Where’s the meat? Branding for startups and SMEs

Where’s the meat? Branding for startups and SMEs

As another followup to our presentation/discussion ’round table’ at Digital Shoreditch last week, I thought I’d summarise why we chose the topic we did and to highlight some tips when starting a new business, or when trying to grow an established one.

With so many social media agencies at Digital Shoreditch, we thought it would be useful to look at the context of success and failure when building or growing a brand, not just using social media but other methods as well. From YouTube to Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, there are so many things you COULD be doing, but how do you understand how and why you SHOULD be doing them.

Too much buzz, too little focus

With all the social media hype around at the moment, it can get very distracting as a business owner to decide how to approach your marketing strategy without getting distracted by having ‘the latest thing’. Unfortunately these days, ‘the latest thing’ comes around (and fades out) with alarming frequency – so it’s important to find out where the substantial ‘return’ lies (or in this context, meat). Get a few things in place so you have the best chance of using the right tools, platforms and strategies:

  1. Be very clear what you want to improve about your business when it comes to on and offline marketing and brand activity – is it sales leads? brand recognition? customer feedback & interaction? This will help focus any campaign or marketing activity, and save time worrying about irrelevant details.
  2. What skills and understanding do you have in-house, what do you want to use external agencies for? You may have a facebook addict in your staff who would love to manage your facebook page, or you may want to focus on delivering the best product/experience for your customer and use external expertise instead.
  3. Lastly, but not least, define what your brand stands for, and make sure every activity that affects the customer or client reflects those values. This is the ‘magic ingredient’ in your strategy that will build loyalty to your brand, reduce price-sensitivity for your product or service, and build engagement.


The problem with social media

The problem with social media, is that there’s just so darn much of it! Things change regularly, you can’t just ‘publish and move on’ in the old marketing paradigm, you have to stay engaged and create a ‘flow’ of engagement between your company and your community. The downside is that you have to focus constantly on this information stream, both your own and those you are interacting with, possibly on multiple networks at the same time. The plus side is that you can create valuable community connections around your brand, create great platforms to demonstrate your product/expertise, use different channels for customer service, and generally boost your credibility. Lastly – and this might be a plus or minus point – you have to be able to back up your ‘brand promises’ with real substance, as good word of mouth AND bad word of mouth carried on the wind of social networks can quickly get out of control!

Tips for SME businesses & startups using social media:

  1. Choose your battles networks carefully – devote resources to the ones will work best for you, given your time/budget
  2. Commit to doing them properly (professionally, consistently) for a reasonable amount of time (at least 4 months)
  3. Build content as the focal point of your social media strategy – communications without ‘giving back’ something you can show quickly get boring
  4. It’s only part of the mix! Social media should fit into the rest of your marketing, business activities, online presence and communications – different businesses will need different ‘mixes’ and you’ll be wasting money and time if you don’t analyse (with or without expert help) what is worth doing, and how they might work together effectively
  5. Keep it simple. Create events/material/content that demonstrates how good you are, use the right channels (on and offline) to show it off, respond and engage with the reaction to that content. Rinse, Repeat.


As a final word, it’s important to remember that in 5 years the landscape online will be very different – these are the earliest of early days in the online social world – but one thing is for sure, the businesses that take opportunities the exploit the new platforms (without forgetting the existing ones), will be the ones to succeed.


If you would like any help or advice in developing your branding, social media or marketing strategy, please get in touch with us, either via inquiries@silverleaf.co or call 020 7226 3749.

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