“Branding” is a term you often hear about businesses, and for good reason. Branding is an essential business practice for businesses of all sizes; especially your online business!
Of course, everyone wants to “build their brand,” and “branding” is a catch-all term for several elements that go into establishing and building your company. In fact, you may be branding right now and not even know it!
See, good for you. You’re already doing it. Or are you? What is branding anyway?
If you read 100 marketing textbooks, you’ll likely get a few different answers as to what truly constitutes branding. However, understanding the concept is far more important than memorizing the textbook definition. Unless you’re taking a business class and this will be on the test. In that case, you should absolutely remember the definition. Don’t fail that test!
Other than that, branding is a marketing practice that helps define your company and product and sets it apart from others. This is often done through symbols, logos, imagery, marketing campaigns, and other ways in which companies establish their identity or the identity of their products.
Consider Apple as an example. Instantly upon hearing that name, you thought of something. A sleek iPhone? The neutral color scheme of Itunes? The Apple logo? A modern Apple store complete with a Genius Bar?
All of those elements combine to create the image you have of Apple in your mind. That’s branding.
Let’s say you’re starting an online business. What’s in it for you to ABB: Always Be Branded?
You’ll notice the question isn’t “if” or “is” branding important. It absolutely is. In fact, over 70% of brand managers say that building an audience is more important than direct sales. What’s more, nearly 90% of marketers say brand awareness is their top priority.
Why? Shouldn’t sales be number one? After all, your online business isn’t going to make it very far without sales. That’s true, but the online business world is fickle. You are not just competing with the store down the road or across town. Your online business exists in a global marketplace with hundreds or thousands of competitors, possibly more! Branding goes a long way in establishing awareness as well as reputation.
In the online world, customers are often skeptical about who they’re buying from. After all, they can’t very well just walk back into the store if there’s a problem. All things being equal, would you rather buy from Amazon, or a website you’ve never heard of? Exactly. Keep in mind, Amazon was once “the website you’ve never heard of.” It took a lot of hard work, dedication, and commitment to get them to where they are today.
Amazon illustrates why branding is important to do from the beginning. Creating a consistent image, even if it changes with time (as Amazon did), is essential to building trust with your customer base. Today, Amazon processes hundreds of thousands of orders each day. Odds are there are a few missteps along the way. However, Amazon has positioned itself in such a way that if there is a problem, customers can feel confident that it will be taken care of.
Relax, you don’t have to be Amazon to be successful. Although if you are, remember us when you get big!
There are several elements and actions that make up a solid branding strategy. Nearly every action you take, from the way you advertise your product to the way you handle customer inquiries, to the colors, logos, and fonts you use make up your branding.
There are literally hundreds of ingredients in your branding recipe. However, here are a few key things to keep in mind when branding your online business.
Especially in the online world, it can be easy to feel detached from your customers. However, a common mantra in the business world is that “people buy from people.” If you can breathe life into the humanity of your business, your customers will respond to it.
This might be handwritten thank you notes in your shipping boxes, a personal email to welcome new customers or a cool video which showcases your company’s culture. Customers are aching to become brand loyal. We all know people who are Apple loyalists and will stick with them through thick and then.
There are many reasons why people develop such intense brand loyalty but above all else: they feel connected to that brand. Building not just awareness, but connection and loyalty is at the heart of what a solid branding strategy is all about.
No, this is not a self-help mantra, but good branding starts from within. The strength of your brand “out there” is as strong as it is internally. That means getting employees, co-founders, and other stakeholders to buy-in to the culture you’re establishing.
As you grow, your focuses may change slightly. This is okay. You can grow with them. However, Getting the entire company to buy-in on your brand early will make it much easier to keep everyone moving in the right direction later.
Strong brands are focused and consistent. You won’t see Apple or Amazon put anything out there that isn’t consistent. Remember: as an online business every interaction you have with your customers and indeed the outside world is an extension of your brand.
The way you speak to customers, present your products, draft press releases, ship your good, etc. Branding is all-encompassing. In fact, the question “is this consistent with our brand” should cross your mind and lips regularly.
This is especially true in the early days. From the beginning, you want to put a consistent message out there to your customers.
The way customers perceive your business, products, and practices is everything to your online business. In a world built on reputation and performance, branding is the key to building a strong business from the foundation up.
Start off on the right foot and establish your brand early. Keep it going as you grow and you’ll be better off for it!