Every business wants to be a customer’s first choice. What makes all the difference to the heart of any great business? Building and managing a Brand. Building and maintaining a successful brand will help you strengthen and control the way customers think of your business.
Do not be deceived. Branding isn’t just for large corporations. It’s just as important to the small business entrepreneur, especially online business owners. With cutthroat competition on the Web, those who don’t brand will probably go out of business. So no matter what the product or service – You need to be Branding your business.
The importance of branding was discovered decades ago BUT branding your website is a relatively new thing (considering the fact that there were not so many websites around five years ago).
What is Branding?
Branding singles out and highlights your product or service from your competitors’.
The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. A brand may identify one item, a family of items, or all items of that seller.” [Note: Abridged]
A brand is not only a company logo but a set of associations that a customer or potential customer has of a company, product, service or even an individual. It cannot be stressed enough that there are no second chances to first impressions. Consistency within a company brand is vital because through time, a customer will grow attached to the experiences they have with the product or service provided. You can directly affect these associations with your own efforts and actively promote your business through marketing and corporate identity. Branding affects every single interaction you have with your customers and suppliers.
Most importantly branding makes you STAND OUT in amongst all other competitors.
Take Nike for example. Everyone knows what company, product and service is provided when they see Nike’s simple Logo.
The fact that you remember the brand name and have positive associations with that brand makes your product selection easier and enhances the value and satisfaction you get from the product or service.
Read the following 10 STEPS to brand your website!
1. Have a Clear Purpose
When your customer or potential customer views your website, they must see a clear purpose of the website. In order to do this, you will have to have a crystal clear vision of what exactly you are offering so that it is communicated to the visitors. They must know why they are visiting your website and the reason why it is worth their time.
For example if you have a dance studio in your neighborhood, “I am going to talk about dance” just won’t cut it. What kind of dance are you going to be talking about? Classical Ballet? Hip Hop? Break Dancing? What angle are you going to have? Is it news of a new production in Theaters? Is it History of Dance? How does this relate to your visitors? Do you offer similar services or dance classes?
You need to be able to answer all those questions.
2. Be Consistent
Many studies have been done, confirming the fact that the actual writing section of a blog or website determines the overall quality of the site.
Being consistent with your writing style is vital. It does not matter what style you prefer, whether it is formal or informal, bringing personal experiences into the mix or keeping a neutral tone, just keep it consistent. This is especially important when a site has more than one author.
Looking at Tech Blogs for example, a frequent reader would definitely be able to tell the difference between a post from TechCrunch and one from Mashable just from the writing style right? That is what branding is about!
3. Stick with your Tagline!
A tagline is a slogan which succinctly, memorably, and descriptively sums up a company or product. A well constructed tagline can endure in the minds of consumers for years; some taglines have actually outlived their products. Once a company has a tagline, it includes the tagline in all its marketing materials to get the tagline into the minds of consumers so that they think about that company frequently.
For example everyone knows “Im Loving it” is McDonald’s.
Whatever your tagline is, be consistent! People will not remember it if you keep changing it every month.
If you decide to use a tagline, consider adding it to the title tag of your website. This way, the tagline will be displayed on search engines when users come across your site.
4. Create a GOOD LOGO!
Spending a little more money on a good logo is NOT a waste! Medieval castles used to be identified by their flags, websites are identified by their logos. If you have a tight budget for designing your website, make sure your logo is your top priority.
A logo is the first thing a customer will notice and the last image that will stay with them.
Plus, if anyone wants to mention your website or blog, they will consider using your logo as an illustration on the article or piece of writing! This will mean that the logo itself is going to characterize your site. Our VodaHost logo is an example at the top of this page!
5. Make use of Favicons
Favicons are the small 16 pixel by 16 pixel pictures you see beside some URLs in your browser’s address bar.
There are several tutorials online that will walk you through how to make a favicon and install it on your blog, so we’ll just point you in the right direction!
Most modern browsers support favicons, therefore you should make use of them. Try to adapt your logo, or use the initials of the name of your site, and put them on the favicon.
Favicons are also important because they will appear on the bookmark section, enabling your users to recognize your website more easily among the hundreds of others.
6. Match your design to your content!
The design of your website should match the content. If your website is about car motor mechanics, it would just be a little odd to have flowers bordering your site right?
Make sure you have identified who your core audience is and make decisions based on their perceptions and preferences.
If you are going to write for professionals or older people, perhaps a traditional newspaper look would be a good choice. If your readers are younger, a more colorful design could be used. And so on.
7. Choose a color palette
Color communicates far more than most people realize. Choosing wrong colors can be a disaster for your website. Make sure you consider your customers, their expectations, preferences and the general feeling of your product or service.
You should use the color of your logo on your website, so that when users visit your site, they’ll feel like they’re on the right page. This will make them feel secure. If the colors you use are inconsistent with your logo, it’s likely users will not only feel like they’re on the wrong site, but they’ll also feel that your site is not professional. This affects their trust in your site. If users don’t trust your site, there’s no chance they’re going to use it. Make sure you choose a color palette and stick with it.
After a few years, you will definitely need to give your site a face-lift. That is absolutely fine. As long as you keep consistent with the color, readers will still feel at home, and your brand will be kept intact.
8. Social Networking
Social Networking has become so popular nowadays that most businesses use one type or another for advertising. Yes, it is free advertising! You could use Twitter, FriendFeed, or Facebook! Create an account on each of those services specifically for your website.
Here is a good example: Michael Arrington is a web celebrity, but instead of creating personal social networking accounts, he always creates them as “TechCrunch,” reinforcing his brand across those platforms.
Social Networks are a free way to advertise and expose your brand to millions of people.
9. Spending money on Advertising
If advertising was an easy thing, companies would do it themselves instead of spend billions of dollars annually.
It is very possible to create a strong brand without professional help; however, paid promotional efforts can certainly make you reach this goal easier and faster.
If you are not willing to spend a whole lot of money on advertising, you could consider spending money only during the launch and within the first few months. It is advised that you use your money wisely, building your brand, working with your content and taking advantage of the free advertising methods. One advantage of paid advertising is that it allows you to deliver a specific message to a specific audience. There are ways in which you can achieve this without a professional however. If you purchase a banner on a popular blog, for example, you will know the audience and will be able to tailor your words to pass your brand to those readers.
10. Spreading your Brand
Branding is psychological; it exists in the minds of customers and prospective customers (where we hope it stays). You are going to have to try and expose your brand as much as possible for your web users. The more they view your brand, the more it will stick with them.
Practically speaking, use your website name and logo in as many different places as possible. Put the link on your email signatures; write guest articles for popular blogs and put your website name on the byline. Talk about your website in online forums. Purchase advertising banners. Stamp t-shirts with your website logo on it and so on.
Remember: Your branding must be universal and repetitive if it is going to stick in the hearts and minds of your customers!
Make sure that you never let another website visitor leave your website without having been exposed to your branding and certainly don’t frighten them off by suddenly changing your branding!
That’s it then! In an overpopulated, competitive world, those are your 10 Steps to Brand your Business online and BE your customer’s first choice!