Many people get into online business using the lemonade stand approach: find a good spot, set up shop, and wait for people to show up. Sure, it works if you’re in a park on a hot summer day. But in the cold, cramped world of the Web, you can bet there are millions of bigger and better lemonade stands, all just a click away. For your online business to take off, you need to set yourself apart with smart branding.
Fortunately, the Web has made it much easier—and much cheaper—to build a solid brand. Below are some do’s and don’ts for building your brand in the age of Web 2.0.
DO present your brand upfront. Many sites, in an attempt to look “edgy,” tend to pile on rich graphics and cryptic slogans that hide the real nature of their work. Sure, it’s nice to look at, but it won’t bring you business. A new visitor should be able to tell at first glance what you offer without having to wade through empty content. Make it so that your brand is unmistakable from the front page all the way to the disclaimers.
DON’T use price as a branding angle. Marketing blogger and author Seth Godin has this to say about price-based branding: “Lowering your price without doing anything else is a game for desperate people lacking in imagination.” Being cheaper doesn’t put you an inch over the competition. Instead of brandishing your rock-bottom price tags, show people how your product delivers more value for the same price.
DO give your brand a human touch. It’s been proven time and again that human elements make branding efforts more effective. And with online fraud and security constantly in the news, the last thing you need is an air of mystery and anonymity around your business. Contacting “the webmaster” isn’t enough. Associate your brand with a real, recognizable person, whether it’s you, a spokesperson, or the CEO.
DON’T overuse social media. If you use social bookmarking to promote your site, don’t overdo it—choose only your best blog posts, your most relevant pages, or your most popular products to share. Nothing says “self-promoter” more than a list of similar pages from a single website. Besides your own content, throw in a healthy mix of relevant articles from other credible sources.
DO be consistent. Brands are meant to be remembered, and to do that, you must enforce it every chance you get. Work your logo and tagline into every form of correspondence, from press releases to in-house memos. Put it on every page of your website. The more visible it is, the easier it is for people to make the connection. Branding techniques may have changed, but the value of consistency remains whether you’re selling online consultancy or ice-cold lemonade.