No matter how your message is distributed, the core function of branding remains the same: communicating to customers who you are, what you do and how you do it. One of the easiest, most direct channels to convey this today is the web.
Nearly every brand needs an online presence to compete in today’s marketplace. The cost of developing a truly effective website has dropped dramatically in the past few years, although many who build their own, or attempt to have another company or employee do it for them are at a disadvantage before they even start.
Organic search results can still drive traffic. Many consumers search online for a company’s service or product, and all you really have to do is be found. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a small retailer and can’t afford the time or expertise to drive traffic to your site – most customers may be looking for directions to your store of office anyway.
However, websites serve very different purposes for different companies. Your goal might be to generate new business, or sending new messages to existing clients, or even just defining (or redefining ) your brand’s image. No matter what your specific purpose, consumers tend to want to visit your website to find out more information about you before they contact you physically in person. Your website is the central storefront of all your messaging – including a home base for all your inbound and viral marketing efforts.
The challenge is communicating your brand’s identity in quick, broad strokes of messages. Your prospect will only give you seconds to succinctly communicate your purpose and value before the vanish for good. If you make a poor impression in the first five seconds, you may have lost your opportunity to engage your prospective customer or client in a more meaningful, lasting conversation.
One of the most important components of successful online branding is appealing to the human element that seeks a story they can relate to. Consumers want to feel as though they know who they’re buying from, and that they can both like and trust you. That needs to be communicated quickly – and your unique values have to be upfront, and personal.
Social media has helped put this “human face” at a very cost-effective investment level for most businesses. In addition to Facebook (and perhaps Twitter), blogs can be an excellent channel to develop content that expresses your unique values and expertise. Blogs are also a great way to explore local topics that help your community understand your unique brand values.
One of the foundational pitfalls we see is the inability to clearly communicate your specific and unique values to your prospective clients and audience – the very core of your brand’s message. While it’s not always the most popular way to go about creating your brand’s foundation, I can’t stress how important it is to take the time to define your brand in writing, and decide exactly who you are to your customer or client. Without this basis, many companies rush to creating a website or logo that they feel communicates what they’re truly about – but without really digging in the dirt of who their competitors are, how they’re perceived now, and what their true values are in business.
Taking the time and effort to establish your brand’s messaging foundation will save you money and effort in the short, and long term. Don’t rush to the fun activities of creative design before you can clearly communicate your unique value. You, and your customer, will be thankful that you did.