Branding For Local Business
Local businesses do not have the resources, the reach, the supply chains, the personnel or, of course, the money to compete with large, national chains or corporations. Smaller, local businesses have to rely heavily on their reputation and the loyalty of their customers. In short, they have to rely on their brand. When it comes to branding, local businesses face unique challenges, but also have unique opportunities.
Local Relationships, Local Knowledge
When the U.S. Marshals – an enormous federal law enforcement agency with global reach and essentially limitless resources – get a tip that a fugitive is hiding in a small town, they enlist the help of the local cops. Why? Because the local cops know the streets, know the crooks and know the hiding places. No amount of manpower or software analysis can replace local knowledge.
The same applies to branding.
Local Retailer, Brand Manufactures: Symbiosis in Business
As discussed in the article “Brands and Local Businesses: It’s a Dependent Relationship,” local retailers and brand manufacturers create a powerful force when both parties combine and work symbiotically toward a mutual cause. The brand brings granular details and an intimate understanding of the consumer, and the retailer brings an incredible wealth of knowledge surrounding the realities of the region and location of sale, often down to the individual store.
Advertising: Different Responsibilities, Singular Goal
Most large, national brands rely on small, local businesses to distribute their products. A standalone French fry shop on a boardwalk in a small shore town is likely to sell Coca-Cola, for example. This creates a partition of advertising responsibilities where each entity uses its strong suit to work toward the same goal – selling as much Coke as possible.
The French fry shop can not possibly purchase ad time during the Super Bowl. But the Coca-Cola company can not possibly tell the small boardwalk shop owner which weekend is best to advertise a free can of Coke with the purchase of two large orders of French fries. Brands are responsible for advertising on the national level. It is the responsibility of the local business, on the other hand, to create his or her own branding plan that is designed specifically for his or her tiny corner of the world.
Online Branding: Different Tools, Same Rules
The Internet has changed the entire face of advertising, branding and marketing – but it has not changed the relationship between brand and business. Research shows that the overwhelming majority of consumers – a full 97 percent – use the Internet to shop local. It doesn’t matter that Coca-Cola has the resources and people to create amazing websites with great content, professional social media presences with high-end analytics and top-shelf SEO. People at the shore are always going to go to the boardwalk to eat fries.
Small Businesses: Reputation First, Brand Second
Small businesses should absolutely work to develop a strong, modern brand. They should create professional websites that showcase compelling, authoritative content. They should work to ensure their business is listed high in the search rankings. They should engage their customers on social media. The best thing a small business can do, however, is protect their reputation, both online and off. Local businesses, after all, have the benefit – and are at the mercy of – something that is more powerful than the best marketing campaign on the Internet – word-of-mouth advertising.
Branding is an art form – but for small, local businesses, it is an art form and a science that requires mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationships. For local businesses, their brand is their reputation, and they rely on the national and sometimes global reach of their wholesale suppliers. Either way, local businesses can’t do it on their own, their brand depends on and is linked to the products they sell.
About Author: Andrew Lisa is a freelance writer who covers marketing and online branding.