Entrepreneurs and SMEs lack the funding that corporates have to invest in brand building and marketing – but thanks to digital marketing channels, they can build their brands effectively, on comparatively small budgets. In particular, social media has helped even out the playing field.
This helps explain the massive success of a number of digitally savvy, young South African startups. It has also been a factor in the success of diverse South African businesses, ranging from Yoco to Lay’s and Console, with its “Grip and Go” water bottles and solar jars.
Even for South African entrepreneurs with little funding, digital marketing – done the right way – can be the key to thriving businesses.
The difference between marketing and branding
Marketing is intended to sell a product or service, whereas branding is meant to affect how people perceive your business. It’s more about your core values and mission – about your approach and attitude – than about your products or services.
Using digital marketing in conjunction with excellent PR campaigns, Nando’s has built a brand that goes beyond spicy chicken. It’s seen as a company that makes a difference, makes us laugh and isn’t afraid to push the envelope.
The three stages of branding
1. Brand development
The first step is to establish your brand. This should be one of the first things you do when you start out as an entrepreneur. Your brand includes things like your mission statement, target audience, vision, values, voice and brand personality, as well as visual elements such as a logo, graphics and images.
2. Brand management
Managing your brand effectively will ensure that it stays on target. Larger companies might even appoint a Chief Brand Officer (CBO), whose job it is to monitor how the brand is portrayed.
As an entrepreneur or startup, it’s the responsibility of everyone involved in your business to make sure that your marketing, advertising and PR is always on-brand.
3. Brand building and growth
Once your brand is well established and implemented, you need to start growing your brand recognition. A great brand is effective only if people are aware of it.
Brand building is an on-going process – it’s something you’re always working on with your digital marketing, PR and brand strategies.
Brand building with digital marketing
Here are some key digital marketing strategies that can help you to build and grow your brand online.
Brand stories essentially give your clients insight into your company. It can be stories about how your company was founded, how your team tackles difficult projects or even a behind the scenes tour of the offices. These kinds of stories promote transparency. If used correctly, you can effectively communicate your values in an interesting way as well.
Your content, whether it’s web copy, blogs or guest posts on other sites, is an ideal way to establish your voice and promote your brand.
Ideally, all content you publish should be consistent with your brand. It can also help communicate and clarify your brand, illustrating not just what your company offers but what your company stands for.
The best part about being on social media is the direct interaction it allows with your visitors. Being active on social media and replying to comments and questions will help you establish your brand as one that is responsive and helpful.
- Public relations and outreach
Public relations (PR) is often considered separately to digital marketing but they should always work hand in hand to support your brand building.
Proactive PR campaigns that focus on your company’s values and vision, rather than just on lead generation, can go a long way to promoting your brand.