Time and time again, many online businesses seem to miss the basics of branding. Before you do anything else, be aware there are five brand centers you need to create and maintain.
Here’s how to position them…
1. Your Website
Visitors shouldn’t have to scramble around, click multiple tabs or scroll down looking for clues. What your website is all about should be obvious at a glance, as with Knorr here. And what should stand out the most? Exactly how you can do something nice or needed for each visitor.
But that’s not enough. Don’t neglect any opportunity to brand your web pages.
- Think of your logo and colors as a type of shorthand, providing instant visual identification. People should see your colors and even shapes, and instantly think of your business – and how helpful it is.
- Every photo should show what you do or provide
- Every app or widget should appeal to your customers
You’re making a promise to the people visiting your website landing page, so make sure the rest of your site, blog, social networks, newsletter and information products all deliver equally and consistently on that promise.
2. Create Your Blog – and Use It
If you already own and operate a blog for your business, this title of this tip may seem redundant, but make no mistake: Blogging is essential in branding most businesses.
The key lies in making sure your blog is active – something Problogger wrote the book on.
There are many ways to plan for engagement and activity. But before they will interact, you need to capture your visitors’ attention.
- Use powerful, relevant photos, videos, polls, contests and sound-clips to increase interaction from your viewers
- Make sure photos tell an instant story or pique curiosity
- Choose photos that are lively, dynamic, eye-catching and relevant to your topic
- Schedule expert, interesting Guest posters
- Run a series and pre-load your series installments
- Regularly re-purpose and feature “Oldies but Goodies” (evergreen blog posts from the past that gathered comments and feedback)
- Update published posts with new developments (especially posts that incited comment activity on initial release)
- Re-visit popular topics
- Write a weekly “Top Ten Tips on…” feature, slanted to your ideal reader’s niche interest
- Write regular “how to” posts, to help your readers find solutions
- If you have to, pay for top experts to guest post – even if that’s a once-a-month feature or you have to plan for it further down the line
Remember, a blog and its branding are only as good as its activity level. But even if your blog doesn’t seem to get much action, remember that people are busy and make sure you set up every post so that people can use your blog as a resource when they need to.
Post material that is evergreen and useful, such as your “how to” posts; or high-value tips as well as “how to” posts on common tasks.
Finally, make sure all your post types and elements are consistent – especially when it comes to voice.
Planning your month’s content in advance should help greatly in ensuring this last but most important detail.
3. Create a Newsletter
A newsletter provides you with a wonderful way, reason and excuse to keep in touch with customers or clients. And – best of all – you can brand it with your colors and logo.
It does not need to be the be-all and end-all of newsletters. It simply has to:
- Remind your subscribers that your business is alive, well and active
- Reassure subscribers that they are important to you, and that you are thinking about them
But there’s a third function your newsletter can perform, to help you step up your branding a notch. And that’s provide you with a repetitive, ready incentive for people to sign up and subscribe to your list.
- Include a signup web form on every blog or website page (top-right corner is the preferred spot)
- Make sure your newsletters contain valuable content and time-limited offers, discounts, news and resources highly relevant to your target visitor
- Have these same elements in every newsletter (e.g. always a “Product of the Month” discount; always a seasonally-time-sensitive tip, etc.) This turns them into a branded feature, as Ego’s Garden Centre of Orillia, Ontario, demonstrates admirably here…
- Try to solve at least one current problem for your target visitor per newsletter
- Point people to your Archive section for past newsletters, so readers can see how valuable your content can be (while the visual consistency of the newsletters reinforces how trustworthy your brand is)
- Point out the advantage of signing up to get newsletters as they’re released, so visitors won’t miss any more time-limited valuables
Creating regular newsletters and branding, promoting and archiving them is an efficient use of your time. You have to create your newsletter for existing subscribers anyway… so why not let it double as a sign up incentive and a branded, trustworthy resource for visitors too?
4. Your Information Products
Creating information products and not branding them is like throwing away advertising you’ve already paid for.
Branding your information products makes them – and you – stand out.
It’s not a question of a good product standing out from bad ones or an exceptional product standing out from good ones: It’s usually a question of a good product standing out from other good products.
What makes one eBook on wine hit the Amazon best-sellers list and another lurk in limbo, so far back in the search results it remains unseen?
One major factor is branding.
Take the “Dummies” books, for instance. Seeing the words, “For Dummies” on a book – backed by that distinctive yellow-and-black background – immediately tells people they are getting a useful guide on a topic (in this case, wine) that is going to be easy to understand, broken down into nice, bite-sized pieces.
“For Dummies” has become synonymous with not just easy, but “easiest”.
Notice how “Dummies” brands each information product with:
- A relevant, appealing tag line that sums up their main mission (“Making Everything Easier!”)
- Their colors and “header” design
- Their unique Title fonts
So simple, isn’t it?
And what you don’t see – but everyone knows – is that the “Dummies” books are presented as a series.
Creating a series is a great way to start branding your information products from the word go: You can use the same elements in Title fonts, header backgrounds, colors, taglines and logos for every single information product in your series – changing only the specific topics.
Naming products allows another opportunity for branding. Again, the “Dummies” series is a perfect example of this. The company can now produce any type of “how to” book in the world… and simply by adding “For Dummies” at the end, each book becomes instantly branded and searchable, not only by its own topic keyword (.e.g. “Wine”) but also the keywords “For Dummies”.
Keep this example in mind when branding your books. Use it as the ultimate example
5. Your Social Media
Yes, you can – and should – brand your social media. Use the same colors, logo, signature, and above all, Profile photo (preferably a recent headshot).
Using your company colors even in your headshot is a simple strategy that helps cement in peoples’ heads the fact your profile is related to your company.
Example: For years Facebook and social media expert, Mari Smith always wore turquoise clothing and even accessories in every headshot. Recently she has relaxed this rule – but her trademark turquoise color still appears in the background of her latest Profile photo on her Facebook Page.
Most important, however, in social media: Creating business pages and branding them with your logo, colors, Profile photo and custom backgrounds.
If you are unable to use the exact same background in each network because of size differences, as with Twitter and Facebook, decide on key graphic elements from your website colors or photos that will carry across all social media backgrounds. (For example, the gold color and little bee graphic that always appear in Burt’s Bees social media pages.)
But all the branding in the world won’t help if you don’t regularly interact via your social media pages and feeds. A Facebook page never visited by the owner is less than useful. In fact, you can turn people off, if they take the time to comment or (especially) ask questions and never receive an answer.
Build these five brand centers into your daily life. Interact often and let people hear your unique voice.
And that will be your strongest social brand reinforcement strategy of all.