How to Market Your Small Business During Coronavirus Pandemic

GUEST BLOG INTRODUCTION: Just as business was gradually opening up a bit, new Coronavirus cases have increased dramatically worldwide. Marketing advice for small businesses trying to navigate this unprecedented territory is extremely important. We thank our guest blogger, Kally Tay, for her insights. Having more than 20 years as a manager in various industries, she founded a career website to help others to thrive in their jobs. Featured on numerous platforms such as WordPress Editor’s Pick and AllWomensTalk, her website MiddleMe.net discusses difficult and sensitive issues like workplace abuse and discord among coworkers while providing practical advice on how to handle those situations. We encourage you to read more about her in her bio.

Photo by tirachardz

The coronavirus pandemic has definitely changed the way many businesses conduct their business. They are now forced to try out several strategies to help them keep afloat, especially now that people are not going out to shop due to the fear of the virus.

Small businesses have it rough most of all because they have limited options available to guide them through the pandemic. Fortunately, these options are enough for small businesses to create an effective marketing strategy for their business to remain afloat even during this crisis.

To help you out, here are some ways on how you can do it in the most efficient way:

Always Focus On Open Communication

Maintaining an open communication with clients has always been a major marketing strategy for businesses even before the pandemic. It is a way to show customers that they are open for business and can assist with their daily needs.

But, with the pandemic changing the way businesses do business, having an active and open communication can help customers know you are still available for clients. Keep your customers updated through social media, text and even through your website and let them know what services you have to offer. You can even post your contact details on Google’s My Business Directory so people can search you more easily if they need a certain product or services.

Show How You Can Help During This Pandemic

When you are showcasing your business to customers, they don’t look at the promises you offer them. They remember you with the services and products that you offer. Since they can’t see your products and services in person because of the pandemic, you can show that your services and products still matter during this time.

To do this, spotlight the products and services that can help improve customer lives during this pandemic. Be honest and sincere when doing your campaign and provide discounts for frontliners and anyone working in the field in your area.

Check Out Your Loyal Customers

Got loyal customers who always check your products and services? If you do, do they know that you are still in business despite the pandemic. If they don’t know you are open, how can you rake in sales and stop them from trying out other brands that offer the same stuff as you do?

Check out your loyal customer database and reach out to them through social media or email. Since the pandemic has closed down many businesses, competition is not very fierce and you can use this opportunity to ramp up your brand for new users. Use the time wisely and you can definitely rake in these clients easily to your midst.

Put The Customer First

In business, the adage “the customer is always right” is a constant thing that must be followed religiously. During this time of pandemic, it opens up a great opportunity for your business to reach out to your customers and see how they are doing.

Since people are not allowed out, especially those who are vulnerable to the disease, they depend on businesses and other content creators to give them something to look forward to. They use the content to alleviate their fears and also pass the time because they exhausted everything they can do at home.

With this in mind, you can give your customers tips on how they can use their time wisely at home with the help of the products or services you have to offer. You can also offer advice on other things related to your business that your customers may not have realized before. For example, if you are offering your accountant services before, you can put in advice on your website regarding how they can save money even while at home.

Boost Your Social Media Presence

For several small businesses, it is no longer plausible for customers to visit you in your brick and mortar stores because of social distancing and other coronavirus prevention measures. If you want to keep people still checking out your offerings, you will need to find other ways to sell your product or services.

Social media is a great place to do this, especially now that people are looking online for everything they need. Customers can check your social media pages for what you offer and reach out if you need it. However, if your social media page isn’t up-to-date or your campaign strategy is all wrong, then it can be hard to get the conversion you need to make a profit. Look into how you update your social media and provide credible information that visitors need. If you stay consistent with your brand and offer relevant information, visitors will definitely check your brand often and peruse your products and services.

Use Your Creative Mind To Think Of New Ideas

With many people now stuck at home and running out of things to do, it is a great way for small businesses to offer solutions to this problem.

You can start selling things like coloring kits or startup planting kits for customers to use on their idle time or offer tutorials on how to photo edit or produce the next big viral hit. It doesn’t have to be related to your business. So long as it can help customers pass the time, it is a great way to get people to remember your business.

Stay Flexible And Learn To Adapt

If you want to market your small business during the coronavirus pandemic, it is important that you remain flexible. You can never tell what will happen next during this pandemic and you need to be on your toes for any changes that may affect your business. Learn how to adapt with these changes and be as flexible as you can for your customers who may need your services during this time.

It is unclear as to when things will go back to normal and for small businesses, this uncertainty can be disturbing. However, utilizing the best strategy available, like the ones above, can definitely make a difference and reduce the losses your business may be having due to the pandemic. See which of these tips above can help you and faithfully cultivate them because when you do, you will see things improve gradually.

Small Business vs. Entrepreneurship vs. “Influencer”: Which Best Describes You?

The three categories of activity identified in the headline above have both similarities and differences. 

Since correctly recognizing the term that best describes you could have some bearing upon the way in which you brand your operation, we are using this article to explore these different categories.  That said, be aware that branding does play a key role in each . . . and you should understand that your personal brand may (but does not necessarily have to) play an important part in shaping your company’s brand.

Small Business vs. Entrepreneurship

According to the website DifferenceBetween.com

“The difference between small business and entrepreneurship mainly depends on the persuasion of growth. If the owner/owners of the business are content with the manner in which the business is currently operating and do not wish to engage in more growth opportunities, then it can be categorized as a small business. On the other hand, if the entrepreneur/entrepreneurs operate their business with a clear and creative vision and are interested in expansion opportunities, this type of business is an entrepreneurship. Since small businesses do not pursue growth, they remain small or medium scale throughout their lifespan. However, this does not mean that they are not successful; some small businesses may be cash rich.”

Entrepreneur vs. Influencers

According to a National Geographic article entitled, “Influencers:  The Modern Entrepreneur,” the following applies:

“Entrepreneurs are people who organize, manage, and take on the risks of a business. They often start a new business in response to a perceived need for a good or service. An influencer, on the other hand, is someone who has the power to affect or change people and their behavior through social media—often to get them to buy something. Influencers who start their own business certainly fall under the first part of the definition of entrepreneur, as they are managing their business and taking on risk.”

Brand Building

Typically, small businesses build brands overtime that reflect the product and/or service being provided.  The process involves finding the qualities that set the business apart from others and developing strategies to reinforce those traits and communicate them to customers.  Each interaction with the general public and consumer audience then plays a part in refining the brand to reflect the feedback received via comments, reviews, complaints, and sales.  This process of evolution should be never-ending.  (See our articles designed to help you get started building a brand.)

Very often, the brands of both entrepreneurs and influencers seem to take on the characteristics of the personal brand of the individual(s) involved.  (That said, a strong personal brand can be useful to a small business, too, which may not necessarily be seeking growth but would want strong customer retention – an attribute that could be helped by loyalty to an individual.)

Common Qualities of an Entrepreneur/Influencer

An Inc. magazine article entitled “10 Essential Characteristics of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs,” indicated that these individuals tend to be:  creative; passionate; motivated; optimistic; future-oriented; persuasive; flexible; resourceful; adventurous; and decisive.  In my experience, many of those kinds of words also ultimately end up being among those that define the brand of both the person and the company.

When I first started at GUARD (pre-Berkshire Hathaway days), the company was small (15 employees) and had been founded by a pair of entrepreneurs who had sketched the original structure of the organization on a napkin over lunch.  Frankly, each of the words identified by the Inc. article describe this husband and wife team very well . . . and also became the kinds of words that applied to the culture, products, and services of the company.

In the early days in particular, GUARD was an entrepreneurship that was independent, creative in thinking outside the box in developing unique products and services, flexible in responding to marketplace opportunities, resourceful in stretching available capital, future-oriented in building toward a big long-term goal, etc.

Understanding that personal and company brands tend to merge can be important in either choosing to intentionally build a personal brand OR in making sure steps are taken to separate the brand of the entrepreneur from that of the company.  Very often, this choice should be one of the first made by small businesses.

Ways to Enhance Your Personal Brand

Patrick Ambron in an Entrepreneur magazine article (“Is Your Personal Brand Losing You Business?”) identified four fundamental steps that could be taken to have a strong on-line foundation for a personal brand.

  • Claim your domain name.
  • Build a personal website.
  • Set up profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Do some basic search engine optimization. 
    (i.e., Use your actual name wherever possible and link all your various pieces of online content to one another.)

Taking these steps can be very inexpensive and (using readily available tools) should be relatively easy.  (Learn more about personal branding.)

And So . . .

If you are an entrepreneur or influencer (or perhaps both), assume your personal brand is going to become part of your business.  Therefore, you better start paying close attention to the kind of statement you are projecting.  If, on the other hand, you are a small business, ask yourself whether customer sales/retention would be improved by linking your identity to that of your company brand . . .  or whether you want the two to make a different statement.

How to Get the Best Fonts for Free

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Fonts.  Oh, how I love fonts.  They can make the simplest design unique and elegant.  With the right font, your company name can transform from mere words to a professional and striking logo. So, how does a small business owner make best use of their branding budget (mine is usually $0/mo) to obtain the fonts that are perfect for the job? 

The obvious answer . . . you can search “free fonts” on google and see the results.  Unfortunately, the majority of the fonts in those search results are “free for personal use,” meaning you can use the font for a decoration for your son’s birthday party but not to create your business’s logo.  However, “free for commercial use” fonts do exist, you just need to dig a little deeper for these gems . . . or simply view the list below, because I’ve already done the digging.

– – –

Google Fonts – “Making the web more beautiful, fast, and open through great typography.”

A favored resource, I’ve recommended this site many times.  About a thousand *free* fonts are available, and they’re presented in a wonderfully searchable format (it is google after all).  You’re able to type in your sample text, select the size you want to preview, and choose your desired font characteristic(s);  then, your search results populate accordingly. According to google, “You can use [the fonts] freely in your products & projects – print or digital, commercial or otherwise.”

– – –

Font Squirrel – “100% Free for Commercial Use”

While this web site does have fonts for sale, hundreds are also available free for commercial use (as they promote right in their company tagline).  Fonts are organized by category (i.e., san serif, serif, display, etc.) as well as by other useful attributes (i.e., language, number of font styles included in font family, etc.).

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Font Space – “Free downloads of legally licensed fonts that are perfect for your design projects.”

The majority of fonts available on this site are free for personal use; so, be sure to select “commercial use” as a filter in your search, and you’ll still have thousands of results to peruse.

– – –

1001 Fonts – Your favorite site for free fonts.

Another site in which most of the free fonts are for personal use, you have to look a little closer to find the free commercial fonts.  Click the “Font Categories” at top and within the “Special” section, you’ll find “Free Fonts for Commercial Use.”  At the time of this writing, the count of free commercial fonts was over 12,000, so the choices are still plentiful.

– – –

Font Bundles

I will provide a disclaimer that web sites from this point down are probably only recommended for true font enthusiasts (like myself).  The casual font appreciator will probably not appreciate needing to create an account (albeit free) for access to the free font selection . . . or the regular emails that result (though you can unsubscribe to those; I personally enjoy seeing what’s new in the world of fonts from week to week, but that may just be me).  Now that I’ve mentioned the inconveniences, the benefit is that these types of sites usually have nicer options available.  If you decide to go this route, Font Bundles gives you access to everything in their “free fonts” section, including a new font added every week.

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Creative Fabrica – “BE CREATIVE. STAY AUTHENTIC.”

Another site requiring a free account for access, this source is actually one of my favorites.  They have a “Freebies” section of their web site, in which you’ll find a rotating selection of hundreds of free fonts.  However, my favorite membership perk is their daily emails, each linking to a free font – only available that day.  I enjoy having a free digital treasure delivered to my inbox each morning.  Well, sometimes, the freebie isn’t a treasure, but I can just delete those; no hard feelings.

– – –

Creative Market

Similar to Creative Fabrica described above, you need an account for freebies, and they are regularly emailed to you.  At Creative Market, however, you get one email per week letting you know about six available free goods, which can include fonts, graphics, stock photography, templates, etc.  I would say in general half of the six free goods are fonts.  One nice aspect of this site is that every time you download one of their free goods, its saved for you in your “Purchases.” If you download your free goods every week like I do, hundreds of fonts will be available in that section – all with a nice sort feature and large, graphic preview.

– – –

Do you have a favorite source for free fonts (for commercial use) that I missed?  Let us know in the comments section below!

BTW:  If you get to the point you have so many fonts, you have troubles sifting through your choices, read this story next:  Finding the Right Font: A Review of the Best Available Font Viewers.

Not All Press is Good Press: How to Protect Your Brand When You Receive Bad Publicity from Customers

You can work to provide the best customer experience imaginable – sealing a rainbow and a hug with your perfect product in its perfect packaging – and you will still have the occasional unhappy customer.  Sometimes, the issue is simply bad timing . . . a perfect storm in your customer’s life that culminates with your product underperforming in some perceived way (that’s more often a result of the person’s current frame of mind than actual underperformance).  Sometimes, the fit isn’t a good one; the product or service isn’t what the individual expected (possibly even because he or she didn’t pay enough attention to the sales pitch or product specs prior to purchase).  Regardless, one day you will be on the receiving end of bad publicity from an unhappy customer, and you’ll want to know the best way to handle the situation.  Below are some different approaches with the selection of the right one dependent upon the specific circumstances of the bad press.

Sometimes, no response is the best response.

I have had a really hard time with this one in the past.  It’s just so against my nature to not share my point of view.  However, this approach can be the right choice when . . .

  1. The customer discredits themself in the process . . . either by sounding a little crazy, exhibiting below average intelligence, or complaining about something that clearly isn’t the product’s fault.  In other words, if your average person would read the quote, review, or feedback from the individual and not be convinced (for whatever reason) that your product was at fault, then just walk away.  Your work is done.  No input needed.


    I found this gem on Bored Panda as part of 41 Of The Most Hilarious Amazon Reviews Ever to beautifully illustrate my point.


    Here’s another great one from The Best Social entitled These 16 Amazon Reviews Are As Funny As They Are Unhelpful.
  2. You have the potential to do more harm than good.  Whenever you receive bad publicity, take a step back and try to look at the big picture.  Does this negative press have the potential to negatively affect sales?  If so, by how much?  For how long?  If the potential fallout is minimal, walk away.  Count your losses and call it a day.  Another important variable . . . how angry does this customer seem to be?  When helping my son with his science homework recently, I was reminded by Newton that all actions have an equal and opposite reaction.  If you counter your opposition, the chance always exists that they will find another way to strike back (especially if you’re dealing with one of those customers in the midst of that perfect storm in their life).

Turn an unhappy customer into a happy one.

This route is my favorite.  When you see a problem that has a solution, strive for resolution.  Regardless of whether you saw the complaint on facebook, on yelp, or in your local newspaper, the approach is largely the same.  Reach out to the customer, let the person know you saw their issue, apologize for the misunderstanding (usually one exists in these situations), and try to remedy the problem.  Upon reaching happy conclusion, I never ask for the individual to undo their negative press.  Simply apologize, fix the problem, and thank the person for giving you the opportunity to do so.  The majority of the time, the person will not only undo the negative, he or she will rave about your customer service.  However, do be prepared for the small minority of people who have had their issue resolved and do not undo their bad publicity.  In those cases, you then need to decide whether the potential fallout is bad enough that you need to take further action.  If so, read on.

Mitigate the damage.

Sometimes, your customer’s problem is unsolvable (or he/she is unmoved by your solution) AND the associated publicity does have the potential to substantially impact your business.  In those cases, you need to act, BUT always approach these situations with great caution.  If you choose to respond by providing a quote to the reporter doing the story or as a direct response in a public venue (facebook, yelp or other review web site, your product web page, etc.), be sure to do the following:

  1. First and foremost, be respectful.  Do not speak at all negatively about the person or situation.  If you do, readers will empathize with the customer.  They will picture buying your product, having a problem, and being spoken to in that same negative manner.
  2. Apologize . . . carefully.  Despite whether you feel you’re at fault, your customer feels he or she has been wronged in some way.  You have a public victim.  That said, you’re probably not looking to claim full culpability either, so choose your words carefully.  Apologize: for the misunderstanding, for the terrible experience that’s been endured, etc.  Don’t say, “I apologize that my product was the cause of a terrible experience for you.”  The difference is subtle but important.
  3. Address the situation directly.  This is the time to share your side of things.  Nicely explain the issue from your perspective.  Your goal is for a potential customer to hear both sides and agree with you . . . or at least feel your fault is limited enough that they would still patronize your business.  I dug up two examples for you of 1-star reviews I’ve received that I felt warranted a response.




  4. Focus on increasing your positive publicity.  Work to counteract the negative message that was conveyed.  For example, if a customer’s complaint of faulty workmanship on her home got media attention, try to get press coverage on all the beautiful work your company has done.  That could mean applying for some recognition in your field (annual awards, etc.), which could then be promoted.  Another route would be to introduce a new guarantee on your workmanship, which could be publicized.  If you’ve done a job that was unique or special in some way, you could try to pitch the story to a reporter as a feature.  In my line of work, when a product gets a negative review that needs to be addressed, I send messages to other customers who have purchased the same product, asking if they would be willing to share their experience.  During this pandemic (while sales were at their worst for me), I needed to take this step.  Here was my message:

Hi there.  I would like to personally thank you once again for your purchase.  During these hard times in particular, the fact that you are purchasing products from small businesses means so much — to me and my family.  So please accept my sincerest thanks.

An additional step that is very meaningful is leaving a review.  IF you have the time available AND you were happy with your purchase, I would greatly appreciate you taking a few minutes to write a positive review for the product.  I think people often don’t realize how important an impact their voice can have — especially for a small business.

If you didn’t end up loving your purchase, please respond to this message and let me know.  I can either help you troubleshoot or I can personalize your product for you (if applicable), and I can work to improve the product for future customers.


Thank you!!!     


In conclusion, I sincerely hope you never have negative press.  (For a good article on proactive prevention, check out Great Customer Service is a Zero Cost Strategy by Business Management Blog.)  For the unfortunate though likely day that you do encounter an unhappy (and vocal) customer, I hope this article makes you feel a little more prepared.  Have any questions or comments?  We’d love to hear from you.  Scroll down to “Leave a Reply.”

Customer Service During Crises

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People are feeling overextended, underprepared, angry, sad, stressed, and scared.  Your customers, your staff (if you have one), you, and I are all likely experiencing some sense of these heightened emotions.  The extent to which these feelings exist in each person vary greatly as do their specific circumstances.  Generally speaking though, our “fight or flight” survival instincts (the body’s natural response to stressful stimuli) are lingering closer to the surface than usual. 

During times of crisis, you see evidence of this all around you:  the individual yelling at the cashier for the store’s “1 per person” limit; the beeping and yelling over that sought-after parking spot; and even an increased number of heated social media discussions that seem to have the voltage turned up a bit.  The beneficiaries of my stress . . . ?  These days, I find myself triggered by my children’s complaints of boredom (I suddenly channel my grandmother: “Be thankful you’ve got nothing to do, or I’ll give you something to do!”).  And God bless the telemarketer that calls my phone this month.

So what does all this have to do with your business’s customer service?  Chances are, your customers will have less patience than usual.  The person (or people) who works with your customers (even if that person is you) will probably have less patience than usual.  “The perfect storm.”  Unfortunately, any intense interactions will likely not be forgotten once the storm has calmed.  As illustrated by the info-graphic below, a disgruntled customer will process their feelings in one (or more) of a number of predictable and unfortunate ways. 

(Not topping the list of “What Happens After Poor Customer Experience”:
Customer will acknowledge that everyone is under a lot of stress and give the company the benefit of the doubt.)

How can we prevent ourselves from alienating customers during hard times?  Recognition is an extremely important first step.  One parenting mantra often repeated is, “Your child isn’t giving you a hard time; your child is having a hard time.”  This twist on perspective can easily apply to individuals of all ages who are having a hard time.  Before answering a phone call or responding to an email, take a moment to remember all the potential scenarios that people (including you) are dealing with right now:  serious health issues among family or close friends, loss of income and trouble paying bills, homeschooling children – in many cases – while working from home, etc.  Acknowledge all the weight that you and everyone else is carrying around.  Taking that moment will make a world of difference, I promise.

Going one step further, you may even want to solidify some more relaxed (short-term) customer service policies.  Formalizing a revised posture is particularly beneficial if you have employees that will be working with your customers during this time.  Having finite rules (that have been relaxed) will help your staff navigate this confusing landscape.

Good luck.  Stay safe.

If you have any questions or comments on this topic, we’d love to hear from you.  Scroll down to the comments section at the bottom of this page. 

Weathering the Storm

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As a small business owner, this virus will hit hard.  When sales stop, so, too, does our income.  In most cases, bills will continue to flow in. 

Yes, I will consider myself extremely lucky if all my friends and family survive this pandemic. 

Financial health would be some lovely icing.

The Small Business Association has a lot of great resources for this situation . . . from Coronavirus funding option to local assistance:  https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources 

A lot of other wonderful and necessary business accommodations, information, and tools are available as well, but the focus of this blog will be about creativity.  As the saying goes, “When one door closes, another opens.”  The lesser known continuation of the quote is “. . . we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”  In this terrible situation, I challenge you to look for another door through which you can temporarily rebrand your business.

Some business alterations are more obvious in this new climate.  Restaurants are open for takeout and offering free “contactless” delivery.  Retail stores are encouraging “retail therapy” from home and also offering free delivery. 

Some business have had to get a little more creative.  A few examples to help inspire your creative thinking include . . .

Craft stores are offering instructions on how to DIY face masks and hand sanitizers. 

Gyms are offering virtual classes.

Real estate agents are offering virtual tours.

Some entrepreneurs are investing a portion of their reserves in the stock market, betting on the long game.

Stationery businesses are designing invitations for virtual celebrations.

Charities are hosting virtual auctions.

Some business that simply cannot function now are offering their customers discounts for booking their product/service in advance. 

Home improvement stores are providing instructions for DIY projects around the house – since most people are spending more time at home these days.

A blog that strives to help entrepreneurs create and develop their corporate identity is now focusing on crisis communications and rebranding opportunities.  (Ya, that one’s us.)

I hope offering a handful of business Coronavirus coping strategies sparked your inner innovator.

Remember . . . “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” (Charles Darwin)

Good luck.  Stay safe.

Is Brand a Scam . . . or the Real Deal?

Before a business owner invests the time, energy, and resources to systematically build a brand, some skeptics need to be persuaded that all this talk about branding is not a scam on the part of ad agencies and other marketers out to make money.

For starters, no less an authority of the business world than renown entrepreneur Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway fame was recently quoted as saying about the power of brands:  “Give me a $10 billion budget and ask me to bring out another Coca-Cola that makes a dent in Coca-Cola and I can’t do it.”  By inference, this statement seems to suggest that the branding of Coca Cola has a value of at least $10 billion (perhaps more).

Frankly, branding has a longer history than most people realize.

Do an Internet search for the term “history of branding,” and you get an extremely wide variety of responses.  Some talk about the cattle branding done in the 19th century wild west. An organization called Skyward traces the origins back further, saying, “The term derives from the Old Norse word brandr or ‘to burn,’ and refers to the practice of branding livestock, which dates back more than 4,000 years to the Indus Valley.”

Most sources seem to agree that some form of the concept can be attributed to the Egyptians (and ancient B.C. times) with some credit being given to the Chinese, the Greeks, the Romans, and more due to the marks put on items such as pottery to provide information about the creator and creations.  (For a good historical overview, read Skyward’s essay, “What Is Branding? A Brief History” found at https://www.skyword.com/contentstandard/branding-brief-history/.)

Obviously, the term branding has assumed a much different and more complex identity during the second half of the 20th century.  As Taylor Holland notes in the Skyward essay, “The meaning of the word has evolved so much over the centuries that even people who do it for a living have never made the connection between modern marketing and livestock.”

Contemporary branding is a 20th century phenomenon.  The advertising industry is generally credited with broadening the definition to include establishment of a corporate identity and promotion of sales.  During the “Golden Age of Advertising” in the 1950’s and 60’s, the concept started to encompass the creation of a unique personality for products – giving them qualities that often elicited an emotional response that helped foster brand loyalty.

More recently, we have seen the concept expand even further to focus on something called “the brand experience” with customer service and ease of use playing increasingly prominent roles in effective branding.  (For a quick overview of this process of evolution, see “20 milestones in the history of branding” – https://www.creativebloq.com/branding/milestones-history-branding-91516855.)

So . . . What Conclusions Can Be Drawn?

If the act of branding is, indeed, an elaborate scam, the charade is one that dates back thousands of years, has hoodwinked one of the 20th century’s most astute businessmen, and has evolved to reflect the needs of a changing world.  While the act of branding has certainly become more complicated (as has the modern world), the process still involves quick identification of a product through visual symbols such as a logo and the association of those symbols with positive attributes.  These characteristics will, in turn, always be useful to companies that must continually reprove themselves to their existing customers . . . while constantly being on the lookout for new ones.

Not Convinced?

Perhaps you are one of those people who need some numbers before you can believe.  For instance:
“Consistent branding across all channels increases revenue by 23%.”
From 80+ Branding Statistics You Should Know For 2020
– Ryan McCready, June 19, 2019.

If you are one of them, check out these 80 facts and many others found in articles made available by searching “data proving the importance of branding.”

Basic SEO: Make Sure Your Web Site is Included in Search Engines’ Index

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SEO or Search Engine Optimization, in a nutshell, helps your web site be found online.

The very first step is to make sure search engines know your web site exists.  Or, more specifically . . .

CHECK WHETHER YOUR WEB SITE IS INDEXED

Search engines “crawl” the internet, reviewing each web page found, and then organize the content in their “index” to provide as future search results based on the relevancy to keywords searched.  If you’re not in the search engine’s index, you’re virtually invisible to searchers or, as applicable to us small businesses, potential customers.

Seeing whether your web site is in their index is easy.  From any search engine, search for “site:yourwebsite.com”.  (In our case, we search:  site:brandbuildingforsmallbusiness.com.)

In our check, we found that most of our blog is a part of Google’s index.  Since Google performs the lion’s share of searches (see below), we’re going to focus on them.

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR WEB SITE IS NOT INCLUDED IN THE INDEX?

According to Google, a few common reasons explain why a site might not appear in search results.  The most popular issues and some potential solutions are listed below for you.

  • PROBLEM:  Other web sites do not link to your site, and/or your web site is simply too new.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION:  You can create pages for your business in social media venues (like Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) and include links to your web site. 
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: Find popular web sites that could benefit from content on your web site.  Once you’ve identified some possible targets, send an email or letter to the appropriate person (usually a contact page will have the needed information) and explain why you believe their web site would benefit from linking to yours.  Be sure to follow up.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION:  Get online reviews.  If applicable to your products or services, create a page for your business on popular review sites (google, yelp, etc.) and seek out reviews.  If you know of a particularly happy customer that has a web site or a strong social media following, ask for a plug to your business.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION:  Think about business contacts that could help you promote your web site.  For instance, you may use intermediaries or suppliers that have an appropriate place on their web site to link to your business.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: And last but not least, post quality content and be patient.  “If you build it, they will come.”  Whether a baseball field or a web site that adds unique value to the digital world, people will eventually find you, and they will link to your web site.
  • PROBLEM: Google’s ability to crawl the site has been hindered by Flash, other specialized technology, or a lack of text.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: If your web site utilizes Flash or another specialized technology, you may want to consider a redesign in HTML.  While this could be a significant undertaking, you want your web site written in a language that search engines understand.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: Review the image to text ratio on your web site.  Do you have enough words for search engines to fully understand the content for each page?  If not, you can either replace your images with text (try to use formatting to achieve that same visual appeal) or supplement the images with explanatory captions.  Remember that you’re communicating with your web site’s audience as well as search engines.
  • PROBLEM: Your web site generated an error when Google tried to crawl your web site.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: The most common reason for this problem is secured content.  If your web site requires a log-in to enter the site, Google won’t be able to enter either.  Consider restructuring your web site so that your more general pages are open to the public and only the pages truly requiring a log-in get that restriction.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: You can also register your web site with Google’s Search Console, which can give you some more specific information about the errors generated.

Once you feel like you have sufficiently addressed your particular problem, ask Google to crawl and index your web site.

If you have any questions or comments about getting included in Google’s index, we’ve love to hear from you.  Scroll down to the comments section. . . .

The next goal of course is to improve your web site’s search ranking, which will be the focus of a future post. 

Special Note:
Brand Building for Small Business has been identified by Feedspot (www.Feedspot.com) as one of the Top 100 Branding Blogs. Feedspot provides “the most comprehensive list of branding blogs on the Internet” so we are pleased to be part of that group.  To learn more, visit https://blog.feedspot.com/branding_blogs/.

Branding Through Customer Service

Special Note:
Brand Building for Small Business has been identified by Feedspot (www.Feedspot.com) as one of the Top 100 Branding Blogs. Feedspot provides “the most comprehensive list of branding blogs on the Internet” so we are pleased to be part of that group.  To learn more, visit https://blog.feedspot.com/branding_blogs/.

Most business owners appreciate the importance of customer service, but far fewer recognize the connection between the service they provide and the brand they represent.  Your customers’ experience with your business should reflect and reinforce your brand (or the personality of your company). 

Let’s look at two extreme examples. 

Amazon

amazon-vision-statement-mission-statement

Amazon’s customer-centric focus is a part of their mission and vision statements.  They are known for free two-day shipping (now with same-day options sometimes available), one-click purchases, and their virtual assistant (i.e., Alexa; lovingly known as Lexie in our house . . . or dumba@#$!, depending on the day and how well she’s performing her virtual assistance role). 

While having to wait ten minutes to speak to another company’s customer service representative may be annoying, most people probably wouldn’t be surprised.  However, we have different expectations for Amazon.  We expect to communicate with someone right away when we have an issue, and we expect that individual to capably handle the problem . . . and that’s only for those situations in which we can’t fix the issue ourselves (for example, “returning” a product without ever even interacting with customer service).  Quick, tech-savvy, and capable are qualities associated with Amazon’s brand, so we expect their approach to customer service to embody those same characteristics. 

Amazon also uses service interactions as opportunities to reinforce their brand.  They thank you for shopping with Amazon over the phone or via chat.  Afterwards, you’ll receive an email message from customer service, asking for feedback on your experience.  In that email, you’ll see the company logo, an email layout consistent with the company’s style, and a reference to the company building “Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company.” 

Amazon’s brand is reflected and reinforced throughout the customer service experience.

On the flip side, sometimes customer service that isn’t customer focused or service focused is actually an important part of the brand, too.

Ferrari

This company’s product is associated with luxury, quality, and exclusivity.  For the most elusive Ferraris with very limited production, you don’t simply order one from the new flashy and convenient car vending machines.  You don’t simply order one at all.  You “request” to order one, and those requests are not fulfilled in the traditionally expected “first-come, first-serve” manner.  If you have money, fame, and an existing collection of Ferraris, you will probably make the cut; no guarantees though. 

Robert Herjavec, the businessman turned celebrity on ABC’s Shark Tank, spoke about ordering a Ferrari in Wired magazine, “The funny thing is, you never really know if you’re getting one until you’re actually getting one.”

(Note that most of the cost is required in advance of being guaranteed your requested Ferrari!)

“. . . You wait for a while, then you kind of get a date range, then you get a closer date, then you get the actual date. Then it’s definitely Christmas,” said Herjavec.

If you happen to request a paint color for your new car that Ferrari deems to be in poor taste, you can be denied said paint color. 

So, you make an order (with payment) without guarantee of getting the product, you wait an extraordinarily long time IF you are given the privilege of being promised the product, and customization choices aren’t always yours to make.  All of these customer service attributes reflect the exclusivity that is Ferrari’s brand and actually add to the allure of their products.

While I am not quite Ferrari’s target demographic and haven’t been involved in this process, I would expect that their brand is reinforced at each stage of the way – indirectly and directly portraying the characteristics that define them (luxury, quality, and exclusivity), including visual brand components as well whenever possible (for example, the prancing horse).

Customer Service Characteristics that Represent Your Brand

While the two brand examples highlighted are extreme ones, all aspects of your customer service do communicate qualities about your business.  Below is a list of some different customer service opportunities to consider.  The way your company handles each of these items contributes to a brand experience . . . one that hopefully reflects your perception of your brand. 

-The amount of time taken to answer phone calls/emails

-The way customers and potential customers are addressed in person as well as via phone/email

-The extent of information available to potential customers

-The level of assistance provided to a customer when experiencing an issue

-The way customer input and suggestions are handled

-The background information included with a product or service

-The amount of detail provided with any instructions included with a product or service

-The inclusion of contact information in promotional materials and product documentation

-The extent of customer follow-up provided post-purchase

-The inclusion of your logo and tag line in all possible service interactions (e-mail, letters, etc.) and documents

-The adherence to your company’s style guide in all possible service interactions (e-mail, letters, etc.) and documents (If you haven’t developed a style guide for your business yet, read The Role of a Brand Style Guide.)

If upon looking at this list, you feel like your customer service experience is fully in synch with your brand, pat yourself on the back!  That is no small feat! 

Want an even stronger evaluation?  Ask a few of your customers to do the same review on your behalf. 

If one or more attributes could use some tweaking to either better represent your company or to better take advantage of the branding opportunities that exist, you’re not alone.  The good news is that you can make important changes over time that can have a big impact on your business and your brand.

If you’d like to read more about this concept, check out “Sticky Branding” by Jeremy Miller; Principle 5: Total Customer Experience at Strategies with a Kick.”