Making Your Brand Stand Out

Strategy Tourism & Hospitality

A Guide for Maine’s Small Businesses

As the summer tourist season kicks off in Maine, small businesses have a golden opportunity to attract visitors from near and far. Whether you run a quaint café in Portland or a boutique in Bar Harbor, standout branding can make all the difference in drawing in summer crowds. Here’s how you can make your brand shine and ensure your business is the go-to spot this season.

Know Your Purpose and Promise

The first step in creating a standout brand is to understand your purpose and promise in a way that you can explain with ease. This isn’t just about what you sell; it’s about why you exist and what unique value you offer. Take Novio’s Bistro in Bangor, for example. They have built a strong brand around delivering a relaxed fine dining experience where every detail is meticulously curated. “I call it fine dining without the pretentious attitude,” says Bob Cutler, Novio’s owner. This clear promise makes Novio’s a favorite among locals and tourists alike because patrons know they can wear jeans and still expect great food and exceptional service every time they visit.

Not sure how to trim it all down to a sentence or two? For your business, ask yourself:

  • What do we do better than anyone else?
  • What unique experience or value do we offer our customers?
  • Why do our customers choose us over competitors?

Articulate your purpose and promise in a way that resonates with your target audience — don’t talk in industry jargon if your customers aren’t industry pros. Your message should be clear, compelling, and consistent across all your marketing.

Identify and Understand Your Target Audience

Once you know your purpose and promise, the next step is to identify and understand your target audience. This might seem straightforward, but it requires a deep dive into who your customers are and what they care about. Are they families looking for a fun day out, or are they couples seeking a romantic getaway? Perhaps they are adventure seekers eager to explore Maine’s natural beauty.

Understanding your audience allows you to tailor your branding and advertising efforts to meet their needs and preferences. Use local insights and data to create a detailed profile of your ideal customer, including their demographics, interests, and spending habits.

Consistency is Key

Consistency in branding builds trust and recognition. Just like Novio’s Bistro consistently delivers a memorable dining experience and a stellar wine and whiskey list (just ask me!), your business should consistently reflect its brand values in every customer interaction. This includes your visual identity (logos, colors, fonts), your messaging, and the overall customer experience. A cohesive brand presentation helps customers quickly identify and remember your business.

Leverage Local Connections

Maine’s strong sense of community is one of its greatest assets. Leverage local connections to amplify your brand without spending a lot. Here are some cost-effective strategies:

  • Partner with Other Businesses: Collaborate on cross-promotions or bundle deals. For instance, a local café and a nearby boutique could offer a discount package for tourists.
  • Participate in Local Events: Attend farmers’ markets, festivals, and fairs. Set up a booth or provide samples to attract attention.
  • Engage with Community Organizations: Join local chambers of commerce or business associations to network and gain referrals.

Consider creating a special summer promotion aimed at tourists. For example, a local café might offer a “Taste of Maine” special featuring locally sourced ingredients, advertised through a beautifully designed flyer distributed at nearby hotels and tourist spots.

Engage and Adapt

Finally, be prepared to engage with your audience and adapt to their feedback. Social media is a fantastic tool for this. Use platforms like Facebook and Instagram to:

  • Share your story and behind-the-scenes content.
  • Showcase customer testimonials.
  • Highlight what makes your business unique.

Encourage satisfied customers to share their experiences and tag your business, creating organic word-of-mouth marketing. Respond to comments and messages promptly to show that you value customer input.

By following these steps—knowing your purpose and promise, understanding your audience, maintaining consistency, leveraging local connections, and engaging with your customers—you can create a standout brand that attracts tourists and locals alike. And remember, if you need a bit of help refining your brand or strategizing your marketing efforts, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m always happy to chat and help your business shine this summer. ~ Elizabeth