How to Differentiate Your Business with Branding
In order to stand out in the competitive contractor field, you need to get your company’s name out there. Through branding, you can help make your business top of mind when a homeowner is in need of a new roof – or any other service you provide. Plus, you don’t have to spend a lot of money (it can even be free). All it takes is a little creativity. I spoke with Alyssa Hall, GAF director of marketing communications, for some tips that businesses can use to promote their companies.
Q: How can small businesses brand themselves (without spending a lot of money)?
A: There are several ways that small businesses can brand themselves without spending a lot of money. They could align themselves with bigger businesses with whom they partner. For example, at GAF we have relationships with thousands of contractors who likely do not have the budget we do, so we offer many ways for them to brand themselves. We offer Tools for Success (a list of money-saving tools and programs from vendors to help build your business), press release programs, and charitable community programs like Habitat for Humanity and No Roof Left Behind. We are also very accessible in terms of getting on the phone and talking to a marketing department, or whomever handles marketing for a contractor or distributor, and helping them come up with ideas and execution for getting press in the community.
Beyond taking advantage of your partnerships, another cost-effective solution that can have big results is utilizing social media. We are very invested in social media here at GAF and we travel all over to give presentations and training on how to use it effectively. With social media, there is the potential to share all of your messaging, essentially for free. There are best practices that make you more or less successful and we don’t advise simply pushing out only business-related information, there’s got to be a human interest element as well (especially in a field like roofing where homeowners aren’t going to be that interested in just hearing about THAT all the time). With the right balance of information and incentives for people to be fans, social media can be a very valid medium. It is widely used by marketers from large companies to small as a way of getting their messages out there.
Q: What tools are available?
A: Vehicles for branding would include any media form: social media, radio, television, articles, and press releases. Besides social media, press releases are the least expensive to send and distribute, it just takes a little bit of savvy to know what to write and where to send them. Most people don’t realize that local newspapers are looking to find content to fill their space. There are actually sites that exist where newspaper writers go to find articles that are pre-written just to fill in. So hand them something that can be of interest to their readers, and find a relevant angle—clean up after a big storm, 5 tips on how to prepare your roof for the winter, or tips to get ready for spring after a long winter. A lot of local newspapers will probably pick this up and perhaps even get you an interview. Similarly, send the releases to local TV stations and you could end up interviewed on the local news.
If you have a budget to work with, local advertising on TV is really not that expensive. Another benefit of partnering with a bigger company such as GAF is that we provide our factory-certified contractors with commercials. We have Emmy-nominated commercials that we tag for our contractors for use in co-marketing by adding their logo to the end, at no production cost. All you have to pay for is the media placement, which on local cable channels can be less than a couple hundred dollars a spot. Radio is similar – if it’s local, you pay depending on the time of day and the frequency.
And remember that the most important branding activity, especially in this day and age when everyone’s checking reviews, is referrals. Make sure your customers are speaking for you. So, if you are considering a radio or TV spot or a social media post, one of the things you should focus on is having prior customers saying good things about you. Gather testimonials for your website, your commercials, your social media, and ask happy customers to give you a good review – if you have a satisfied customer, they’re not going to mind. Make it easy for them and send them an email with a direct link to a Yelp page, your website, or your social page.
My best advice is to do them all; use all the different mediums in tandem so that your name is getting out there from all directions. And connect all the dots – put your TV commercials on your website and your social pages, link your social pages to your press releases, include links to articles that mention you, etc. Aside from increasing the number of places that your company name is mentioned, you are also helping your search engine optimization. Win-win!
Read More in the Business Branding Series: