Has anyone ever told you that you need to focus on your brand and how important it is to your business?
Because most people find a business online today, even for referrals, an important part of your brand is online brand design. In this post I approach your businesses brand in terms of the online part and how customers see your online brand.
Picture a business location that is four boards nailed together in an alley. Would you trust that business?
It may seem overwhelming to not only create a business but also create its online presence. Even if it’s overwhelming, your online brand is as important as a storefront for a physical business. Thinking about your online brand before you get started will help you figure it all out. What do you want your business to be in your customer’s eyes?
Equipped with thoughtful answers to the following section, you’ll be able to target your customer online and be more effective growing your business online. It’s important for you to understand your brand. If you don’t understand your brand and aren’t able to explain it in a sentence, your customer’s won’t either.
The first thing to understand is what your online brand is.
What Your Online Brand Is
The first place to start with your online brand design is understanding what an online brand is. You have a thorough understanding of your business and all your different services. Customers who encounter your business for the first time don’t have that understanding, though.
What do people feel and think about your business online?
That is a big part of what your brand is. That means a big part of it is out of your control because you can’t control how somebody feels or thinks. You can influence it, though!
What It’s Made Up Of
No, brands aren’t made up of sugar and spice and all things nice but that would be nice! Online brands are more complex than that and not always so nice. It can seem like a puzzle at times but the puzzle can be put together in time.
Your online brand can be broken down into two main items which need to be taken into consideration at all times:
- How others feel when they interactive with your business online.
- How you want people to feel when they interact with your business online.
You don’t have control over the first one, though. People will feel how they feel and you can’t have a direct effect on that (try telling them how awesome your business is). You do have the power to influence them, though! This is what online brand design is all about.Click To Tweet
Your online brand is a conversation among customers and between you and your customers. Your online brand design helps you be part of that conversation and guide it in a direction you want it to go.
The Tangible Part Of Your Online Brand
Above I covered what your brand is made up of, but those are the less tangible parts. These less tangible parts are influenced and achieved with the tangible parts. There are too many parts for me to name them all, but there are some basics that are the building blocks.
Here’s the foundation of your online brand:
Each business is unique so this is only the basics that every business must focus on. Some businesses may need to focus their brand in more niche areas, though. Niche forums (eg. affiliate forums) online are a great example of how unique each brand is and where you may need to focus. The pieces of your online brand will be dependent on where your target audience hangs out online.
You have the basic introduction of what an online brand is, now it’s time to move onto why online brand design is important to your businesses survival and growth online.
Why Focus On Your Online Brand
If you can’t control how people feel and talk about your business online, why bother with all it takes to have an awesome brand?
Simple, you can influence how people feel and you can join the conversation with your customers to help guide the conversation.
How would you feel if you went to a business website and it was put together in a few hours with little thought or attention to the importance of how it made customers feel?
You may still not think it matters but how would you feel if you saw a business whose store was four boards nailed together on the sidewalk? You probably wouldn’t trust that business.You wouldn't trust a store that was four boards nailed together, why would you trust that online? Click To Tweet
Ask yourself how you feel when you go into a restaurant and the floors and walls are filthy dirty. You don’t eat off the floor or walls but it has a profound effect on how it makes you feel about the cleanliness and trustworthiness of that business.
The same feelings occur when a customer finds a business online. If a customer’s first encounter with your business is a poorly designed brand, that will be their first and lasting impression.
Thoughtful and well executed online brand design avoids these problems and gives customer’s the first impression your business deserves.
Influence The Discussion
Your online brand isn’t only the first impression, though. Once a customer does (or doesn’t) do business with you, the conversation goes on. People talk about your business online in either a positive or negative way through reviews, recommendations, etc.
Being part of the discussion is essential to your online brand. The conversation will happen with or without you so you will want to be there. Being part of it, influencing it, and being there to guide it is essential to growing your business online. That means acknowledging and resolving the negative AND thanking and appreciating the positive.
Your online brand is going to be created whether you have a part in it or not. By choosing to have a part in your online brand design, you will have a part in guiding the discussion and making sure you have a place in your online brand design.
This may all seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be in the beginning. There are some better places to start than others. My goal is to help you move in the right direction one step at a time while avoiding common pitfalls.
Avoid Online Brand Design Pitfalls
It’s tempting to start putting yourself out there online without much thought. This is a dangerous way to start and something you don’t want to do. You’re putting your business at risk by not thinking it through, knowing your customer, and knowing the why behind what you’re doing.
- Ignore social media expecting people to come to you.
- Forget to optimize your websites for search. Your search listing is as much of an ad to try to get people to click on as an actual advertisement.
- Design your logo yourself unless you have a design background. Especially don’t use a free or cheap do it yourself logo creation website.
- Use a free do it yourself website design services such as Wix or Squarespace. They do have their place, but not for a business.
- Try to be everything to everyone.
There are a lot more pitfalls that will hinder your online brand design, but these are the common ones. Now that you know where some of the common pitfalls are, it’s time to start building your online brand intelligently.
Where To Start With Your Online Brand Design
The best place to start your online brand design is in front of a piece of paper. Yes, an old fashion piece of paper and not an iPad or other electronic devices.
Write down a few words what you hope people feel when they encounter your brand. These words will help you formulate other parts of your brand. They will give you a basis for what you are trying to make people feel and what they do feel. You’ll then be able to ask if the two are syncing up.
Now it’s time to determine who you are targeting.
Having your ideal customer in your head is one thing, but creating a persona makes them come to life. Putting them down on paper also makes you focus more on the details rather than trying to remember only bits and pieces at any given time (yes, I’ve done that before too).
You can get back to a computer for this one because there’s a great online tool to help you create a buyer persona through a questionnaire. Get ready to answer 19 questions about your ideal customer all the way down to their income.
You can base your buyer persona off of a current customer too! If you have one ideal customer then that’s the person you should be creating your online brand for. How did they find you? What convinced them to buy from you?
Don’t ever skip this step, though!
Just remember:You can't be all things to all people, the second you try you'll be nothing to everyone. Click To Tweet
This one is essential to your social media profiles and is a must on your website especially. This tells your customers what you do in a brief sentence. It should be displayed at the top of your website before anything else.
Never forget that your customer doesn’t know who you are or what you do. Never assume your customer knows what you do, be clear exactly what value you can add to their life. Do this through your value proposition.
Your customer should understand what the purpose of your business is by reading your value proposition. There are resources out there to help you write a great value proposition, one being this great infographic from Quick Sprout.
Before you grow and start getting employees, it’s probably just you or a business partner also. Take that opportunity to approach your business in a more personal way on social media.
You don’t need a fancy logo to show off on social media when starting out, a professional picture of yourself is a great way to start. You’re also better off doing this than creating your own logo or using a cheap do it yourself logo creation service.
Not only will you get the benefit of a more personal brand but people react to faces much better than they do a logo. You’ll find people are more responsive to you if you have a picture of yourself.
Your professional headshot will make it easier to join online conversations with your target audience and learn more about them. People are more closed off when they’re talking to a faceless brand.
There’s one important task to take on before you start creating social media profiles, website, and everything else that goes into online brand design.
Without understanding what your goal is and the key performance indicator (KPI) of those goals, you’ll never know if your efforts are having an effect. Start your efforts out with some goals so you can figure out if you’re on the right track.
Your goal may be to drive sales, create brand awareness, drive website visits, etc. The important part here is to not move forward without goals but to create them and then determine what the KPI of those goals are.
Before you have any social media profiles, a website, or anything else, set up your email list. If you have an email address then you have a way to promote your email list.
Once you get started on social media then you’ll be able to further promote your email list and add value to people’s lives. If you have a physical location, you can offer a discount on a purchase in exchange for their permission to add them to your email list.
Email still remains the best way to stay in touch with your customers. As you grow your brand online there is a number of ways to promote your email list and stay in contact with your customers.
Your Online Brand = Your Business Story
Every part of your online brand design tells the story of who your business is. The design of your website (or lack of one) shows the personality of your business or how easy it is to do business with you.
You don’t want your store to be four boards nailed together in an alley.You also don’t want it to be that online. Online brand design can take time to master but with help from a professional, everything will go more smoothly.
An online brand designer can help you take advantage of the many ways to grow your business online.
Online Brand & Your Website
It’s true your website is at the center of your entire online brand. Good web design is essential because it helps make sure your website is designed with the purpose it needs to be successful.