Originally published on Entrepreneur.com
The following is an excerpt from Sean and Thora Dowdell’s Brand Renegages: Our Fearless Path From Startup to Global Brand, out May 25 on Entrepreneur Press. Pre-order it now via Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop. Find out more about Sean and Thora at ClubTattoo.com.
Small-business owners make several common misguided assumptions about branding, including:
- Small businesses do not have brand recognition.
- My business is too small to be a brand.
- There are so many competitors in our industry that striving for individuality is pointless.
- Having the lowest price is the only thing that matters to my customers.
Do you recognize any of these assumptions in your own mindset? If so, your thought process may be a bit misguided. It took several years in business for us to start to recognize these limiting mindsets. We didn’t realize that we could truly stand out as a national brand from other tattoo companies.
We started out small, but eventually realized that we could become a recognizable brand that people sought out based on how they related to us and not simply because we were the closest or cheapest. We knew that we had created something different within our industry when we realized that most of our clients were women.
We made a conscious choice when we opened Club Tattoo to disassociate ourselves from the stereotypical image of tattoo and piercing parlors as dark, dingy and dirty. We didn’t put up old, grubby and outdated art on the walls, like most of our competitors at the time. We created a brightly lit interior with a roomy lobby and put the art designs into neat books that were laid out nicely onto our lobby tables.
We were an upscale “studio” rather than a “parlor,” and our clients could see we were different from the moment they walked in the door. Do you feel that your company could benefit from branding itself differently? Before you dive into figuring out what your brand is, ask yourself what you want out of your brand. You should know the answers to the following questions so you can create a solid strategy that will help you achieve your desired outcome.
So what’s your goal? Ideally you might want all these things, but what is your priority? Pick one, start with a goal, and build a strategy to accomplish it. Do you want to:
- Make more money?
- Stand out from your competitors?
- Be more consistent?
- Be more effective?
- Be better appreciated by your clients?
- Make a difference in the world?
Many small businesses make the mistake of trying to please everyone. You can’t, so stop trying. We had to come to this realization quite early when some clients would come in and expect us to price match with our competitors down the street. When we refused, we had angry customers on our hands. Nobody wants that, but we had to decide who our clients were going to be.
We chose to be an upscale experience, and we made it clear to our clients that we were not going to be the least expensive choice in the market. But we knew who our target audience was, and we had a fairly good idea of how to get in front of them. In the end, we helped our entire industry change their approach to business as a result.