Whether you’re a new brand just starting out, or you are an established brand looking to build your presence online, it can be tricky to know where to start.
Once you have built a presence and your brand becomes recognizable to your target audience, it becomes one of the most valuable assets a company owns so it’s important to get the basics right to give you the best possible chance of establishing a well-loved brand.
According to a Nielson survey, 59% of consumers prefer to buy new products from brands familiar to them. The power of your brand helps you to launch new products successfully as customers are already familiar with your brand and what to expect in terms of quality and customer service.
For newly established brands, it can be daunting. You may be competing against already established and loved brands within your sector and that’s why it’s important for you to find ways to stand out and to build your brand online.
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What is a brand?
Simply put, your brand is defined by a customer’s overall perception of your business.
The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, says it even better: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Taking that concept, your brand is essentially your reputation.
Building a brand, therefore, doesn’t happen overnight. Just like building a strong reputation takes months and even years before it becomes established, think of your brand in the same way. It is a constantly evolving process and one that you should never think of as ‘done’.
As quickly as you can build positive brand sentiment, it can all be quickly undone if you take your eye off the ball. Relationships with customers need to be nurtured and this requires strategy. You can’t simply wing it and hope for the best.
In order to build your brand, especially online, you need to consistently deliver positive outcomes for your customers, including the quality of your product/service combined with outstanding customer service and communication, but more than this, you have to make sure you stand out.
Make the experience with your brand memorable.
How do you do this? Start by looking at the basics and follow these five actionable steps to help ensure you get your brand on the right track and improve your opportunities of building your brand online.
1. Determine your target audience
Understanding your target audience is a fundamental step in creating a good brand-building strategy. The more you know about the people that are buying your products or services, the easier it will be for you to adjust your content strategies and communication plans accordingly.
A great place to start when analyzing your audience is Google. Whether you can use Google Analytics to understand your existing customers or you can use Google Trends to discover the types of people searching for the products and services you sell, there is a lot of information available for you to explore your audience and ensure your message is focussed on those most likely to convert.
You should look to get fairly specific at this stage. Don’t try and make your brand everything to everyone. This is a sure-fire way to miss the mark when it comes to your communications, products, and services.
Really successful brands develop a set of brand personas which they use to tailor their messaging across all platforms and this can really help to narrow down your audience and be specific.
2. Define your brand voice
Your brand voice is the way you communicate your company’s vision and mission to your audience and is a crucial part of building your brand online.
The way you communicate with customers and the way they respond to you helps to define your brand and you need to ensure you bring consistency to everything you do, no matter the platform.
Your brand voice is just that: yours. You need to first definite it and then own it.
A brand voice will be determined by your audience – how do you want to communicate with them and what are the main things you are talking to them about? A brand voice can be:
These are just some of the adjectives that can be used as a foundation for your brand voice but you need to choose one that is going to resonate with your target audience.
Once defined, many leading brands create and document examples of brand voice, making it easier to onboard new members of staff or if you work with external agencies.
3. Understand your competition
As you try to establish your brand within your particular sector, it’s important to understand your competition if you want to stand out from the crowd.
If you simply do the same things as already-established brands, it is going to be very difficult for you to build your own brand online, so understanding what your competition is doing can help you to differentiate and improve on what’s already out there.
When researching your competition, put together a spreadsheet that answers a number of key questions about your competitors – that way, you can easily cross-reference all of your competitors in one place and see who is leading the way in different areas so you can benchmark your own performance in these areas. Areas to look at might include:
- Quality of products/services
- Messaging and visuals
- Reviews and mentions
- Advertising messaging
- Email marketing
Sign up for all of your competitors’ email marketing lists and see what they are sending out to customers on a regular basis. This will give you an idea about their tone of voice, as well as gaining an understanding of the products and services they are marketing on a monthly basis.
Once you have a good understanding of your competitors, you can map your own brand position and potentially identify a gap in the market.
4. Build your brand through multiple channels
Most companies make the mistake of focusing most of their brand-building efforts on one or two media channels in total. With the digital world constantly growing and evolving, you need to explore as many ways to build your brand online as possible.
Using multiple channels to accomplish this is the smart business decision to make.
Your own website is the best place to start. Online, this is the main gateway to your business and your website needs to set the tone for what to expect when dealing with your brand anywhere on or offline. Your website needs to reflect your brand’s personality so that people can immediately get a sense of the type of business they are dealing with.
Use your owned media like your blog social media channels to promote your business.
Online casino site Betway wanted to change the landscape for online betting and made it their mission to offer the most-informed betting tips of any online media outlet. They interviewed professional athletes, invested in video production, and kept a close eye on digital trends in order to maximize their brand reach through multiple channels.
Social media platforms are a great place for you to engage directly with your target audience and it’s important to humanize those messages on social media – don’t rely on templated answers and stock response to inquiries and comments.
5. Build a brand story and never stop telling it
Every brand has a story. How you started, the journey you have been on so far, the people that work for you…the list goes on.
Customers will resonate with a well-told brand story so it’s important you tell it in a way that they can relate to. Use the brand voice you have already defined to reach out to the audience you have identified and ensure you make a direct, emotional connection with your customers.
Instead of talking about what your product can do, talk more about how it helps your customers to do whatever it is they need to do – make it about the customer rather than the product.
There are some great examples of exceptional brands telling great stories. Toms Shoes created a unique proposition with their One for One mission. Whenever someone buys a pair of shoes from Toms, they donate a pair to children growing up without them. The story was a personal one and was something witnessed by founder Blake Mycoskie when traveling around Argentina.
You can read other great brand storytelling examples here.