05/01/2017 05:22 EDT | Updated 05/02/2017 09:06 EDT

Careful Branding Helps Entrepreneurs Overshadow Big Businesses

It feels great to face a challenge head-on and succeed. It's even better when you can share your experience with others so they can benefit from the things you've learned.

This has been top of mind for me since we unveiled Primus' new brand last fall. Having spent a considerable amount of time serving the telecom needs of many small businesses, I realized that there are lessons from our own experience that are helpful to any entrepreneur trying to stand out from the pack.

I know, you've likely seen management books about building a brand to supercharge your business. And it's understandable if a small business owner asks earnestly, "How can I possibly find the money or expertise to launch a new compelling brand identity?"

I can tell you that we asked ourselves the same question as we approached the idea of rebranding the company. We were immersed in rewriting our business plan to refine our focus and compete for residential and small business customers against the deep-pocketed telecom companies.

Within a constantly evolving marketplace, we needed a way to drive our business forward while continuing to be bold and responsive to our clients. But how could we do that as efficiently and effectively as possible? Here are the top things we learned along the way:


(Photo: Shutterstock)

It's not just about the logo: It might be tempting to invest in a flashy new logo or to hoist a giant sign on your roof that few customers will ever see. But these ego-building gestures are certainly 'nice to haves' if funds allow. If not, it makes sense to focus your dollars on the strategic plan to identify the right-fit brand for your business and the marketing tactics that will leverage the brand and make the biggest-impact.

Define your position and promise: Designing a distinct brand begins with careful consideration as to who your customer is, what their needs are and how you can uniquely-position your brand to satisfy them. This may sound like basic business planning, but this thought process must drive your brand identity.

At Primus, facing a mountain of look-alike telecom giants, we talked to the people who knew us best - our loyal customers and employees - to set out our new brand position. We agreed upon: "To provide connectivity with a difference by delivering excellent customer service, the most relevant products, promises fulfilled and a better deal." We boiled this down to a simple brand promise, "Connectivity without compromise."

Prove your promise: A well-worded brand promise is inspiring, but how can you translate those words into real functional and emotional benefits for your customers? And how do you deliver products and services that deliver on your promise?

We based our brand on the things we did well, such as delivering innovation to customers for a great value. In fact, as the first telecom company in Canada to introduce VoIP services in 2004, known in the market as Digital Home Phone, and now the only Canadian carrier to help consumers effectively block nuisance calls with its patented Telemarketing GuardTM solution, we have a long history as an industry pioneer.

The most successful companies create an employee culture that is rooted to being true to their brand every day.

For your business, you need to carefully consider if and how you will credibly deliver on your promise to your customers.

Place your pins with precision: Primus did not have a big budget for branding. While the marketing team may tell you to splash your brand everywhere to create a buzz, we knew that wasn't an affordable option. Instead, we focused our spending on the handful of things that mattered most to customers. For us, that meant updating the assets that customers interact with most often, such as invoices and customer materials. We focused heavily on digital properties that have substantial customer reach, like our website, rather than physical assets, like building signage. Anything else could wait until it comes time to renew or restock existing supplies or materials.

Create consistency at every touch-point: Your brand investment is money down the drain if your customers don't get that same experience each time they call or click. You need to think through every 'touch-point' your customer has with your business. Besides your friendly customer service rep, consider everything from your voice mail system to your customer forms and statements. Ask whether they are 'user-friendly' and how they support your brand promise. Do they align with your brand's voice?

For a nation-wide communication carrier like Primus, that meant providing every employee with the goals and rationale for the change, an overview of the brand's position, and the tools to integrate it easily into their everyday activities. This ensures that we constantly look at things differently and ask ourselves things like, "Are we being responsive?" "Are our solutions dependable?" and "Are we easy to do business with?"

Create a true culture: The most successful companies create an employee culture that is rooted to being true to their brand every day. Then, from team gatherings to one-on-one meetings, they reinforce the message internally at every opportunity.

corporate branding

(Photo: Gettystock)

For Primus, our employees have always been the key to delivering a better customer experience, and we've made it clear that we want to hear their suggestions and feedback to help us stand out. In fact, they played an integral role in every aspect of our transition, from brand development through to its launch.

Today, the new Primus brand promise reminds us how we are different from the large incumbent providers, as well as how we will deliver smarter connectivity and offer better choices to businesses and individuals. For any small business looking to conquer new markets and battle big competitors, your competitive advantage is your brand: well-thought out, carefully-executed, and consistently-delivered from every customer touch point, and embraced internally by every employee.

Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook

Also on HuffPost: