If you walk into the Tower Press HQ, you'll see Apple products everywhere. Macbooks, iPads, iMacs, Airpods, iPhones, and all the boxes they came in (why are those so hard to throw away?). We're Apple people. We're loyal to the brand because Steve Jobs created an iconic line that equates to creativity, simplicity, and trustworthiness.
This is what brand awareness can do for a brand: embed itself into consumer lifestyles and purchase habits so that they don’t have to think twice before becoming a customer — time and time again. They know you, they love you, and they remember you!
What the heck is brand awareness anyway?
Brand awareness refers to the extent to which customers are able to recall or recognize a brand. It is a key consideration in consumer behavior, advertising management, brand management and strategy development. The consumer's ability to recognize or recall a brand is central to purchasing decision-making.
Let's say you are a jewelry designer/maker and someone purchases a necklace from your website. If you were to just toss said necklace into a mailer, with no identifying piece of information (like a business card, hang tag or a thank-you postcard), your customer probably wouldn't consider a re-order because their unboxing felt underwhelming.
Or, maybe you have a confusing website with no clear 'About' page. If it's hard for potential customers to figure out what you offer, they'll probably click off your page and find someone who is. Brand awareness is so broad, it can also boil down to your business name, online presence (or lack thereof), customer experience, or even your logo.
It boils down to trust. We know that trust is everything when it comes to purchasing decisions. Is the brand socially responsible? Do they strive to treat each customer well? When I see their logo, do I immediately think of them?
This sounds cool, but is it really attainable for a small business?
Brand Awareness isn't just reserved for the Nike, Band-Aid, and Kleenex of the world. You don't need a huge budget to be memorable! It doesn't happen overnight, but over time you'll be able to establish yourself as a trustworthy resource who stands out from the pack. Here are a few ways:
1. You are more than just a company that sells stuff.
Share your experiences with your audience, your likes, dislikes, hobbies, and passions. What excites you? By defining your brand as more than just another business that sells stuff and things, you impact your audience in a positive and more meaningful way.
2. Tell a Story.
People like hearings stories (as long as they are true). Authenticity, especially in the golden age of social media, feels hard to come by and people are craving it more than ever. Creating a narrative gives depth to your brand and humanizes it (see how all these steps are connected?). What should you talk about? Maybe introduce your Founders, talk about how you came up with your business name, discuss your first prototype and how it's changed over time. These narratives can create a big boost in your brand awareness.
I'm an introvert and this is sometimes my worst nightmare. I have reserved amounts of energy I can extend to large groups of people so I usually save it for moments when it's really going to count! Monthly small business meetups, parties, and trade shows are great for networking and spreading the word about your business. Because of social media, we can also socialize from our couches in our sweats (hello comfort zone!) Liking, commenting, and even retweeting or sharing other people's content creates brand awareness too.
4. Create Shareable Content.
There's a reason why you see memes and TikToks everywhere (we post them too!) or those cute videos of small animals being goofy, or the cast of Cheer being incredible. Though we may not necessarily ever go "viral," we can still create meaningful, sharable content that is relatable but also helps drive traffic where you want it to go. Our advice: make it funny! A good laugh in the middle of the day is probably just what your customers need.
Building, maintaining, and growing brand awareness is a never-ending process, just as maintaining a friendship or relationship never really ends. It takes work and persistence, but remember to treat your business as more than just a way to make money fast. Connect with your customers, nurture those relationships, and put your best self out in the open!
2020 is a great year to get your business off the ground (just think how cool est. 2020 sounds), but it's easy to get overwhelmed by the logistics of launching your dream trajectory. Your ideas and products may be great, but what about that seed money? Not everyone has money in savings or family/friends willing to write a big check, and grant writing can be difficult, so where else do you look? Most banks want you to be in business for 3 years before they're willing to give you a small business loan (the irony!), and the statistics on VCs investing in women-owned business is.... well, deplorable.
I started Tower Press with only a few hundred dollars, bad credit, and a small amount of money gifted by friends to fund a website template. Sometimes all you need is a good website! But, in a Capitalist society we need money to get things rolling. So where does it come from?
Here are 4 financial resources to help you out in the beginning stages of your business.
1. Shopify Capital
Before launching Tower Press, I knew I wanted to build our platform on Shopify based on all the wonderful things I had heard about it. Shopify has a Capital program that's based on your sales, not your credit or how many years you've been around. Within a month, Tower Press qualified for $500! That was a big stepping stone in helping us with a little advertising, boxes, and supplies.
Shopify also just launched a new Starter Loan program, giving those who qualify $200. No sales history or credit checks needed! I was able to build a six-figure business with just a few hundred dollars, maybe you can do the same!
Shopify Capital is automatically paid back via a percentage of your online sales. This does eat into your profit, but makes repayments very easy, especially since they aren't on a specific timeline. Most loans require the balance be paid off within 6 month-1 year, Shopify Capital doesn't have a specific timeframe for repayment.
Kabbage provides a line of credit to those who have a minimum credit score of 560, at least one year in business and have annual revenue of at least $50,000. You also need to have a business checking account or online payment platform such as PayPal or QuickBooks. Lines of credit work similar to loans. A credit line allows you to borrow in increments, repay it and borrow again as long as the line remains open. Typically, you will be required to pay interest on the borrowed balance while the line is "open", which makes it different from a conventional loan, which is typically repaid in fixed installments. Be careful not to get in over your head though, it's really easy to pull down from your line of credit but not always as easy as paying it back monthly.
If you're interested in Kabbage, drop me a line and I'll send you a referral link!
3. Paypal Working Capital / Paypal Loan Builder
These are two different things, but both are offered by Paypal. Working Capital is offered based on your sales history (no credit checks!), and time in business (typically 3 months). It's automatically repaid back via a percentage of your online sales.
Loanbuilderalso looks into your annual sales, but works more like a traditional loan in that you have a weekly repayment that automatically comes out of your business checking account. You will need to have been a business for at least 9 months, among other qualifications.
Similar to GoFundMe and Kickstarter, iFundWomen is a crowdfunding platform for start-ups, particularly those who identify as women-owned. They also have a wonderful team that specializes in coaching and also offer grants. Asking for help is hard, but you'd be surprised at how many people in your circle, and even total strangers, are willing to donate even just $10 to help you succeed. Crowdfunding takes a lot of research for best practices, if you go this route make sure you read up on how to run a successful campaign.
Please note that some of the requirements for each may have changed, so it's important to do your own research and see what works best for you. I'm not a financial advisor, these are just a handful of resources outside of traditional banks that are invested in seeing small businesses succeed. I want you to succeed too! If you have any questions, feel free to email me :)