Online, you don’t have a physical storefront. You don’t have a sign outside your store. You don’t have people there, in person, to provide the kind of service and treatment that leaves a mark on your customers. All you have, when it comes to creating the kind of reputation, image, and emotional impact that you need is your brand.
Here, we’re going to look at how you build, sustain, improve, and establish your brand online.
Know your market
First of all, it’s important to know who you’re building a brand for. The way that we communicate with people changes on who we are talking to. If you’re selling products and services to a market of professionals and other business owners, then you’re going to want to represent yourself as professionally and as no-nonsense as possible. If you’re targeting families and mothers, then a warmer, more emotional approach may be needed. Define your ideal customer profile, so you know how you need to shape the brand in order to appeal to them. Do research on your key demographics if you need to understand your own audience a little better.
Know your competition
You and your audience aren’t the only people in the room. The market is populated by competitors, as well, and there are a few good reasons to pay attention to them. For one, if they are more established than you, then you can follow their branding and marketing efforts to improve on their successes and learn from their failures. More importantly, still, you need to see how they position themselves so you can brand yourself in a niche that they might not be hitting, making it easier to gather the customers that they’re missing. There are plenty of ways to research your competition online, from following them on social media to subscribing to their newsletters. It pays to know your enemy.
Find your brand message
At the core of your brand, beyond your name, your logo, or your story, is your brand message. Your unique selling proposition is your greatest tool. It’s the unique aspect of your products and services that sets you apart from anyone else in the market and targets your audience’s pain points. A good USP is the seed of a strong, consistent brand that’s built around that one strength (or set of strengths as the case may be). For brands with a more versatile range of products and services, the brand message might need to be a little more all-encompassing, but if you can keep it tight and specific, it has the chance to be even more powerful.
Find your brand style
Now, you need to look at the elements of your brand that the customer is going to see. Now is when you think about the logo, the imagery, the visual style and writing voice. A consistent, appealing style creates familiarity and makes the brand easier to remember. If you keep switching up the visual style and the tone of communication, it’s confusing to customers and makes it seem like your focus is in multiple places. The best way to make sure your brand style is consistent is to create a style guide. This effectively documents the different visual elements you will rely on in branding, from color schemes to different ways to use the logo. It’s great to have a style guide when working with outsourced marketing services, as anyone can look at it and (if they’re good at their job) replicate the brand in whatever they create.
Find your brand voice
As mentioned, how your brand “speaks” through its imagery and written content may be different depending on who your audience is. That’s the key foundation you should be building from while developing an authentic brand voice. A brand voice can cover everything from terms you will and won’t use to describe services and the business, as well as the qualities you try to embody. It’s a good idea to list a few key attributes of the business, such as “professional, authoritative, reliable,” as an example and think about how those aspects affect what you do and don’t say.
Get the visibility you need
Above, you have the building blocks of your brand; now you need to think about how you establish and implement it. A good brand needs to get recognized, which means that it needs visibility and the opportunity for the market to see it. Advertising can help you drive a lot of traffic your way, but organic marketing tends to be better for establishing a presence in the long run. SEO services can help your website find its place on Google, making it easier for the relevant people to find it. Not only does this direct traffic to the website, but a high ranking on Google also establishes a sort of authority that makes it easier to trust and be open to the brand.
Build your community
Another way to build your visibility also offers a means to build an online community. Social media marketing is just about essential in online business. Engaging with customers, offering support, and building a community does wonders for the brand. It creates positive social proof that can attract others. When new faces see that your brand has a community of active, engaged fans and customers, then it only reinforces the idea that your brand is worth supporting. Finding a way to stand out on social media can help you attract attention, but the way to retain followers and grow the community in the long-term is to engage with them often and organically, not just to publish content or aim for viral impact.
Show your expertise
Content is, however, crucial. It gives you fuel to share on your social media, it populates your site and keeps it relevant, and it improves your SEO efforts. It also demonstrates your expertise over your industry, services, and adjacent topic. Content marketing can help you reach far and wide, but you should be picky about what kind of content you publish. For instance, when you are planning content, you need to first think of the value that it offers the reader. Is it informative or educational? Is it newsworthy or interesting? Is it funny or entertaining? If you can’t find the value in a piece of content, then it’s not likely spending the time and effort on it.
Manage your reputation
Just as you’re aiming to build your brand, there are those who may be trying to tear it down. Some of the negative coverage or reviews you get may be justified, and you should be careful with how you respond to legitimate criticism. Taking it as an opportunity to grow and incorporate feedback can help bolster your reputation. When it comes to negative reviews and content that is based on falsehoods or motivated by competitors or disgruntled employees, you need reputation monitoring tools. A slew of poor faith bad reviews could be part of what is known as a negative SEO strategy, attempting to paint a poor picture of you through search engines to outshine your own SEO efforts. You have to be prepared to challenge it.
Leave satisfaction in your wake
Of course, the best way to manage your reputation, and to improve the qualities associated with your company is to leave a greater positive impact to outshine any efforts to diminish your brand. The single best way to do that is to focus on proactive customer service. On-site chat tools, offering resolutions to issues on social media, taking part in review sites to respond to and address customer complaints, all of these can greatly help your brand. Even if a company does mess up, its supporters can be quick to forgive them if they are willing to own up to it, to make it right, and to actively improve on it. The online world offers lots of opportunities to offer support publicly, which wins over not the customer you’re helping but also your spectators, as well.
Learn and grow
Online, you have one advantage to building your brand and marketing strategy that doesn’t exist in the real world. Copious amounts of data to look into and learn from. Making use of marketing analytics is key, as it will show you what works, what doesn’t, who is engaging with your branding, and which platforms offer the greatest return on investment. Take the time to look over your social media, SEO, and website analytics to understand how successful your branding is and where you should be focusing your efforts to improve it.
Hopefully, with all of the above tips, you understand a little more of what goes into a brand. There’s a lot more to learn about every topic we’ve mentioned, so don’t be afraid to break it down and go into the specifics you need to learn on each topic. An excellent brand takes work, patience, and creativity, so be prepared to put in the time and effort.