Guest post by Martin Zine

There are a variety of hurdles for small business owners who intend to develop a company with brand in mind. Of course all small business owners understand the value of brand, of how associations of being established lead to revenue growth. Yet, there are a handful of mistakes small business owners continually make as they work to make the transition from direct marketing to brand awareness. 

1. Inability to tolerate ad spend to increase long term exposure: Perhaps the most challenging of all aspects of brand development for any business owner is the fact that ad spend when developing brand is far different than it is for any direct marketing campaign. Advertising spend in order to develop brand requires a long view of ROI, which is often times well beyond the ability of many near-sighted business owners. The fact is, brand development does have a built- in ROI; however, this ROI cannot be realised immediately. Unlike a direct marketing campaign, ROI for brand development can take multiple business quarters before being realized, and unfortunately many small business owners launch a business with the mindset of "this thing needs to make money right out of the gate." Overextending expectations and demanding return too quickly is a sure-fire way to erode brand development and reduce the likelihood of business survivability. 

2. Inability to differentiate product or service: it is through product or service differentiation that brands define themselves. These iterations need not be immense. The difference in experience from a Nordstrom to a Macy's -- in terms of brand development -- is not as severe as one may think. Both corporate retailers provide clothing for men, women and children. Both corporate retailers also try to keep up with trends in fashion. However, the idea of service and the sort of quality of product that one store provides in comparison to the other is dramatic. This slight, albeit consistent, iteration is what defines the Nordstrom brand. Inability to differentiate a product or delivery of service is necessary in order to entrench brand awareness to any community. 

3. Following challengers: this third obstacle is perhaps one of the most difficult for small business owners. The challenge of navigating the marketplace and not latching onto some of the traits of already established service or product providers within the niche is severe. It is difficult to not try to follow the lead of an established provider; however, in the process of developing brand, copycats more often than not simply look like copycats. 

4. Failure to lead within the industry: the easiest way to develop an identity that is distinguishable is to lead an industry. Perhaps the simplest way to develop brand is to look at an industry with fresh eyes, and address the industry truly as a consumer rather than a provider. Leadership, particularly within an industry, is all about distinguishing ability; and it is through any sort of distinguished presence that brand is best developed. Often times the best way to address a leadership role within a particular industry is not to focus solely on one industry, rather to locate business leaders in other industries and see the sort of iterations or changes that they have made to their product or service development in order to distinguish their businesses. 

There are a variety of reasons beyond the four listed above that get at some of the failures on the part of small business owners in an effort to grow brand. The process of brand development is one that simply requires
sustained effort and honest commitment to long-term goals. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of business development, particularly for those without experience in the field of community awareness, is the time and energy needed
to truly launch any serious effort to define a brand. Even with a serious effort in mind, and the willingness to commit to a long view in terms of
marketing, there still is the challenge of differentiating a product or service in a way that distinguishes itself. 

Bio: Martin Zine is one of two lead copywriters for at Klinkle.com. He has worked in brand development for nearly seven years, and continues to commit his knowledge to secure market share for Klinkle clients.

We, at Microsoft, provide ‘Talking Business’ to help entrepreneurs and business owners’ succeed. We believe in your ability to innovate and in the ability of technology to help, so to support ‘Talking Business’ we have many resources available for businesses like you. We have an informative newsletterblog posts by people in the industry, and a community looking to help small business succeed. 

Follow us on twitter - @MicrosoftSB, or use the hashtag #TalkingBusiness to find out more information.