Online Branding - the BasicsThe term "brand" has been around for many years and can be used to refer to a company name, a product name, an advertising campaign or a logo. Branding is used to create an emotional attachment to a product or company. It can also create a sense of perceived higher quality or value.
In internet marketing, branding is more than logos and theme songs. Branding lets customers know who you are, what you do and how you do it. It's your promise of value. Effective branding will increase your potential customer base and more potential customers will always equal more sales opportunities.
In recent years, consumers have been spending more time and money on the internet. In addition to communicating with friends, they're comparison shopping and making more and more purchases online. It's imperative for a business to use the internet to make an impact.
Here are a few ways to define your online identity:
Describe Your Brand First - Start With What You Do
When they land on your website, your visitors should know immediately what your company does and how it can help them. Don't be ambiguous and don't try to be too cute. Build a unique shopping experience that a visitor will remember. With regard to graphics on your website, remember that images can convey more than words, and good ones can play a major part in online branding.
Find Your Target Market
The focus of a marketing campaign is people. Your goal is to reach a subset of the population who might be interested in your particular product - your target market.
The more you know about your target market, the more precisely you can develop a marketing strategy. Your branding efforts should focus on that target market. Your message should be clear and should appeal to your visitor and make them realize the benefits of visiting your website, your store and ultimately buying your products or services.
Humanize Your Website
What is your company's personality? The online world can be a cold and daunting place. Your branding efforts can be much more effective when you add a human element to your website. Brands are like people in that a strong one has personality, expresses opinions and elicits feelings. Your website and brand could and should do the same thing.
If you are the sole owner, put your name and photo on your site to take away the mystery and distrust of a cold, impersonal website. Take a good look at your site. Does your design scheme complement your identity? You should be working toward your site having its own identity, unique language and clear personality.
Take a look at some of the sites you enjoy visiting and see what makes them special and satisfying to you. Branding is not about making your site more corporate - it's about making it personal so that visitors want to come back.
For effective branding on the web, you should be consistent in terms of your approach, your message and your language throughout your visitors' experience. Any gateway to your customers - website, blog, newsletter, emails - should have your consistent, unique personality.
Content, Content, Content
Just as location, location, location is crucial in real estate, having great content on your site is a major factor in getting customers to return. Useful, brand-related information coupled with your unique voice will help you gain fans and ultimately loyal customers.
With good content, your website becomes "sticky", that is, it's able to keep visitors on the site browsing and reading longer. When the content is what people are looking for, they are not only more likely to stay longer, they'll bookmark your site and maybe recommend it to others. They will learn that you are a reputable source of information and eventually go to your site for purchases.
Your branding goal should be to provide rich information on your site to build an expert reputation that will be recognized by both customers and search engines.
Have an Online Presence Outside of Your Site
Post regularly to online forums where people who might be interested in your brand are gathering. Use your expertise in your field to offer intelligent and useful information and include a link to your website in your signature.
With good online content, you can satisfy people's craving for suitable information and increase your linking strategy at the same time. For example, if you have a site that sells art and painting supplies, you could write a history article on Rembrandt to be published online. This page for history or art buffs will now link potential customers from your target market to your site, and will become part of your linking strategy.
On your website, offer a free newsletter or rss feed. This will allow you to build a database of potential customers who have gone out of their way to express interest in your brand. Your newsletter will then allow you to deliver your message to an interested audience with a controlled frequency that will further build your brand.
Customers are becoming savvy and more discriminating when it comes to online interactions, and retailers need to provide a consistent, positive marketing experience. Great websites put substance before flash and that's what branding is all about - your promise of value.