Managing a Small Brand Through A Growth Spurt: Staying True to Core Values
In addition to guest posting on the UpCity blog, Business Marketing Solutions Group is featured as one of the Top Digital Marketing Agencies in the United States. Check out their profile!
As we gain distance on the Great Pause of 2020 and round the corner towards the back half of 2021, economists and marketing experts are becoming more comfortable navigating and analyzing the truths that define the post-pandemic economic landscape. This introspection has industry experts realizing the shift in consumer preferences away from value as a primary driving factor in brand consumption towards a focus more on brand integrity and ethics was not a temporary shift and is in fact continuing to drive consumer behaviors.
Wider narratives of the recovery and even growth being experienced by small businesses are woven together from several common thematic threads. One of the most prevalent narratives explaining how some businesses thrived while others succumbed to the economic downturn revolves around the success of businesses that embraced entrepreneurial and innovation-focused practices throughout the pandemic and beyond. Any degree of survivability in the face of such adversity for small businesses is only possible if the brand has an established and robust set of core values guiding the way for the brand through such challenging periods of growth and change.
What Do You Mean by Core Values?
With a potential boom looming on the horizon as consumer confidence continues to rise, small businesses will need to remain focused on the core values that helped them survive in the first place in order to grow and thrive in the months to come. Before getting into growth strategies designed around preserving the core values of small business clients undergoing a growth phase, it’s first necessary to lay out what makes for a well-tuned set of core values that can in fact sustain that business through every phase of its development.
Specific and Easy to Understand
Boil down your organization’s core values to an easily digestible explanation anyone can understand. Sometimes in business, we get caught up in jargon, technical terms, industry-specific acronyms, and just all-around complicated explanations when rolling out new initiatives to existing internal stakeholders or onboarding new ones to support expansion. A strong set of core values that will sustain your organization through the stresses of growth are values that are easy for employees, old and new, to grasp and memorize immediately.
Align Core Values with Organizational Goals
Growth and expansion should not be something that your leadership team is leaving to chance and circumstance. They should be providing your employees with a very clear plan once business starts to ramp up for how to extend your operational bandwidth, and how that will impact both your internal team and the external economic niche in which your organization operates. Your core values should align with and provide the foundations necessary to create the infrastructure and systems internally that will lead to an increased ability to meet the growing needs of an expanding client base and any resulting response from competitors.
Core Values Should Appear to Be Unique
There is a degree of market saturation in almost every niche of the economic landscape, so standing out in the crowd and creating brand value and uniqueness where and when possible is a powerful competitive tool. Use your core values to truly set your business apart by establishing what it is that does make your business approach unique in order to attract both employees and clients that value those differences in your industry.
Hear From Industry Experts
Read the latest tips, research, best practices, and insights from our community of expert B2B service providers.
Effective Brand Management: Aligning Core Values to The Four Phases of Growth
While serial entrepreneurship is a valid business model, we’re more concerned in this discussion with entrepreneurs who are looking to grow sustainable small to medium enterprises (SMEs) that over time become self-sustaining and gain long-term brand relevance and brand identity. Businesses structured for this goal generally undergo four growth phases throughout the life of the company, and in at least three of these stages can experience a rapid period of growth and expansion that requires extremely careful brand management on the part of your marketing team, be they an internal team of experts or an outsourced managed service.
At every stage of growth, rapid or otherwise, it’s important for your marketing experts to remember that your core values aren’t just pretty words splashed in bright, eye-catching fonts across your marketing material and online branding, but rather powerful drivers that can protect and sustain the brand through any period of growth when properly leveraged.
The Startup Phase—Attracting the Right Team and Clients From the Start
As a new brand, your core values play the most important and vital role in your organization’s growth before you’ve sold a single unit or service contract. A strong set of core values at the start ensures that your business model moving forward is aligned with your goals and that you’re focused on the right target audience in your marketing and sales efforts who will quickly become invested in your concept. Powerful messaging from the inception of your brand ensures early adopters and your core team of employees are the best brand advocates possible.
Early adopters of your brand expect something amazing and fresh, and one of the most important things you can do at this stage is to invest time and resources into creating a brand identity focused on customer service and providing an exceptional customer experience. By building word-of-mouth through the power of social proof marketing focused on building referrals and recommendations across social media channels such as Facebook and LinkedIn, you’ll be able to build brand awareness at this crucial growth stage with little effort on your own part. Your growing customer base will sing their praises if they have a great experience with your brand, and their friends, families, and peers will come to see what all of the excitement is about.
Scaling Up in the Second Phase Requires a Competitive Edge
While the initial growth phase was focused on building out your team and your initial client base, your second stage of growth should be focused on identifying and focusing your efforts on the competitive advantages you do have over your competition. The goal of the second growth phase is to then sustain that advantage through increased marketing efforts focused on brand awareness and expanding your leadership team with the right executives to support your brand in the challenges ahead.
Early in the process, your operation was extremely streamlined, with very few layers in the leadership hierarchy, and there’s a good chance managed services representatives made many of the marketing and strategic decisions for your business. During this phase of growth, it’s necessary to bring in several high-quality executives to support your marketing strategy and vision of your brand image in-house, add structure to your leadership team, and outsource non-core business tasks that are out of the wheelhouse of your existing support staff.
It’s important to outsource and keep your operations at a low cost at this point because you’ll be increasing branding and marketing on social media and through content marketing, SEO, and other inbound marketing channels in order to maximize the impact of your core values on attracting new customers to your base and building brand loyalty across your digital real estate.
Expanding and Retaining Target Market Share in the Third Phase of Growth
At this stage, your brand has become a recognized player in your economic niche, and your team is strong enough to support further expansion of the brand according to the core values you’ve established relative to building and driving revenue growth. The expansion stage exposes your brand to significant risks and can reveal vulnerabilities in your business model, so it’s important that your leadership and marketing efforts remain focused on your core values throughout this process and not stray too far from the strategies that have brought you to this point.
It essentially becomes a balancing act that your team can accomplish by shoring up and focusing on the internal stability of your team of stakeholders. In doing so, it will be easier for your team to take the risks necessary to expand business services or product lines, enter into new markets, and leverage existing brand equity and brand recognition to enter into new markets.
A Mature Brand Is Not a Static Brand—Growth Through Brand Equity
Many business leaders get comfortable once they’ve established their brand, found their niche, and are reassured by their widely happy base of customers. This complaisance, however, can ultimately lead to your brand being outperformed and outpaced by younger, hungrier, and more innovative entrepreneurs and brands. In order to survive and thrive, you must continue to innovate and reinvent your brand, finding fresh and enticing ways of remaining relevant to your core consumers and potential new customers.
Established companies hold an advantage over younger brands at this point, however, that they don’t often leverage. The fact is that established companies have access to the funds and tools necessary to provide the insight and experience to remain extremely agile and competitive, essentially allowing them to reinvent themselves and skip the first phase of growth, and proceed directly into the scaling-up phase on any new service or new products they launch.
Even small businesses can leverage their success at this level to constantly innovate and push new on-brand, on-mission concepts to market. At this phase, it’s important that branding and marketing not only be directed at customer retention and loyalty, but also towards strengthening and expanding your team by focusing on recruitment branding. Establishing yourself as an industry leader and a great place to work, you are sure to build the necessary reputation that will draw in the best talent on the market, reduce turnover, and overall increase profitability.
Powerful Brand Management Promotes Successful Brand Growth
Alignment with your core values is a powerful method for ensuring your marketing team’s brand strategy for promoting brand growth is successful. Core values help to keep your team on the same page and aligned with a common goal. They can also be useful in helping your strategic management team to establish and define the necessary key performance indicators and metrics of success throughout the growth process.
Once established, your core values become guiding business principles that reduce complex and difficult business decisions down to more manageable and realistic considerations around, “Does this support our core values, and will it push the brand forward?” And in doing so, your core values will help you create a brand that is clearly unique and stands out from the competition across social media and marketing channels.