by Lori Prosio 

Regardless of the business you’re in, you have competitors. Consumers make a conscious choice when deciding who they do business with. Those decisions are based on price, location, past experiences and reputation. You have the power to make your brand distinctive by creating a positive brand image.

Every company has a brand, but not every company has a good or effective one. It’s important to have a cohesive and unique brand for your company because that’s what makes it memorable.

A brand is the promise you make to your customer. It’s the message you want them to remember when they think of your company. Branding isn’t just visual elements such as your logo, and it’s not just your slogan. Those are a part of your brand, but it ultimately combines everything about your business, including the way you treat customers and interact with the community, and it defines your products or services. It’s your reputation.

Getting your brand out there

Now that we’ve clarified what exactly your brand is, let’s get it noticed. We know marketing your business will be instrumental in reaping the benefits of all your hard work developing it. Here are some low-cost suggestions.

Be the first: You can make your brand stand out above the rest by being the first at something. Do you have an idea for something that’s never been done before? Don’t let that hold you back. In fact, it’s all the more reason to implement that idea before someone else does.

Establish a Web site: To be considered a legitimate brand in 2016, you must have a professional Web site. Consumers considering purchasing your product or service will look you up online, and if you don’t have an online presence, they’re likely to go with your competitor who does. Make sure to keep your Web site updated. There’s nothing worse than seeing old, inaccurate information, or the dreaded “coming soon” message. It must be current and relevant to be truly useful to your business.

Use social media: Taking that online presence one step farther, consider using Twitter and Facebook to increase brand visibility. These vehicles allow for interaction with customers and potential customers. You might want to start a blog about your business or industry that will give you and your brand credibility. Like your Web site, social media accounts must be updated regularly to be effective.

Start an e-mail newsletter: Create an e-mail newsletter for your clients that offers news, advice and discounts. There’s something about your business that makes you an expert in your field. Capitalize on that expertise.

Join professional organizations: Get involved in your local business community. Chambers of commerce and industry organizations are a great way to network, learn new ways to attract business and get your brand out there. Assuming a leadership position multiplies those opportunities tenfold.

Use the media: Earning media coverage for your company is an invaluable marketing tactic that lends credibility that can often be hard to achieve any other way. Consumers trust news sources and consider them unbiased, so being featured on the local news or in your community newspaper is an ideal way to draw attention to your brand.

Create a fact sheet: Develop a fact sheet on your company. Fact sheets contain pertinent information on an organization — its background, ownership, number of employees, notable successes, goals and objectives. It should be one page and use concise language. Include them anytime you communicate with the media to give a quick glimpse of what you’re about.

Prepare a press kit: A press kit is a hard copy or virtual folder of information to be given to journalists (or bloggers) who might write about your organization. Providing them with all the background information needed for their story makes them that much more likely to publish it. What should your press kit contain?

• Your contact information

• Your fact sheet

• Bios of executive staff

• Recent news releases

• Past news coverage

• Brochures on your company

• Anything else that would be helpful or informative

Your company is unique. You know it. But do consumers? Use public relations tactics efficiently, and you can get your brand out into the public eye and seen by potential customers in a cost-effective way. 

A version of this article originally appeared in the March 21, 2010 edition of the Sacramento Business Journal.