Online Small Business Branding Doesn’t Require An MBA!

Online Branding for small business

Getting to the crux of what makes a brand successful is not rocket science, nor does it require professional education. Whilst an important facet of business practice, key aspects of branding can be picked up quickly and easily online; just get a hang of the basics and build your brand from there!

Small Business Branding

Building a recognisable, trusted brand is almost as important for most small businesses as is having a reliable product or service. Sound branding practices help consumers identify a company, and are instrumental in creating a market image.

The reverse, unfortunately, is also true—branding strategies that flop can sink a company, or at least so dilute its image that it becomes functionally worthless. Paying careful attention to brand management becomes especially important online.

Why is Online So Important?

Simply put, almost everyone now has access to the internet, and with this incredible medium available why would anyone ignore it when it comes to developing their brand?!

Embracing Online

Social Media

Maintaining a social media presence is increasingly important for businesses of all sizes, but simple pitfalls can quickly make executives regret ever creating a profile. for example:

  • Not paying attention to negative feedback
  • Flooding customers and “friends” with ads and coupons
  • Spending too much time promoting rather than engaging

Website

Maintaining a consistent and appealing brand needs to translate to your website. Make sure your design is clear and eye-catching, as well as remaining true to your offline brand. This is essential! When developing your brand, it is important to consider whether it will translate well to a website, so keeping this is mind through the conception of your design is very important. A few things to bear in mind:

  • Don’t make you brand design too complex- simple and concise branding is much more effective.
  • If you are starting from scratch, pick a name that will enable you to be found easily. Common names will get lost and unusual spellings will cause confusion. You want to be able to get domain names and social media handles easily. Try a tool like NameChk to see where your name is available.

Successfully managing a corporate image, whether offline or on, requires an investment of time, money and resources. However, investing this money wisely in the first place will give your brand longevity and enable you to to develop this image successfully in the first place.

The heart of solid branding lies in a corporation’s culture and foundational ethos. The slogan, the logo, the attitude embodied by ads—all need to reflect something about the company and the product it sells in order to be successful. Some great examples of companies that have got this right include Sugru, GO Mammoth and Rackspace.

One of the biggest problems new businesses run into is forgetting the basics in favour of staying on top of the perceived “newest trend”.

Digital Marketing, Viral Brands

In today’s Internet age, that “newest trend” often involves online activity. “It’s wrong to think we’re entering a world in which traditional marketing activities, and brands themselves, will become irrelevant,” Patrick Barwise, a professor at London Business School, said in a recent Harvard Business Review article. “Social media make it more urgent than ever that companies get the basics right, developing and reliably delivering on a compelling brand promise.”

The speed with which things move online means that the social media landscape is also rife with potential pitfalls, however. Overwhelming consumers with updates and offers, spending too much time in self-promotion, and ignoring legitimate customer interactions and comments are all ways in which brands can be seriously harmed online.

Brands With a Plan

In many cases, avoiding these downsides is as simple as coming up with and implementing an online branding strategy. “The biggest mistake is Lack of a Plan,” Kristian Chronister, president of web company Jewelry.com, was quoted as saying in a Business Insider article. “One wouldn’t open a new store, address a new market, or open a new sales region without extensive planning, goals, organisation and thought. And yet, many small businesses (especially sole proprietors) just up and register for Twitter, etc. one night and wade right in,” he said. Casual treatment tends to lead to casual rewards—and in the worst cases, it can actually lead to brand damage.

Aside from having a plan, most experts urge newcomers to the online branding world to keep things simple. “Everyone talks about finding a big idea, but a small idea is more powerful,” Catherine Kaputa, a brand strategist at SelfBrand, said in a Harvard Business Review blog post. Focusing on one skill or service is often more effective than trying to do it all. Paying attention  on visuals can also be important, as can choosing a name—something short, pertinent, and memorable is usually best, she said, and offered the examples of Twitter’s bird logo and Nike’s early conversion from its original name, “Blue Ribbon Sports.”

Avoiding Pitfalls

While much of branding is common sense, even the most reputable companies sometimes shoot themselves in the foot. Netflix, for example, developed Qwikster, much to the dismay of millions of their customers who eventually cancelled their subscriptions and conclusively proved that changing what people love most about a brand is often a bad decision. Another mistake many companies make is not listening to the demands of their customers. Large banks, like Chase bank or Bank of America, are notorious for this and credit unions have become hugely successful as a result. This critical mistake actually proves to re-brand companies in a way that is neither flattering nor easy to correct.

Bringing branding online has great potential to reach new clientele, as well as deepen relationships with existing consumers. Getting it right is more work than simply opening an account, though. Entrepreneurs and web executives hoping to expand their brand’s presence online would be wise to start small, plan big, and implement with clear intentions in order to get the most out of the medium.

Top Branding Tips!

  • Maintain a strong presence on social media
  • Ensure your website and all social media channels reflect your offline brand
  • Avoid overwhelming your customers, but be sure to listen to them
  • Figure out what your customers love and then never change it!

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Julianna Davies is a writer and researcher for MBAOnline.comFeel free to check out more of her writing!


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