Branding on a Budget

When it comes to branding you may not be able to out-spend your competition, but you can always out-think them. Consider these four ways to brand your small business even with a small budget.

Are you trying to promote your brand on a tight budget these days? Well then, it’s time to start out-thinking your competitors since you probably can’t out-spend them. 

Many COSE members have found simple yet creative ways to get lots of positive exposure—for free. They harness the concept of "target marketing” by precisely defining and describing their ideal customers with specific demographic details—those who really need their products or services, value their approach and style, will always pay full price and will easily evolve into raving fans. 

Here are four avenues to explore when it comes to branding your business on a tight budget.

1. Written Publications. If you know what trade publications, eLetters or blogs your target market reads regularly, try to publish content in them that promotes the value of the concepts behind your products or services. But, don’t try to sell. For example, write about the importance of data security for small businesses, not the specific data security service your company provides. Allow the exposure to ‘brand you’ as an expert. And pitching content to COSE’s Mind Your Business is a great place to start*. Hey… works for me!

2. Professional Groups. If you know what professional or business group events your target market used to attend before Covid, offer to speak at them after restrictions are lifted. Same caveat—speak about the value of the concept, not your specific product. Allow that exposure to also brand you as a dynamic and engaging expert. And don’t overlook those groups who pivoted to on-line workshops with speakers.

3. Pro Bono Work. Volunteer your time and talents to some of those groups. Showcase your expertise. The classic example is the website designer who freshens up the organization’s site pro bono, in exchange for a mention on their home page. Allow the contribution of time and talent to help brand you as a professional who gives expertise willingly to support worthy organizations.

RELATED: Check out more articles on working pro bono.

4. Referrals. Always ask for referrals from happy customers. Let them become an extension of your sales team—or your entire sales team. Testimonials on your website can help, but not as much as a happy customer calling a colleague on your behalf. And the larger the customer’s organization, the greater the chance for internal referrals to other divisions and departments.

RELATED: Read more by Phil Stella.

One final tip: Whenever you network at small business-oriented events, ask people you meet how they brand their businesses on a budget. You will be amazed at what you can learn.

So, "No-Budget Branding” is a simple and clever suite of strategies but they’re not easy. They require time and effort, especially if you don’t want to invest the money to have a branding pro do it for you. 

Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.

*If you are a COSE member and would like to contribute to Mind Your Business, please email Marie Zickefoose.

 
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  • Next up: Within Reach: Closing the gap between employers and their workforce

    Within Reach: Closing the gap between employers and their workforce

    Watch a recent webinar from GCP discussing the implications of local spatial mismatch.

    As Greater Cleveland continues to see substantial business growth and job creation along its outer edges, ensuring that employees have practical transportation options to these employment centers has become increasingly challenging.

    In a recent webinar, industry experts including representatives from the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and the Fund for Our Economic Future discussed the impacts this spatial mismatch is having on our regional economic health and how organizations could benefit from a new program designed to close the gap between workers and the workplace.

    Watch the recording below:

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  • Next up: GCP Testifies in Support of Key Provisions in House Bill 110, Two-Year State Budget Bill

    GCP Testifies in Support of Key Provisions in House Bill 110, Two-Year State Budget Bill

     

    Last week, the Greater Cleveland Partnership offered proponent testimony for Ohio House Bill 110, the two-year state budget bill. “GCP greatly appreciates that House Bill 110 currently presents a balanced budget approach without any readily apparent tax increases,” the testimony states. “Predictability and stability are key factors to consider as the business community continues to navigate an uncertain environment.”

    There are several key provisions that GCP supports, many of which align with our 2021 – 2022 Public Policy Agenda, including:

    • Preserve Ohio’s small business tax deduction on the first $250K in business income.
    • Sustain Ohio’s current commercial activity tax (CAT) rate.
    • Support the $460M grant proposals that would aid small businesses, new businesses, bars and restaurants, lodging facilities, and indoor entertainment venues.
    • Approve the proposed funding for broadband affordability issues in urban areas.
    • Advance the $200M proposal to provide up to $2.5 million grants for infrastructure projects.
    • Authorize $100M to expand the Cleveland Innovation District.
    • Fund the H2Ohio program fully with $240M.
    • Support technology-focused credentials through the TechCred Program, including the Individual Microcredential Assistance Program.
    • Approve $15M to support targeted workforce investments in economically distressed rural and urban communities.
    • Devote $16M toward the goal of helping high school students earn 70,000 workforce credentials each year; support the additional $25M proposal to aid schools in offering new and high-demand credentials to students.
    • Support the expansion of Ohio to Work to help Ohioans facing job loss connect with a career coach, supportive services, and rapid re-training to become employed in an in-demand job.
    • Fund the Industry Sector Partnership Grant to support partnerships among business, schools, training providers, and community leaders, strengthening the local workforce; these partnerships develop and enhance career pathways for workers in specific industries.
    • Support and expand programs like the Export Internship, Diversity & Inclusion Internship, and Choose Ohio First.
    • Guarantee every student in Ohio has access to computer science education.

    The Ohio House of Representatives will continue hearing budget testimony from proponents, opponents, and interested parties via various subcommittees. Once complete, the House Finance Committee will formulate a new version of the bills on recommendations from subcommittees. GCP will remain active throughout this process, providing the perspectives of the Northeast Ohio business community and advocating for provisions that will strengthen our regional economic outlook.

    Following an affirmative vote by the House of Representatives, the bill will be considered and amended by the Senate, and ultimately be considered by a conference committee of both House and Senate Finance committee members. The agreed-upon version of the budget must be signed by the governor by June 30 for the appropriations to take effect on July 1, 2021.

    You can read the GCP’s full testimony here.

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  • Next up: GCP Testifies in Support of State Bills to Provide Grant Support to Impacted Businesses

    GCP Testifies in Support of State Bills to Provide Grant Support to Impacted Businesses

     

    Last week, GCP offered testimony supporting Ohio House Bills 168 and 169, which would appropriate $150 million to the state small business grant program and $125 million to the Development Services Agency (DSA) to provide grants to bars, restaurants, and lodging businesses, respectively.

    In 2020, GCP was extremely supportive of the Ohio small business grant program, which offered crucial relief during the pandemic. HB 168 is a welcome addition to that program and will include $10 million in funding support solely for businesses that were not eligible for the previous round of grants. The bill would also allocate $20 million to support Ohio’s theaters and entertainment venues.

    In written testimony, Marty McGann, Executive Vice President of Advocacy and Strategy at GCP, advocated for strong economic development tools to bolster support for Ohio-based companies and create the conditions for recovery. The proposed bills, he stated, “will help foster a strong, vibrant business community in Ohio.”

    You can read GCP’s full testimony here and here.

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  • Next up: Key American Rescue Plan Provisions Will Help Advance GCP Priorities

    Key American Rescue Plan Provisions Will Help Advance GCP Priorities

     

    Last week, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act - a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill. Here are some key provisions that will help advance our priorities:

     

    - Public Transit: Provides $30 billion for transit agencies who have been deeply impacted by the pandemic and forced to cut service and jobs in 2020.

     

    Our 2021-2022 Public Policy Agenda calls for revitalizing development around our existing transit hubs and funding multimodal transit that better connects residents to jobs, goods, and services. 

     

    - Broadband: Invests $7 billion in broadband so millions of public school students will receive the internet services they need for their education.

     

    We are a strong advocate for affordable, high-quality broadband in digitally divided communities, understanding that Cleveland’s unaffordable and unreliable internet service options prevent economic progress. Our long-term success hinges on a strong partnership with local governments, the state of Ohio, federal partners and the private sector. 

     

    - Small Business Support: Provides $15 billion in additional relief for the nation’s small businesses and hard-hit industries through increased funding for Targeted EIDL grants; $25 billion in funding for a new dedicated grant relief program for restaurants; $7 billion for expanded PPP assistance for nonprofits and digital news services; and $1 billion in Save Our Stages grants for independent live venues, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions.

     

    Our agenda lays out our federal priorities to build wealth for minority entrepreneurs and small businesses but doing so will mean addressing disparities in lending. 

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  • Next up: Month in Review: March 2021

    Month in Review: March 2021

     

    With winter behind us, and warmer weather and vaccines on the horizon, we are excited to spring into April (see what we did there?). But before we do, let’s look back at some of our favorite posts on the blog from March. These articles follow the theme of the times—virtual working and recruitment—and are full of tips you can implement with your small business.

    Is it Time to Bring Back Your Workforce?
     
    Are you considering bringing your team back into the office? What will a post-COVID workplace look like? From determining who should return and how you will mitigate illness in your office, check out these guidelines for planning your return.

    3 Things to Know: One Year Into COVID
     
    It's been a full year since phrases like social distancing, "You're on mute," and Zoom happy hours have entered your daily language. Here are three things we think you should know now that we are one year into COVID and remote working.

    Maintaining Culture and Connection in a Virtual World
     
    We may be living in a virtual world, but that doesn't mean we can't still feel connected to our colleagues. Here are four tips you can implement today to maintain your company culture and connection with your team, even from a distance.

    Cleveland Internship Summit: 5 Takeaways from Virtual Recruitment Best Practices
     
    A roundtable discussion at GCP's recent Cleveland Internship Summit focused on virtual internship programs and recruitment. Participants shared tips and ideas for a successful program that you can implement in your own business. Check out these five takeaways from the session.

    What was your favorite article from March? Let us know on Twitter.

     
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