It can be difficult enough to determine and establish a company's brand when it's just starting out, but when you compound the issue with tight resources, it can seem almost impossible. A brand goes beyond a logo or a color scheme - it's how a customer or client feels about your business.
You may not have a million-dollar budget to work with, but there are some basic rules for showing your customers how your business is different from the competition. Start by providing an excellent product or service. You don't necessarily need a product that is bound to revolutionize the world (or even just your industry), but you do need to hone your selection to be the best it can be. That might mean collecting customer feedback to see where they think your offerings can improve. Along the same lines, you need to locate your niche. If you know what you're selling, you likely have an idea of what your target demographic is, be it active seniors, suburban homeowners, or upper-middle class adolescents. Focus on reaching your group rather than making contact with everyone when you advertise because it's more cost-effective means to marketing your company.
When it comes to day-to-day operations, you should become the face of your business. When you're first starting out, you'll probably take a very hands-on approach to running your business, likely due to a mixture of passion for your job and being shorthanded because you haven't hired enough employees yet. Seize the opportunity to present yourself as the backbone of the company to your customers. Not only will you stand to make a lasting impression, but you might be able to nip any problems in the bud. That said, be sure to maintain a work-life balance because even as you establish yourself as the captain of your ship, you need to let someone else take the wheel from time to time. Once your business is on its way, you should be able to leave it from time to time without worrying about everything going wrong. After all, you have to take a day off at some point!
Also, remember that you're running an independent small business. There's no reason to try to follow in the footsteps of huge chains, be it by emulating their products, services, or marketing schemes. Sure, these companies might be successful, but with the current trend toward supporting small businesses over the chain stores, you could stand to drive more business to your company by living up to the independent paradigm. Often, small businesses ask their customers to pay a premium for the outstanding service they receive. Remember that while larger companies may focus on the volume of customers they can serve rather than the service they provide, you don't have the luxury of overlooking your customers. This could work in your benefit. If you strive to provide every customer with the best experience possible, you'll likely establish a loyal customer base. You may be able to amplify this effect by making your clients feel like they're members of an exclusive club or a welcoming family, as many successful corporations have done. This will often lead to customers recommending you to their friends and family members.
As you can see, branding is about far more than just what services or products you provide - it's presenting the world with your company's vision. With these tips in mind, you should be well on your way to establishing your business's identity and making it known to your potential customers.