Your brand is your message to the world. Your brand gives your target market a reason to care about your business. Your brand is very important.
But business branding is an often misunderstood topic that leaves a lot of small business owners confused and stuck, with no clear idea on how to move forward.
But here’s the truth: branding your business does not have to be complicated, and business branding is not just for the big marketing firms. It’s for every business that wants to carve out a space for itself and leave its mark.
Now that we’ve gotten that cleared up, what’s the next step? If your business is new and building a brand from scratch, or if you are reinventing your business brand online, here are 4.5 ways to get a head start.
Ways to Build a Rock-Solid Small Business Brand Online #1
Create a strong home base: Your business website.
Your website will become your hub for all online branding activities, so it’s important to make sure your website creates a good impression and meets the needs of your prospects and customers.
Your website should present a clear picture of your brand. In most cases, this is where the look, feel, and sound of your brand will be most developed and thoroughly displayed. Think of your website as a virtual storefront or office – a place that customers get to experience your brand from the inside, or a backstage pass to what makes your business unique.
Every detail counts: what colors will your brand rely on? What graphics, fonts, and logos will you incorporate? How will your copy sound? Will you display casual and quirky self-portraits, or stick with formal business headshots?
One of the best ways to develop a business website that presents a strong, clear brand is to incorporate high-quality content. You can do this in a number of ways, including free downloads, eBooks, videos, or informational articles.
Whichever method(s) you choose, use your website content as an opportunity to display and reinforce your brand. If your business is young and edgy, make sure your content reflects that. If your business is focused on reliability and old-fashioned values, represent that in the type of content you publish and the tone you use to create it.
Create a business website that truly displays your company personality and values – not just your products or service.
Ways to Build a Rock-Solid Small Business Brand Online #2
Start and maintain a blog for your business.
One of the top ways to build and communicate a strong brand is by creating a blog for your business. Blogging gives you a platform to build a community around. It’s a space where you can continually show your brand personality to your prospects and customers.
For your blogging efforts to have real and positive impact on your brand-building, you should keep a few things in mind:
• Your blog should be a place to show off your expertise and provide real value for your readers. You should publish content that helps solve problems for your prospects and customers.
• Your blog shouldn’t focus on simply promoting your products or services. Don’t publish advertisements — it won’t do much to strengthen your brand.
• Remember that a blog isn’t a one-way medium. Engage your readers by asking them questions, mentioning them, and responding to their comments.
Ways to Build a Rock-Solid Small Business Brand Online #3
Appear on other important blogs and websites.
If you are just beginning to build your brand online, you probably don’t have much traction yet. For example, if you’ve started a blog for your business, you readership is probably still fairly low. Even if you do already have a large following, you should always be looking for ways to reach new audiences. One great way to accomplish this is by appearing on other prominent websites and blogs.
How do you get your name, ideas, and content onto other people’s web space? Here are two great ways to get started:
• Offer to write guest posts for popular blogs in your industry. Bloggers are always on the lookout for quality content, so if you can lend your expertise and contribute a helpful, valuable article, you have a great chance at getting published. Look for blogs that relate to your business and that have a large following. Take some time reading over a blog before pitching your guest post. Learn about the type of content they publish, and look for reach and engagement indicators such as number of views, social media shares, and comments (the more reach & engagement, the better).
• Offer your knowledge as an expert source. Let people know you are knowledgeable in your field, and happy to contribute information and quotes to articles and blog posts. If you’re helpful and inviting, you’ll find plenty of journalists and bloggers interested in capturing your advice. A great way to get started is by signing up to be an expert source at Help a Reporter Out. Once you are registered, HARO will send you daily emails with pitches from bloggers and journalists looking for experts in your field or industry.
Ways to Build a Rock-Solid Small Business Brand Online #4
Become an active part of social media.
Regardless of the type of business you own, your customers, prospects, competition, and peers are participating in social media – which means you have an excellent opportunity to reach these people with your brand.
Just like your website, your blog, and your other web content, social media is a place for you to strengthen your brand presence on the web and connect with customers. Remember that social media is a conversation tool, not an advertisement opportunity. Engage with people and be yourself (avoid sounding like a stuffy company representative!)
Not sure where to start? Create profiles on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Or, do some research into which social platforms your target market uses most. Once you’ve chosen your platforms, begin connecting with people by asking questions, offering advice, and sharing great content and resources. You can (and should) talk about your business too, but do so in a way that engages people and shows off your unique brand and personality.
Bonus: Ways to Build a Rock-Solid Small Business Brand Online #4.5
Consistency is key.
Think of all the strategies for brand building that we’ve talked about here as puzzle pieces. They have to all fit perfectly together into one big picture in order for your brand to be successful and make an impact.
The tone you use on your social media profiles should mirror the tone you use on your website. The content you publish on other blogs should be in line with the content you publish on your own blog. If you customize your social media profiles (such as your twitter background), it should incorporate the same colors and logos as your website. See how this works? You want people to recognize your brand instantly, no matter where on the web they are interacting with it.
There’s no shortcut to building a strong, effective online brand for your business. It requires time and effort, but any business, no matter how small, can get big results.
Sonja Jobson is a Web Content Specialist and Web Copywriter who is enthusiastic about helping small business owners and entrepreneurs build successful, meaningful businesses on the web. Learn more at www.sonjajobson.com or find her on Twitter