Let’s face it. Business can be a battle, especially when you are trying to build one online. And like all battles, to win you must find the winning strategies and implement them. We need customers and clients to find us, love us and keep coming back for more. We also know that the best businesses are experts at branding. Who doesn’t know the Nike swish? What person in the entire world doesn’t recognize the golden arches? We sing along to radio jingles more than we do the top-40!
Here’s the thing – we know the “real deal” when we see it. Easy. The tough part is knowing how to get there ourselves, and more importantly, why we’re doing it. So, what is branding, really? You need to know this before you can get your branding message straight and become known as an expert online.
Name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers. (American Marketing Association)
Great. Looking at this you may think branding is just good for attracting customers, and in so doing, beat your competition. However, that is a more narrow-minded view that may get you in trouble. The real goal of branding should be aimed at making your potential customers see you as the only valuable choice in the market, inspire loyalty in your clientele and leave them feeling emotionally attached to what you offer in a way that they want to go out and talk about it. Think about Apple, Manolo Blahnik shoes (better known as the Sex and the City shoe of choice), Mercedes, Virgin or anything else that develops a cult following. Why? Because the customer feels something after they buy – be it a sense of belonging, sexiness or being an innovator. The important thing to remember is that just by association with the brand they are emotionally drawn in and befriend the brand as though it is a personality instead of a symbol.
Entire process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product (good or service) in the consumers’ mind, through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers. (businessdictionary.com)
Benefit of Branding
Loyalty is the key to maintaining a successful business online. A satisfied customer could leave you. A loyal customer will not. Branding creates an emotional, credible connection between you and your clients. It is the entire customer experience from start to finish, from the moment a customer researches you on Google and sees your website to the moment they get the invoice. Each and every step can be branded along the way – make sure your website is professional, that your emails reflect your personality and your invoice or package is delivered with a red bow (if a red bow is your thing). And what are you doing after the sale to keep them remembering you and wanting more?
Here are 5 steps to follow to make sure you are on track to a clear brand:
- Message: Is it clear and concise? Your own customers should be able to easily talk about you in 1 sentence to others so that your message is easily spread and remembered. This is not the same as your elevator statement. It should communicate the main benefit that you offer. Think about something you just bought or are thinking of buying. If you had to tell a friend about why you are buying it what would you say? It might be something like – “I love their customer service” or “They have the best design” or “I always feel so happy when I show off my newest purchase from them” or “I know when I go there I will always get the same service” or “I know I always get the best deal there”. These statements are not talking about a list of features. They are the standout thing that the customer takes away from their experience. What is your standout statement? If you are just getting started you can always help this message spread by writing it on your website in the form of a tag line, use variations throughout your copy, and in your testimonials.
- Emotion: Have you inspired your customer to feel something? What are the one or two emotions you want someone to feel when they use your product or service? Fun, fearlessness, prestige, speed, ease…don’t try and be all things to all people. What works already with your personality and systems you are using? Then do a clean sweep of your site, copy and emails to make sure they communicate this with the right look and words. You can always ask your friends what they feel when they see your site and get your emails. And if they all come back with similar answers you have nailed it.
- Credibility: Always work to improve and strengthen it. It takes the most time to build it, but it can also be the fastest thing to disappear if you have made a faulty claim or not managed your client’s expectations. A word that can be overused but is SO IMPORTANT to use is “transparency”. If anything you are saying or doing with your online business feels strange to you then perhaps it is because you are going against your values and what you stand for. If you are transparent then your customer comes in looking for what else they can get or learn. If you are covering up a few things, spinning your message, or trying to be something you are not your customer will come in looking for ways to not buy what you offer. Think about a few times this has happened to you when shopping around online. Being consistent and being yourself are the best ingredients to build your credibility.
- Motivation: Ah yes, the “M” word. Create an atmosphere of action for yourself first. Set yourself up from the start the right way and this won’t be a problem. Once the foundation is working you can concentrate on your message and make sure that everything you do is delivering a consistent one. And when you are delivering a consistent message your customer will be motivated to buy. How do you stay motivated?
- Do something that you love to do. Then when the going gets tough you are still happy to keep doing what you are doing.
- Get systems that are easy for you to use. This means the right website that can be updated easily by you or someone else, the right lead building tools to get traffic to your site, the right email or phone systems, the right outsourced staff, etc. for you. If you are not a techy person then ask others like this what they use. If you like to learn the ins-and-outs of something and be really hands on then ask others like this what they use. Just because someone you look up to operates a certain way, it may not mean it is right for you. Find successful people who have personalities and strengths similar to you and ask what they use for their systems. And remember the more automated you can make it the better!
- Hang out with the right people. This can be as easy as visiting certain blogs to get inspiration, going to networking groups online or offline (check out Meetup), or attending seminars. Most of the time your family and friends won’t completely understand you and will give you advice like “It’s OK. Things will be better.” rather than “You need to try my assistant in India who can do that for you for $3/hour and this new free plugin for your wordpress blog.” When you need a little pick me up Google the word of the area you need help in and add either “help” or “community” to it. Look for a community, forum or blog online you can hang out in for a while. You will come away feeling refreshed and perhaps even with some great new ideas from people who are out there suffering the same problems as you and turning them into successes.
- Loyalty: Keep the customer wanting more. Often times the easiest way of doing this is by staying in touch with great offers and freebies and reminding them about the success stories of others who have used your products or services. A fantastic email tool to use that is automated is AWeber. All you have to do is spend a day thinking about what you can offer your clients over the next month (like ebooks, MP3s or discounts). Then create them, load them to a hidden page on your website, and write the emails telling your clients how to get them. You can set the emails to go out at a future date. Another great way is by making sure you offer special things on your blog or other social media accounts from time to time. Birthday cards work well too. What do you get from companies now that make you think ‘WOW, what a nice surprise.” Think about provide a nice surprise for your clients at least quarterly.
Remember, branding doesn’t have to be a long difficult process. Even on a small scale, personal branding for your small business is possible on a tiny or even non-existent budget. The internet and social networking sites make this easier than ever before. In future posts, I’ll share some simple steps in creating and spreading your brand. Branding can be fun, and more importantly, very rewarding. Remember, human beings run deep with emotions and most memories are forged through emotion. What are your customers feeling when they come across you?