The New Entrepreneur’s Guide to Online Brand Building
Starting a business isn’t easy. On top of all the ideation, business development, fundraising, process establishing, hiring, and sales work, you also have to build a complete identity—your company’s core brand—from the ground up, often with few resources and little experience to go on. Experienced entrepreneurs might have an easier time building a brand from scratch, having learned the importance of a brand and how to navigate the significant pitfalls around it, but new and emerging entrepreneurs have much more difficulty.
Fortunately, despite the rigors of the process, building a brand today is actually easier than it was even a decade ago. There are tons of new resources, new technologies, and new strategies available to make your job easier—but that also means more difficult choices to make.
The Major Obstacles Holding Entrepreneurs Back
First, it’s important to put your difficulties into perspective. There are a handful of major obstacles, hesitations, fears, and limitations that could keep you from building a great brand for your company, but each of them can be navigated if they are properly understood and addressed:
- Lack of experience or familiarity. Brands might seem alien to you as a concept, and if they do, you just have to jump in and start doing some research. Until you get more familiar with the concept, just remember: your brand is your identity.
- Lack of personal investment. Some entrepreneurs feel that brands are superfluous or secondary to other important business qualities. In reality, the image and integrity of your brand can make or break any of your relationships, from partnerships to sales and even hiring.
- Lack of resources. If you’re starting with a skeleton crew, you may not have a creative team or the funding necessary to build a brand. If this is the case, you need to find a good freelancer and work through the process one step at a time. Do not get cheap with your brand.
Now that you’ve begun to understand your key weak areas, you can start working on the actual brand for your business.
Step One: Identify Your Audience
Your first step is to define your audience concretely. You may have taken a stab at mentioning your key demographics in your initial business plan, but in order to build a brand, you have to get to know your target audience and know it well. What type of people are your customers? What’s important to them? What do they need? Where do they shop? What do they like? What do they hate? Where did they go to school? What type of music do they listen to? What do they do for fun? There are a million questions you need to ask, and you need to rely on objective data—from market research—to answer them.
Step Two: Outline Your Identity
Now that you have a deep familiarity with your target demographics, you need to sketch an outline for the type of brand you want. The easiest way to do this is to imagine your brand as a person. What type of person would your target audience want to be friends with? Should your brand-person be soft-spoken and easygoing, or boisterous and fun? Should your brand be conservative and professional or casual and energetic? Make a list of all the key traits your brand needs to have in order to appeal to your core demographics. You’ll be able to start building a brand from there.
Step Three: Create Your Brand Bible
There are a lot of elements that culminate in a comprehensive “brand,” and you’ll need to develop each of them individually with your core brand identity in mind. Collectively, I like to refer to these elements as your Brand Bible, or your guidebook to consult any time you have a question about what to use. Be sure you include your business name, your logo (and any variations), your tagline, your colors, and even your tone of voice. Detail these specifically, so that anyone who relies on this guidebook can follow your brand standards exactly.
Step Four: Anchor Your Brand With a Site
Once your brand is fully established, you need to support your brand with an anchor—in today’s world, that’s going to be your website. Your website needs to show off every element of the brand, from your logo and colors to your tone of voice and personality. Anyone who visits your site should be instantly familiar with your identity, and accordingly, you’ll use this anchor to tie all your other marketing channels together.
Step Five: Claim Your Outer Online Presence
With a website established at the end of your online marketing funnel, you can start working on the mouth of your funnel. Start claiming your business’s profile on as many different platforms as possible, and fill out the information while retaining your image as a brand. That means claiming all your major social media accounts as well as all your local directory profiles. The more you claim, the wider your presence will be.
Step Six: Start Marketing
Finally, you can start marketing and pushing people to your main website. How you choose to do this is up to you, but do keep in mind the communications preferences of your main demographics. No matter how you choose to start marketing your business, make sure you keep one main priority at the center of your campaign: never deviate from your brand standards. The minute you lose consistency, your identity will be lost.
It will take some time for your brand to start developing a reputation, but with this groundwork in place, you’ll have a good shot at becoming successful. Brand value and consistency should be your main goals, and from there, it’s only a matter of time before you start generating a following.
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