buying personalized business cards to broadcast your brand. Incorporate a brand slogan or your company’s values, and ensure that everyone who receives your card can have a solid impression of what you do and—perhaps more importantly—who you are.
3. Explore the Social Media Landscape
By now, most people are acquainted with social media basics. But for your personal business, you might need to take a step or two out of your comfort zone.
If you haven’t created a professional page on Facebook for your personal business, you’re missing out on a valuable marketing and branding tool. People expect to find a business on Facebook, and your followers will appreciate the social connection that Facebook provides.
Some small business owners simply use their personal accounts as a business hub, but you risk both alienating friends and missing out on customers if you mix the two on Facebook. You should make sure that your business is listed in your personal profile’s info section, however, since the company you work for is one of the first things visible on your personal Facebook page.
You might also want to explore other social media outlets such as Twitter or LinkedIn. Twitter will allow you to share content and bite-sized messages with your followers. On LinkedIn, you can create a professional profile that details your accomplishments and contact information (similar to an online resume). LinkedIn is especially helpful if you own a business-to-business company.
When your personal company’s budget expands, you can use paid social media features to increase your advertising efforts. Facebook, for example, provides the option of targeted ads or highly-effective promotional offers.
4. Start a Personal Blog
Consistent blog posts will help your personal business in a variety of ways:
- Establish you as an expert in your industry.
- Build trust and confidence.
- Share information with your most loyal customers.
- Provide back-and-forth communication (if you allow comments).
- Find topics in your business that either interest or concern your readership.
- Construct your brand image.
- Improve your company’s search engine rankings.
As you create video or written content, make sure that your content fits your brand. Your website should have your logo and use the right colors. But even more importantly, your blog posts should reflect the personality of your business. A goofy post about a social media trend will make sense for some brands, but it will feel out of place and uncomfortable with others.
It may seem daunting to commit to regular blog posts, but the results are well worth the effort. Check out other Boostability blogs for ideas on content creation.
You might consider getting help from freelancers or SEO companies with your blog posts, especially if you’re wrapped up in other important details for your small business. If you do pay a little extra for outside help, make sure the writers are aware of your brand voice and basic brand message.
With these four tips, you know the basics for building up your brand. However, never forget that despite the importance of websites and logos and slogans and carefully-crafted elevator pitches, the brand for your personal business is determined by how others view you.
For your personal business, some of the most essential brand-building moments will involve authentic, everyday conversations with your customers. You can develop a strong brand image simply through being genuine, consistent, and memorable in your interpersonal interactions.