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Small Business Marketing: 7 Simple, Effective Ways to Differentiate Your Brand


It’s the little things you do that set your business apart from your competitors. Of course, it’s important to provide a quality product and excellent service to even have a chance at being successful.

But what about those breakout moments where your business and brand can really shine? Ted Raymond, principal of Pixa Creative, a local marketing and branding agency, shared his tips to use your company brand to create a memorable customer experience and improve employee engagement at our ShopTalk for small businesses.

Give Customers LOTS of Reasons to Feel Good About You

Ted challenged business owners to think about the different points of interaction businesses have with customers:

  • When they walk into your store, restaurant, or lobby
  • When you answer the phone
  • When you send an invoice or out-of-office message

Then ask yourself, “How can we make this simple interaction memorable and different from our competitors?”

Ted offers these examples other companies are using to differentiate themselves:

Most Polite Fast Food Chain. Chick-Fil-A is becoming known as the most polite fast-food chain in the industry, using simple strategies like teaching employees to say “my pleasure” instead of “you’re welcome”, putting flowers on tables, and clearing customers’ trash.

Make it FUN to be On Hold. UberConference’s on-hold music is an unexpected fun surprise. Written and recorded by the CEO, the song laments the woes of a caller left on hold for too long, unsure if their conference call will ever begin. It tells a story of time lost, dreams put on hold, and the uncertainty of young lovers undertaking business tasks, putting a smile on the caller’s face. While most of us can’t write and record a song, you can choose on-hold music or messages that promote your brand.

Wine While You Wait? What can be better than sipping on a glass of wine or other beverage while you wait to check in? Zaza Hotel eases the pain of waiting by serving up a tasty beverage. The hotel valet also delivers your car with a bottle of water inside. Simple yet oh-so pleasing.

OOO Prose. Make your out-of-office message fun reading that expresses your personality and makes an impression on your customer. It eases the pain of you being unavailable while setting yourself apart from other out-of-office messages.

Parting Gifts to Impress. Even some of the most unpleasant circumstances can have a positive ending. Take for example a hospital stay. One local hospital gives surgery patients a handwritten note signed by everyone in the operating room as they leave the hospital thanking the patients for putting their trust in them.

Packaging with Punch. If your company is in the e-commerce or distribution biz, there’s an enormous opportunity to make an impact with creative packaging that promotes your brand. Ted points to a couple of examples including Stitch Fix and Glasses USA. Stitch Fix, a personal shopping apparel company, includes a personalized card for the customer explaining why the shopper chose that particular outfit. Glasses USA’s down-to-earth communication keeps Ted going back for more.

Take the Pain out of Billing. Even the dreaded invoice can be an opportunity to differentiate your brand. Say thank you. If you are giving your customer a discount, show it. Ask for feedback. Add a personal note. Use any opportunity to make a personal connection with your customers

VERY IMPORTANT: Make Your Team Part of Your Brand

Ted emphasized the importance of inducting your employees into your brand from the get-go, starting with your job postings. Do they talk about your company’s values? Does the voice of your posting convey your company culture? If not, they should to attract the right candidates and get them acclimated to your brand.

“Be intentional about your culture,” says Ted. “Reinforce what you want your culture to be, what you want your clients to feel. Engage your team in those efforts and let them run with ideas on how to demonstrate that culture both internally and externally.”

At Pixa Creative, new employees are sent a welcome packet within days of accepting a job offer. The welcome kit contains several items to make the employee feel part of the team right away, while reinforcing the company’s culture:

  • Business cards
  • Employee handbook, which is created in a fun entertaining way
  • BINGO card with “Ted-isms”
  • Bag of popcorn, an important part of the Pixa culture

For more great marketing and branding ideas, contact Ted directly: