May 21, 2019// Category: Digital Marketing
Making money on the web isn’t easy. You need a great product, and you need great marketing. But before any of that, you need a brand.
Branding isn’t just for big businesses.
What is your brand?
Your brand is the images and ideas people associate with you or your company’s name. It should resonate with and inspire your core values in your most valued market segments, and it should do this throughout your online and offline marketing materials. Whatever the medium, your brand should shine through.
What happens if you don’t have a consistent brand message?
Your audience, the people you come in contact with, will fail to associate your marketing materials with each other or with your services, making your communications less effective. Your words, images and logo are less memorable, because there is no cohesive idea tying them together. And given that it takes 8 contacts on average to make a sale (source: Salesforce), every opportunity you have to make an impression through mind equity helps you rise above the competition.
When I shop, I know that when I grab a Simple Truth product that I’m getting something natural and organic. When I buy Nike, I’m getting the stylish brand of choice of LeBron and that they have been tackling complex social issues. And when I go to In-N-Out, I’m getting a flame-broiled cheeseburger with fresh ingredients, friendly staff, huge lines and no frills. I will have images in my mind connected with those names, including the colors, designs, people or architecture of those establishments.
But those are billion-dollar companies with massive marketing muscle behind them. What about the little guy?
Small companies and even individuals can learn from what the big companies do. If billions of dollars are being poured into branding efforts, it’s because it matters. Good branding is the difference between someone meeting you at a networking event and forgetting about you a week later, or remembering you instantly when you call them.
It goes without saying, but if your products are for children, your approach to branding will be different than if you are providing services for the elderly. It’s important that you understand your market and what is important to them.
For very small businesses, you are your brand (though you can absolutely create a separate brand apart from your business). Evaluate what people remember you by. You may ask your friends or acquaintances for help with this.
This helps in a couple of ways. First, it’s easier for people to associate you with your branding when they are similar. Secondly, it will be easier for you to maintain a consistent tone when your brand matches your personality. Thirdly, you will have more fun!
So if you are socially conscious, family oriented, an adventure-seeker, don’t be afraid to incorporate that into your company’s image.
If you are a naturally shy person, this may seem to slightly contradict the first point, but you really can’t build a brand around being shy.
The point here is to push the envelope and stand out in every way possible. Think of the key area that your company stakes its brand on and go hard in that area.
Your tone is a part of your branding and should remain consistent across all lines of communications. If your website copy is fun and bubbly, your newsletter and print media should remain the same.
You should also attempt to maintain consistency across your marketing assets. Your color scheme, design principles and feel should read across:
This is why it is best to utilize a single agency to manage your brand identity than having many different freelancers do so independently.
As your services change, so will your brand identity. You may want to shift focus into a new market or separate yourself from your competitors. Whatever the reason, a rebrand can help you achieve that goal.
One of the things that can be learned from large corporations is the tendency to spend enormous energy on rebranding efforts.
Uber recently spent over 1000 hours interviewing customers to understand how they saw the company to help them determine why there was a disconnect between the customers and the brand. The result was a shift from their former image as a technology company to a global service provider: a major pivot that has largely been viewed as a success.
As a small business owner, you too can utilize your strategic pivots to uncover how your customers perceive you and the services you provide.
When you use a product or service, your feedback is invaluable to the seller or service provider. That’s why they send you survey notifications when you browse their sites or use their apps. As a small business owner, you can use your own customers to help you hone your brand.
Your clients and customers are your biggest asset. It’s important for you to understand why your customers chose to hire you or buy your products when they could have hired someone else. Was it your price? Did you offer services that nobody else could match? Was it your persistence? Customer satisfaction surveys can do just that. Get connected with Survey Monkey and start collecting data from your customers.
Take the learnings and internalize them. You may not need to take 1000 hours, but if you see that what makes people select your services are not the same qualities that you have infused in your brand identity, consider changing it up.
Your best asset as a small nimble company is your ability to shift quickly. Study how your competition is positioning in the market and research market trends. If you see an area of need, pivot your services and your brand to fill the need.
Keyword research can also help you identify how your brand is perceived. You will never get more free data than you will from Google and if your visitors are responding to your keywords. Build your pages around your unique value propositions.
The questions that people ask and the clicks that you receive can be an invaluable asset to helping you learn which messages people respond to. The same can be said for your page views and session duration statistics.
Of course, whenever analyzing statistics, be aware of where your visitors are coming from. This is where campaigns can come in handy, allowing you to analyze and compare cohorts.
In many cases, the first marketing material you will create for a new business will be your website.
Since the first touchpoint you will have with many potential clients or customers will be your website, it only makes sense that your branding start on the web. Therefore, don’t be tempted to backload your marketing budget with advertising spend, while putting minimal effort towards your website without a cohesive messaging strategy or marketing deck. If you compete online, you are in direct competition with the Big Kahunas of your industry. You need to surf a big stick.
In short, your website should be your marketing deck, style guide and messaging platform in one easy to digest package, for consumption on the web. It is the brainchild of hours of focused thought about your company and audience, and a carefully crafted visual medium that succinctly represents who you are and what you do.
Mascots aren’t just for sports teams and huge communications companies. A mascot is just a personification of your brand. It can be a celebrity, a fictional person, an animal, like the Geico gecko, or an animated character. But the most important thing is that it is memorable. A mascot may not fit all business types, and depending on the voice you are looking for, may not be appropriate. But a well-used mascot can make your brand more recognizable and relatable.
Proper branding can elevate just as quickly as poor branding can sink you. Take some time to consider the above advice, and develop the strategy that is right for you, whether you are an international corporation or a solopreneur just getting started.