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Tips for building brand recognition without spending much money – Part 4 of 4

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Momentum builds

When you first start your business the small things you do will seem frivolous, it will seem like you aren’t getting any traction, but brand awareness takes time. A person might not necessarily try your product the first time they see it, but if they see it repeatedly, they will become more likely to try your product.

We are now at the point where we a lot of people say, “Oh I have seen these before, I have been wanting to try them.” We hear it at demos, and we see it in conversations on Twitter. Repeated brand exposure is the key to building momentum, and you don’t need millions of dollars to spend on TV commercials to accomplish that.

Good ol’ grass roots marketing is far more powerful than you think. It just takes a bit longer to achieve national exposure, than blasting a commercial over multiple television networks, but even in today’s age with Tivo, commercials are getting overlooked. Plus, word of mouth, personal recommendations are going to have far more value than a print ad or television spot.

Build and army (Social Media, continued)

Over time we have built relationships with individuals through social media; many of them athletes, some health nuts, and a few musicians. In exchange for them getting free product from us, they shout from the rooftops how much they love our stuff. Through that messaging we have gained lots of loyal supporters that not only purchase our product from us, but also help us spread the word of how much they love Bearded Brothers bars.

Bearded Brothers has an army of sorts, defending and touting our name on social networks like Twitter and Instagram. It’s one of many ways people discover our products: various health and fitness related blogs is another. We achieve this in two ways. The pro-active way of achieving this is recruiting brand “ambassadors” that we send free product to in exchange for mentions on social medial, and in personal life. These are not paid sponsorships, they are real people that love our product, and would likely still be doing the same thing, even if we didn’t send them free stuff.

The second way to build an army is passively…let the recruits come to you. Just being present on social media networks gives people the opportunity to toot their praises to the masses about your product or service, especially if you are active and engaging on those networks. It’s also important that every single person that sends you a praise gets replied to (same is true with criticisms). This lets them know you are listening and that you care.

Once the train starts picking up steam, it’s hard to stop. There have been days recently I actually worry about how much momentum we are picking up. Just yesterday I opened up Instagram to see Bearded Brothers tagged in an image taken out of a page of Details magazine that featured our tasty Mighty Maca Chocolate bar. It just goes to show that consistent hard work will pay of exponentially.

Speaking of Twitter and Instagram, you can follow myself, and Bearded Brothers on the following accounts:
Twitter: @calebsimpson
Instagram: @calebsimpson
Twitter: @BeardedBros
Instagram: @BeardedBros

Part 1 of 4 (Social Media, Facebook)
Part 2 of 4 (Tell your story)
Part 3 of 4 (Think like a drug dealer)

Tips for building brand recognition without spending much money – Part 3 of 4

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Think like a drug dealer

First of all, I can’t take full credit for this analogy. I first heard it from the book Rework, by the founders of 37 Signals. The idea is to think like a drug dealer and give out small samples of your product. If you have an amazing product the consumers will come back with money in hand.

Mini Bars - Sample sized energy bars.

Mini Bars – Sample sized energy bars.

Ever since the start of Bearded Brothers we have given out tiny samples of our bars. This saves us the cost of handing out full sized bars, and we still get people to sample our products. Sampling is the best way to gain new customers. This is evident by the spike in sales we get when we do a product demo. While in some cases a store might only sell four cases of energy bars in a month, but during a demo they will sell 4 cases in a three-hour period. Those same customers are likely to come back and buy the product again, and increase the monthly sales to 6 cases per month. It may not seem like much on a small scale, but multiply that by hundred of locations and you have quite the impact.

Sponsoring events is another great way to get people to try your product. For Bearded Brothers our primary target market are athletes. So providing samples for race packets, and handing out samples on race day is a great way for us to get our product in front of our target audience.

We are selective about where we give out samples though. We are not likely to give samples to an event in Wyoming where we don’t have any locations to purchase the product. It’s important that the consumer be able to buy your product in the store. Sure, we live in the day of online sales, but when you have a small business you have to be selective about how much free stuff you give out, thus the reason why it’s important to tie in your donated product to an area you have an established retail presence.

I have also found that sponsoring events in an area where we did not have a presence did not generate any online sales for us, even though we included an awesome coupon code. Most people are impulse buyers when it comes to trying new products. They are more likely to use that coupon code if a friend forwarded them an email, or if they saw a Facebook or Twitter post. People are not likely to take a coupon code home and use it. It’s just the facts.

Event sponsorships are great for brand awareness. Going on four years now we have been sponsoring 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell in Arkansas. This brings in climbers from all over the country. We provide coupon codes in all the participant packets (but will not do so again this year) but have not had a single one redeemed. Yet we have people coming up to our booth each year and telling us how much they love our product, and that they eat our bars all the time. This tells us we have built brand awareness with them, and that they are buying the product locally, rather than online.

This concept works with any type of business, even if you don’t have a tangible product. People providing services such as consulting or career coaching can provide free advice in the form of high quality blog posts with truly valuable content, free e-books, or podcasts. The most important thing is, to get people to try your product or service, it helps you earn their trust and makes them feel better about spending their hard earned money on YOU.

My final installment will be on, “Building and army.” How you can leverage Twitter to help spread the word about your brand.

Part 1 of 4 (Social Media)
Part 2 of 4 (Tell your story)

Part 4 of 4 (Building an army, social media continued)

Tips for building brand recognition without spending much money – part 2 of 4

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In part one of this four part series we talked about using social media as free, or low cost marketing. It’s a great way to get your message out there, but in order for it to work, it has to be the right message.

Tell your story

Bearded Brothers, Chris and Caleb.

Bearded Brothers, Chris and Caleb.

At Bearded Brothers we are constantly hearing, you have such a great story. That story is, “We’re just two brothers who are passionate about the outdoors, staying fit, and especially about healthy organic foods. We love that last one so much, we started an awesome snackfood company. Our bars are, raw, vegan, gluten and soy free, made with organic ingredients, and crafted in hot and sunny Austin, Texas. Oh, and everything else we make is pretty dang delicious, too.”

Make your story the focal point of your message to customers. People like to feel connected with the brands they support. That is largely why we went with the name, Bearded Brothers. Our wives were the geniuses that came up with the idea. I actually didn’t like it at first. But the more I thought about it the more I LOVED it. I realized it conveyed the family aspect of the business. It was a name that people could connect with, bearded or not.

This is the story we tell people all the time when they ask us how we got started. We tell it to media, we tell it to friends, and to buyers of grocery stores. We are literally just two average guys that were not satisfied with the current energy bars on the market, so we decided to solve that problem.

We also seek to make our social media content very relatable. We occasionally post photos of our family, and share about what we are doing on the weekend. We aren’t just a business; we are people and seek to connect with others. So, think small, and tell your story – keep it authentic.

Own your brand

I don’t mean own it in the sense of register a DBA or LLC. I mean don’t be ashamed of your brand and what you stand for. We are constantly getting grief about our “small” bars and the high price point, yet we have changed our price very little since we have started because we know the bars we are providing are superior to anything else on the market. When you buy our bars you are paying for 99-100% organic ingredients. Very few bars on the market can make that claim.

Bearded Brothers could easily make compromises and source half of our ingredients from non-organic sources that would still be non-GMO. But we have decided we want to support organic farming, see the industry grow, and eat organic foods ourselves. Thus, we don’t compromise; it’s part of who we are.

In some ways, you ARE your brand. Chris and I are both healthy minded individuals, so we practice what we preach. The Bearded Brothers brand embraces an active lifestyle and healthy eating, and we encourage others to do the same through our social media messages. Being real and genuine is part of who we are, and the brand is merely an extension of our real selves.

Regardless of what product or service you are offering it’s important to be genuine, to tell your story, and to be true to the reasons you started the business. People love authenticity, so let it show in how you engage with your customers. For part 3 of 4 I will talk about why you should think like a drug dealer when it comes to letting people try your product.

Part 1 of 4 (Social Media)
Part 3 of 4 (Think like a drug dealer)
Part 4 of 4 (Momentum builds, using Twitter to build a brand army)

Tips for building brand recognition without spending much money – Part 1 of 4

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Unless your business is backed with millions of dollars in VC funding or has been profitable for several years, chances are you don’t have a marketing budget. When Bearded Brothers launched, we raised $5,000 on Kickstarter to get us going, in addition to some of our own money. From the very start we didn’t have a dime to spend on marketing; and despite not having any funds to promote ourselves we have managed to grow to 400 retail locations across the nation and develop a lot of brand recognition. Here is how you can build brand recognition without spending much money.

Social Media

It should go without saying: If you are a business you MUST have social media accounts. Bearded Brothers has accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

This is FREE marketing. Although, lately Facebook has made it much more difficult to succeed in this arena, by implementing the pay to play strategy to make money off businesses, but I have some helpful tips on that. These platforms allow you to generate creative content for your customers, and potential customers, to engage with. It also helps you spread the word about your brand.

Over time social media has gotten us quite a bit of attention, but that is only because we are active on all platforms (although we can do better). It has essentially had a snowball effect for us. Even though our follower rate may not seem to indicate that, we have received some great media attention in publications such as Trail Runner Magazine, Bloomberg Business Week, and Backpacker Magazine (print only), all because of people finding out about us through social media.

Facebook: As any business owner knows, Facebook has severally limited the number of fans that see your posts. This is solely because they want you to pay to promote your content. I have found, however this is very much worth it, if you do it right. My advice is to not spend money on Facebook Ads. This is because the content shows up in the side panel. Mobile users, and desktop users with ad block won’t see this content. And you are still being charged for impressions of users that have ad block installed.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 6.59.24 AM

My number one piece of advice is to use, “Promoted Posts.” These pieces of content are seen on all platforms (mobile and desktop) and can expand your reach well beyond Facebook Ads for a smaller amount of money. They key is to target your promoted post. When creating the post select your target demographic age range, and gender if applicable. This will allow you to reach a much larger audience with a smaller dollar amount.

You can even get specific by typing in interests. This will allow you to narrow your target audience down even more. In my past experience I have noticed that way more people see my posts than Facebook tells me. Notice in the screen shot provided here, the reach would be 6,300-17,000. If my post is relevant enough to the audience it’s going out to, it will definitely reach the 17,000 mark, possibly even higher.

The last promoted post I ran was promoting a sale on the Bearded Brothers store. The post was shared upwards of 40 times, had over 700 likes, and was clicked over 275 times, and generated about $2,000 worth of sales on our site. So, the $40 we spent promoting the post was more than worth it. In addition to likes, shares, and sales, we gained a lot of new fans on the page because the content was going out to friends of people that had liked our page.

I will share more about how Twitter can be used to your advantage in a future post that relates to the topic of, “Building an Army.” The next post will be about telling your story: something I believe to be crucial when it comes to developing your brand.

Part 2 of 4 (Tell your story)
Part 3 of  4 (Think like a drug dealer)
Part 4 of 4 (Momentum Builds, building and army on Twitter)