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What can small business learn from big business branding processes?

What can small business learn from big business branding processes?
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Posted: Thu 1st Aug 2013

You may not think to take inspiration from large businesses when launching your own small start-up but it can be worth learning from what they do well - and what they don't - when it comes to brand development, says Holly Turner of Pitney Bowes Smart Essentials.

The gaping chasm between branding for a small business and a multinational company doesn't mean that there aren't lessons to be learned from the big companies, writes Holly. These can even highlight some of the benefits of being a small business in a continually changing market.

Small businesses are more versatile"¦

For all the additional struggles that being a small business brings, there are a whole host of problems that plague big businesses, too. Bureaucracy and red tape within the hierarchy can create endless delays for any changes to products and services. This can be compounded if the business branding needs to be updated. Opinions from shareholders, managers and large business teams can result in a confused approach that doesn't get fast results. For a big business example, take a look at technology chain PC World. As the market changes and the sales of desktop computers fall, it's entirely possible that PC World could be looking to change their branding in the future. Not only would this be a strenuous task to negotiate with shareholders but will also take no small amount of preparation and change in all of their stores. A small business won't have so many of these issues and can respond far more swiftly to changes in their demographic and even topical changes. Even critical adaptions such as changing the business name and product base are within the realms of a small business without harming overall sales as dramatically as a larger business may fear. In fact, the opposite is often true with small businesses, where an owner can become too invested in an idea or brand that doesn't resonate with their demographic. Be ready to change elements of your business if it proves to be necessary for your continued success.

"¦And closer to customers

While a larger company may have more customers, the nature of a small business means that you (as a business owner) are closer to your clients. Without the buffers of middle management and stretching yourself between different areas and countries, you can get a direct line to your customers. This could be through social media, via traditional means such as questionnaires and by speaking with them face to face. Many consumers who deliberately opt for smaller businesses do so because they feel more valued, so responding to any criticisms and suggestions that customers make will highlight their importance to you. It's also important to take note of what they most value about your business. This creates invaluable information about your target demographic and how to shape future sales campaigns. The American company JC Penny learnt this lesson the hard way when they brought in a former senior member of Apple to head their business management. His role was to transform JC Penny from a retail provider that specialised in sales and discounts into a brand-focused store that would offer refreshments within. The result? A 25 per cent drop in sales comparatively over the year; a jaw-dropping amount for a large company. During their shift, they lost a large number of loyal customers without creating a new fan base to replace them. This is a cautionary tale for all businesses that may have 'big ideas' without doing adequate market research. Mistakes like these can also suggest you assume you know what your customers want, rather than taking the time to find out. With a small business, you have no excuse for such a gaff with so few barriers between you and your customers and clients. _Holly Turner is a writer for Pitney Bowes Smart Essentials, who are currently offering free 30 Day Business Master Classes via email to small businesses. _ Photo credit: Rupert Ganzer via Compfight cc

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