If you’re not actively branding your business, you are wasting golden opportunities to strengthen your online position in your niche.
Creating a uniform goal and plan can help you make sure all your branding efforts are on target. Then incorporate the following top ten ways for create an effective online brand.
1. Identify Your Brand Clearly
Make it easy for people to see at a glance what you and your business are all about the moment they arrive at your web page, read your email or newsletter, pick up your business card or check out your social media pages and posts.
Show (don’t just tell) people:
- What you do
- Who you are
- How you can help or even just entertain them
Letting people know what they can expect from you and your business and what they can trust you to deliver, as celebrity Jackie Chan demonstrates here, is what branding is all about.
2. Pay Attention to Voice
One other aspect of your business needs to be clear and distinctive: Your voice.
“Voice” is the personality you project across all your websites, social media and other forms of contact.
Your voice can be any type you want it to be… But it should fit your mission and your target market consistently, like a favorite pair of slippers. It should be reflected in everything from website colors to the music clips you use with your videos.
Individuality is another important part of creating a consistent voice. You want to show that you can take a secure place among your competitors – but also stand out.
People should feel they know you, when they see your communications and materials.
3. Know When to Use Professionals
Using the right help at the right time will actually increase your branding.
Trying to do it all yourself leads to overload and overwhelm; and that leads to losing track of your business as an entity and brand because you’re too close and too busy being reactive.
Become a true CEO, instead of your own eternal employee. Plan for support that will leave you free to focus on customers, clients – and your branding. Then decide:
- What type of help you need
- Who you are going to choose to provide that help
Check into potential candidates. See if they have package rates (many contractors do).
This will leave you free to focus on only the essentials of growing your business, allowing you to maintain a focused overview, as well as network and serve your customers and clients to the best of your ability.
And focus is what strong, successful branding is all about.
4. Manage your Online Reputation
One negative comment – deserved or not – can really affect your online reputation. Check comments and feedback regularly to see what people are saying about you.
One easy way to do this: Set up a Google Alert for your name and your business name (if the two are different).
You can set your Google alerts up so that they are highly reactive, if there’s a particular situation you want to monitor, or barely intrusive – simply by setting the frequency at which the results are delivered to your email address (text or HTML).
You can choose to receive alerts:
- As it happens
- Once a day
- Once a week
You can also export your alerts to your hard drive.
But managing your online reputation doesn’t just mean monitoring what’s said: It’s really all about giving people no reason to badmouth you in the first place!
- Keep in touch with clients and update them if there are hitches or problems.
- Process payments and refunds promptly and cheerfully.
- Thank people who do you favors or submit work.
Reputation management is all about giving people reason to praise you and your business.
(And don’t do anything on your social networks that’s at odds with your branding and voice!)
5. Tell Your Brand’s Story
Use your online footprints to tell your brand’s story. Doing this well means knowing:
- Where you’ve been
- Your mission
- Where you are heading
Your “About” Page is a good place to provide a brief history of your business: What inspired it, how old it is, what it looked like at inception and how it has been serving its clientele.
Sending out regular newsletters and press releases, posting articles to your blog and sharing photos with social networks continues your story. But even as you do share your history and story, make sure it’s really all about your customer or client (as Eugene Saturday Market expertly does here on its Facebook Page)
Even though everything you present should be geared towards your end client or customer, they will connect better if they can also relate – and see that you do too.
6. Be Consistently Active and Actively Consistent
The word “consistent” is the real key to branding.
Interact regularly and consistently:
- Across all your social platforms
- In the type of material you share
- With your unique voice
- In all your content
- business pages
And every piece of content you put out (e.g. Burt’s Bees).
7. Use Templates
This simple tip is one that, when put to work, can help you easily create a cohesive feel to all your marketing venues. You can create:
- Email templates featuring your colors, logo, headshot and signature
- Flyer templates
- HTML templates for your newsletter
- HTML templates for your landing and sales pages
- MS Word templates for business correspondence
And for anything else you re-use frequently.
With a template, you don’t have go through your content, second-guessing things like what your exact shade of sub-head red was. Templates saves time as well as helping you instantly brand your business without effort.
8. Go Visual
What were two of the hottest trends in 2012?
Pinterest and Instagram.
If your business doesn’t have a Profile created with each of these two graphic-based social networks, you’re missing a great opportunity to connect with your market.
Once you’ve created a Pinterest for Business account (it’s free), be sure to create more than one Pinboard. (Read site instructions – which are simple – and look at examples; especially your competitors’, if they’ve been more socially-savvy than you.)
Make sure you create an overall plan for your Pinboards. And that each one:
- Is interesting and visually dramatic
- Triggers emotion, whenever possible
- Reflects your brand consistently
Put a “Pin it” button on your site, and activelyask customers to pin your photos. (The Pin it button such as Split Coast Stampers displays makes it as easy as one click for them to do so.)
Make sure you have yummy visual content for them to pin. But don’t stop there, however: Re-pin customer content that fits your brand onto your boards.
Use Instagram to capture photo opportunities and share them.
Finally carry this through to YouTube videos. Create your own channel and brand it with:
- Your logo
- Your colors
- Your graphics
Then create lively videos to regularly share with customers.
9. Go Mobile
What was the hottest trend in 2011?
2011 saw the introduction of QR codes to the Western world. Now you see them everywhere – even on sandwich boards outside your local grocery store, making it easy for you to use the QR code to enter their survey.
When customers use your QR code, reward them with coupons, discounts, or even just great photographs they can share.
Go one step further in using your QR codes to help brand your business: Don’t just use a plain, generated QR code: Have a custom QR code designed containing or incorporating graphics such as your logo – one that makes people instantly think of your business.
(If you can’t yet afford a designer who specializes in QR codes, do it yourself with generators such as Unitag that allow you to incorporate your own graphics into your QR code in a variety of styles.)
10. Optimize Your Signature
Don’t miss the opportunity to make the most of your signature. Include anchor text to your blog or website, as well as your tagline.
Make sure your signature is as consistent as possible, everywhere you use it – forums, flyers, membership sites and in your emails and colors.
Think of your signature as yet another handy branding tool.
Although these pointers include the most basic elements of branding, you’ll find they are still the top ten ways to create your most effective online brand. Get into the habit putting them to work – and watch your branding results soar.