The power of relationships in building your brand

Relationships might not appear to be closely linked to branding, but I can assure you, strong relationships are the key to your brand’s success. As the great Marty Neumeier says in his book The Brand Gap, “Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.”

In other words: opinions count.

Sure, you absolutely need a professional logo, consistent brand colours and a well-established brand message. I’d be a terrible brand strategist if I told you those things don’t matter, but the fact is that your brand hinges on so much more than the way it looks.

Beneath the visual elements of your branding, there’s a wide array of contributing factors that keep your brand afloat, and one of those is public perception. Your overall reputation, and the emotional response people have towards your business, is an integral part of your branding. People’s thoughts, feelings, associations, and experiences with your brand matter, especially when you run a small business.

Finding ways to create genuine connections with customers; potential customers; industry professionals; other business owners; and even competitors, is the most reliable way to develop a strong brand reputation.

Referrals and word of mouth have a much greater impact than any marketing campaign ever could. So how do you get out there and make genuine connections with other businesses and industry professionals? Here are my top tips:

  1. Attend industry events: This one is a no-brainer. The more you get out there, the more people you meet and the more potential relationships you can build. Trade shows, conferences, and networking events are all great opportunities to establish relationships.
  2. Join industry (or local) associations and groups: Again… Networking. These groups often hold meetings, workshops, and other events where members can connect and collaborate.
  3. Social media: A caveat on this one not to spam people! Use it as a tool for building relationships rather than making a sale. Share valuable content, engage with others, and participate in industry discussions. Use your socials as a two-way conversation, not just a marketing platform.
  4. Collaborate: Be selective about who you choose to partner with, but by teaming up with other businesses on certain projects or initiatives, you’re able to develop mutual trust as well as reach a larger audience.
  5. Offer value: It’s okay to give things away or do freebies – just not all the time! I’d highly recommend being a little strategic with who and how you’re doing this (ie not your mate Jack who always wants freebies but never supports your business), but when you have the bandwidth, share your expertise. It could be as simple as answering someone’s question in a Facebook group; or require a little more effort like writing an article for relevant publications (as I do here regularly); or even running a competition for a giveaway. In whatever capacity you have, when you provide helpful resources or tools and offer support and assistance, it helps build trust and establish yourself as a valuable partner.

Whether or not you make use of the tips above, just remember that as an owner of a small business, you are your brand. This is why relationship building is so important and why it should always be at the forefront of your mind.