Your Online Brand: 3 Things You Think You Need, But You Don’t

Online Branding ImageDo You Know What Makes a Good Online Brand?

Before you answer “Yes” to that question, I’m here to tell you that 99% of the small businesses that contact me for help think they have a great online brand…but they aren’t getting any new clients, attracting awareness, or building their business through their online efforts. So–it is really a good online brand?

What Makes a Good Online Brand

You’re going to hear different opinions on this from experts, but in my opinion, a good online brand, ultimately, brings you more of your ideal clients, and helps you grow your business.

This bears repeating…

Good Online Brands:

  • Bring you more of your ideal clients
  • Help grow your business

At the end of the day these should be your goals even if you are a non-profit, even if you say you don’t care about making money and you are in business because you love it– (who says that, though, realistically? It’s much better to do what you love and earn money from it!).

Here Are 3 Things You Think You Need (But You Really Don’t) For Your Online Brand

1. A super-expensive, agency-designed, professional website.

I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a beautiful, expensively-designed website that simply doesn’t WORK. What do I mean by work? I mean, does it:

  1. Have good SEO, so people can find you through “natural” (unpaid) search?
  2. Allow customers to book an appointment with you, know your hours, and contact you?
  3. Clearly state what makes your business different, and what you do?

Designers are going to argue with me on this, but I’m giving you the truth. Even if you are an aesthetically-driven business, and your client cares about image, I guarantee you can put together a simple, lovely, web design that works without hiring someone expensive. I’m building out tutorials that will help ANY small business owner create a lovely, simple website without paying a lot of money. Just a few months away! In the meantime, don’t stress out if your website isn’t perfect. The beautiful thing about anything online is that it can be improved!

Just remember, great looking does not mean it’s good.

  • A pretty flash site isn’t going to get as much natural search traffic.
  • A gorgeous design that doesn’t allow people to navigate easily isn’t going to get you appointments booked.
  • A site that is so complicated with how it was built, you can’t ever update the copy yourself isn’t going to help you have featured sales, or series, or sell anything new.

Some of the world’s ugliest websites make millions of dollars a month. Have you ever looked at SEO consultants’ websites? They are often hideous–but drive thousands of targeted clients in monthly. At the end of the day, you need a functional website, something that yes–conveys your brand and who you are, but most importantly, brings you the right customers, and makes it easy for those customers to book an appointment with you–or buy something from you.

But Julie, I have a salon/skincare business/aesthetically-driven business–it DOES matter!

Simply taking photos of your space and using that as the basis of your website design is going to bring that real-world experience alive, and ensure your brand integrity, your general look and feel, and capture that aesthetically-driven audience.

Remember, I am an SEO expert. What I care about with my online sites–is whether I get the right traffic, and whether those people are doing the things I’d like them to do. If I say “YES” to both of those…I can focus my efforts on other things, and not worry so much about the look and feel right away. My #1 rule for any small business I run, is I won’t pay for a design until that business is earning the cost of a professional design each week. Would spending that money upfront help me get there faster? It’s not a guarantee…but having clear navigation and good SEO is a guarantee of those two key points: growing my business, and attracting the right customers.

Remember too, that people are pretty forgiving of design–but if they can’t find the content they are looking for…they get frustrated.

2. A Totally Different “Brand” Online

Not true. You absolutely need consistency–you want to translate what a client experiences with you in person, online. That means similarity in the look and feel. It is true that online, we have more work to get clients to understand why you are the right business for them. That’s why you have to do a few things different–but your overall brand needs to be the same–your business philosophy, your messaging, and who you are stays the same.

Your online branding has a tough job. It needs to:

  1. Immediate convey what you do
  2. Why you are different from competitors
  3. How to get in touch with you

You DO have to think about your online brand from a different perspective. A client who walks by your place of business (in real life) has the advantage of seeing you, your space, your decor–all the things that contribute to your business philosophy and the type of experience a client will have when they make an appointment with you.

When someone goes to your website–they need to not only get a sense of who you are and what you do, they need to be able to book an appointment with you and find where you are. But you need to start with the real-world branding, and translate everything about you, your space, and your differentiation online.

3. You Need To Be Everywhere Online, All The Time:

I disagree with this fundamentally. What I mean by this is, having EVERY possible social media channel actively up and running with daily posts. Managing a website, an email newsletter, social media, affiliate sites, partnerships–whoa. Can any small business owner really do it all? The answer is no, or more accurately, not well for all things.

You have a choice–focus on 2-3 things you enjoy doing, and do those well…OR…try to do everything equally well. Even the world’s biggest brands can’t do everything perfectly online. They choose to focus on a few key things.

But you should claim your presence on all social media channels…
Even if you aren’t active on every social media channel, (which you simply can’t be, unless you clone yourself or have a huge team of help…and even then it’s hard)…I do recommend that you “own” the channel. In this way, you are protecting your brand and your name…as well as providing many places online where people can find you.

If the channel is not “active” (you don’t post on it), you can simply put your website url, a phone number, and a few photos as a way to ensure people can find you. I’ve seen some companies “capture” a Pinterest or Twitter account, and then do one post that says “We are not active on this social media channel–come find us [with a link to where they ARE active].” That’s a brilliant way to manage your online brand without having to constantly update that channel.

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? What are your goals when it comes to online branding? What are the things you focus on? Let me know in the comments!






A Partnership Case Study, Healthy Juice, Fitness, Athletic Apparel, And More: Part 2

Partnership success!

Partnership success!

The Making Of a Partnership

I was so impressed with the partnership between Basic Training and Juice Shop, (read part 1 here), that I spoke with Jennifer Pattee, the owner of Basic Training to learn more about the back-story, and to get some more details on the end result. I wanted to learn what motivated Basic Training to host such a great event, and why they wanted to work with the businesses they worked with.

Multiple Brands Partnering Together

I learned that the partnership wasn’t only between Basic Training and Juice Shop–this partnership was an effort between several small businesses in Hayes Valley, a neighborhood in San Francisco. The businesses involved included:
  • Proxy SF–A temporary two-block project located in Hayes Valley, bringing together mobile businesses
  • Aether–Amazing workout clothing and gear
  • Basic Training–outdoor group fitness
  • Juice Shop–organic, hand-pressed juices

 “The phrase Francesca at Aether used to describe this event was “dipping into each other’s tribes” and that really hit me,” said Jenn Pattee.

The Story Behind The Partnership

One of the reasons behind the partnership was to promote a new outdoor, public space in Hayes Valley, San Francisco. The particular block, Hayes and Octavia, happens to deserted after a certain time. Basic Training intended to hold classes at night in this location. Juice Shop wanted to promote their new mobile juice truck–based at this location. And all the other businesses in the neighborhood wanted to welcome neighbors and new people alike to the location. Here’s a bit behind the location and the idea, in Jenn’s words:
From Jenn Pattee at Basic Training:
1. Proxy is a ghost town after 6pm on our side of the block. Nobody is there.
2. Aether’s store manager wanted people to see that they are fun, come hang out, don’t be scared.
3. We wanted to have a keg and some beers, but we can’t serve alcohol at Proxy.
4. We didn’t want to spend any money. This event cost us about $100.
5. We couldn’t play amplified music or do stuff like that to make it feel like a party.
6. We wanted Hayes Valley to get excited about Proxy.
7. We did it in 2 weeks, we didn’t have a ton of time.
8. We started the social campaign 8 days before launch.”

Results of the Partnership

  1. From Jenn Pattee: “The event was a HUGE success for all of us, even though it was small, cheap, and hard to organize we accomplished everything we set out to do.”
  2.  From Francesca at Aether, “I had a blast. People came into the store and not just to take photos. They stayed and hung out.”
  3. From JuiceShop: “It was great. It helped force us to get Narney [The guy behind the counter at the truck] ready to roll. We had a great time and people were pumped.”
  4. From Basic Training: “Everyone loved it. I got to hang out with the business owners, shopkeepers, and all their friends during the event. Finally had a chance to meet my neighboring businesses and the people who they are friends with. And, i was delighted to see our partners at this event sell what we do BETTER than we do.”

The partnership was clearly a success, since this week they’ll be yet another one in the same location, with yet another business getting involved–the Bold Italic.

Screen shot 2013-08-19 at 8.17.15 PM

Increasing Awareness Through Partnerships

“The phrase Francesca at Aether used to describe this event was “dipping into each other’s tribes” and that really hit me,” said Jenn Pattee.
That’s a perfect statement, for it summarizes the key benefit of partnerships–to increase the awareness of your business by association with similar businesses who have similar clientele. Basic Training’s clients are people who like to work out outdoors, and are generally healthy. Partnering with a healthy juice business, an athletic apparel company, and a “pop-up” outdoor gathering place is brings together like-minded clients and increases the awareness of all the businesses.

Building Client Loyalty Through Partnerships

A truly good partnership delivers value not only to all of the businesses, but to their clients as well. The clients of each business were excited to learn about other companies similar to companies they already patronize. By giving away the free class, Basic Training found new clients from Aether Apparel, Juice Shop, and residents of Hayes Valley. The class was free to current Basic Training clients as well, which encouraged everyone to share and promote the partnership, and increased the feeling of loyalty. When you give some love to your current clients, it’s a way of thanking them for supporting your business.

The Client Perspective

As someone who attended the event, I had a blast. It’s rare for me to work out anywhere but my neighborhood (the Embarcadero in San Francisco)–so hanging out in a new neighborhood and meeting new people was energizing and fun. Every person who attended the class had a fabulous time, and it was absolutely an ideal place to meet and work out.
I knew about Juice Shop, but I did not know about Aether Apparel (and now I’m excited to show up early to the next Basic Training class in this location, so I can purchase some cool exercise clothes!).
I also had never really ventured into Hayes Valley for anything other than dinner late at night. It was never on my radar for exercising outdoors. After this event, I am looking forward to the next event in this location. And of course I’ll be paying full price for my Basic Training class, buying some juice, and buying some workout clothes. I’m now a loyal client of all three businesses. And it’s not just me–several of the attendees of the class on August 9 have said the same thing.
Now that is a fabulous end result of a fabulous partnership.

A Partnership Case Study, Healthy Juice And Fitness Part 1

Basic Training Juice Shop Class Partnership

Partnerships + Your Brand–A Recipe For Success

One of my favorite brands is Basic Training–it’s personal training as well as group outdoor fitness classes here in San Francisco. I love them, I love going to the classes, and they do a fabulous job at online marketing. One of the ways they get traction, loyalty, and referrals online is through their partnerships.

Reaching More People Through Partnerships

One of the key factors in any overall marketing plan is to find ways to reach more people in the real world and online through one single effort.

Creating partnerships with brands or companies similar to yours–but not direct competitors of yours–is a smart way to attract new clients, and build loyalty among your current clients with one marketing effort. Since I like to give examples to explain things, let’s examine a case study of one of the best partnerships I’ve seen.

Partnership Case Study

Nice Overall Branding

Basic Training + Juice Shop = Healthy, Happy Clients

Jennifer Pattee, the founder of Basic Training, had a brilliant and tasty idea. Her brand is already strong, and one of their key differentiators is their “happy hour” philosophy. Working out for an hour with a group of social people (and pairing people together in teams), plus social time afterwards is a brand differentiator–this is Basic Training’s Special Sauce.

Jennifer Pattee’s idea for a partnership was to work with an organic, natural juice company in San Francisco–Juice Shop–and promote free classes, where clients would:

  • 1. Use a code on Basic Training’s Website, JUICY, to get a free class
  • 2. Meet at the new mobile juice truck for the classes
  • 3. Work out for an hour, and then get some juices back at the juice truck.

This is a brilliant idea all around. I’m going to tell you why.

Giving Your Clients More Of What They Like

The first thing that was brilliant about this partnership was the natural partnering between working out and healthy juices. Who wouldn’t want some healthy juice before and after a tough workout? Most, if not all, of Basic Training’s clients live healthy lifestyles, and that includes the outdoor fitness classes, as well as healthy food and nutrition. The likelihood that her clients would absolutely love Juice Shop was high.

Building Loyalty Among Your Current Clients

This was another brilliant move, and one that sadly, many small businesses forget.

Pay attention, and give some love, to your current clients. That means the occasional deal, special event, or something. I’ve already blogged about how frustrating it can be for current clients to see a business give discounts and deals to new clients only. It’s not really that fair, and it certainly is not a way to build loyalty.

Giving a free class to Basic Training current clients was a way to build loyalty amongst them. When clients are loyal to your business, they are more likely to talk positively about the business, and that includes sharing information about your events, classes, and deals. When people feel rewarded for their loyalty to you, they are also more likely to come back to you more often. All of this strengthens your business, because a truly loyal client is one you can count on. Most small businesses rely on repeat customers who come to you often. Anything you can do to increase the number of people who are loyal will ultimately lead to more revenue.

A Win-Win For Awareness

I already knew about Juice Shop–there is a location in my neighborhood, and I’m there a few times a week. But many of Basic Training’s clients did not know about the company. By:

  • Meeting at the Juice Shop location for a class
  • Using the code JUICY
  • Promoting the free classes online and tagging Juice Shop

Basic Training built brand awareness for Juice Shop. I guarantee Juice Shop will get more customers as a result of this partnership.  And what’s in it for Basic Training? Well, the same thing–they will get more clients as a result of the promotion. This is a win-win for both companies.

What Happened on Social Media

Sharing and Likes--Basic Training I always like to look at metrics for any campaign and partnership, and one of the ways to track success is to look at how much buzz the partnership generated. We want to look at what happens on social media–even if you don’t have a full-blown social media strategy, you should always use social media to post about any partnership, and any deal or special offer you have.

In the case of the Basic Training _ Juice Shop partnership, Basic Training was very active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The posts were liked and shared by several people, and sharing is one of the most important things a customer can do for you online.

When we talk about metrics, and whether or not something was successful, we always want to look at the following:

  1. How many people shared what you did or talked about?
  2. How many people liked it, or “engaged with it” (comments, posting)
  3. How many people actually purchase something, or attend/go


Most of the post about the partnership were very popular. Customers liked, commented on, and shared the post. Any time a customer shares your content on their timeline it helps build awareness and buzz. Each person who shares something on their Facebook timeline, for example, has now exposed your brand to several hundred new people.

The photos on Facebook (and Instagram) showed people what to expect for the free classes–where they were, the environment, and the general vibe of the area. We would be working out at Hayes and Octavia, in a new space allocated to a coffee truck, the Juice Shop truck, and outdoor activity. An urban workout–and photos of the graffiti and the surrounding space helped give people an idea of what to expect.


Twitter AttentionBasic Training promoted the space where the mobile juice truck will be–it’s part of an effort in San Francisco by ProxySF. They used @ replies to the company, and by doing this, got retweeted by THAT company, which resulted in dozens of conversations within Twitter about the partnership.

Basic Training also actively wrote back to people interested in the class–and included the @ reply to people, again, increasing overall attention and awareness. And finally, in a brilliant Twitter move, they reached out to people they thought might be interested in the class, and promoted the partnerships and the get-togethers.

Basic Training was active about the partnership for about a week prior to the first class–giving people enough time to clear their schedules and attend, and also enough time to gain some momentum on social media. The few days before the first class, they tweeted and posted more, including pictures and links back to their Website for registration. In my Branding tutorial for B2, we go into more details about how exactly a brand can master their image, awareness, and conversations online–and Basic Training is one of my examples. They truly are stellar at engaging people online.


Screen shot 2013-08-09 at 4.23.27 PM

Successful Twitter Photos–Partnerships

Do you see how many likes on this one photo? That would be 183 likes. 183 likes! That is a popular picture, and all those likes equate to more people being aware of your brand, because when they like something, it shows up in their friends feeds.

This is absolutely a best practice, and Basic Training has a fabulous Instagram channel overall. Most fitness professionals who use Instagram will find a lot of success through pictures–of the classes, your customers, of the places you work out in–because what you do is so visual. Seeing people do the actual workouts, and looking happy while doing it, is the best promotion your business can get. Plus, it gives people an idea of who else might attend the classes.

The Bottom Line–Results And Attendees

The first free class was held on a Friday night at 6pm. I attended the class and was curious to see how many people would actually show up.

Ten clients took the class, which is a good, solid number considering it was a cold and windy (typical August) Friday night. Out of the ten, 1 person was brand new, and attended after seeing all the buzz about the partnership.

What was more important, however, was the attention the class received from the neighborhood. People came up to us, and the class instructors to inquire about the class. People wanted to know what the business was, when the other classes were, and whether this was a regular class.

iPhones came out and people were actually videotaping us. Now, to be fair, seeing 10 people doing burpees and lunges in a parking lot is always going to gather some attention. And Basic Training hired a videographer to tape the class as well, and when one person is videotaping, other people will follow.

The Basic Training instructors were wearing shirts that had “Basic Training” written on them, which was another great way to build awareness for the business.

Overall, the partnership gathered attention, awareness, and attendees.

Summary–What Makes a Partnership A Good Partnership

The Basic Training + Juice Shop partnership was by all accounts, a success. The true success of any partnership needs to be measured over some time. Basic Training and Juice Shop will both see positive results from their partnership over the next few weeks, and months.

A good partnership is one that:

  1. Gives your clients some loveScreen shot 2013-08-09 at 4.23.37 PM
  2. Is a win-win for both companies, or all companies involved
  3. Gets attention and awareness on social media
  4. Gets the end results–people signing up, attending a class, buying something–anything that you’ve determined is your end goal

Consider a partnership as a way to grow your business, build loyalty among current clients, and offer something unique that helps truly differentiate your business.

Part 2

I spoke with Jennifer Pattee of Basic Training to get the behind-the-scenes details and statistics on the partnership–and it turns out it was quite a success.

Click here to view Part 2.


Has your business established successful partnerships? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

Develop your own voice instead of parroting what others say.

Small Business Wins: Having Your Own Voice

Develop your own voice instead of parroting what others say.

Develop your own voice instead of parroting what others say.

Having Your Own Voice

(Or, Why Not To Parrot Others)

Do you use social media, your blog, or  your email marketing to re-post things others have written? One of the things I wrote about in my Ebook is the importance of having your own voice. With small businesses, particularly local small businesses, it is one of the key things to differentiate you from your competition, to attract new customers, and to build loyalty with current customers.

Small businesses often will leverage someone who is a “guru” in their field, and post an article or quote from that person, on their own small business social media channels or Website, or blog. I call this “parroting” because you are essentially just saying what someone else has already said. When small businesses use social media to simply parrot what others say, or, simply post an article they like–it isn’t building your own brand. Having your own voice is critical, and it helps establish YOU as the guru, rather than someone else.

In this short blog, I will give you three quick ideas for how to have your own voice.

1. Write About What You Love:

Seriously, this is a simple one, but it is missed by so many small businesses. In fact, many small business owners try to avoid talking about the things they are passionate about because they want to appear more professional, or as if they are a larger business. Even with large businesses, having a personality and sounding “human” online is important. One of the ways you develop a relationship with your customers online, AND make writing anything online fun is to write about the things you love. That could be playing soccer, or painting, or traveling. Your customers are your customers because they like YOU as well as your services, so talk about the things that make you, you. When you write and talk about things you are passionate about, your voice–the thing that makes you unique–becomes clear.

2. Write How You Speak:

This might be the only thing I found useful when getting my masters degree in Journalism. Some people disagree with this strategy on writing; I’m a huge fan. One of the reasons small business owners post what other people write, is because they are intimated by writing, or they think they are bad writers. I guarantee you are not a bad writer. Simply write down the things you would say in a session with a client. When you have a session with a client, I’m sure you say brilliant things about what you do–whether it is skincare advice, nutrition advice, stress-reduction tips. You can use a dictation machine, so exactly what you say can be used as a blog post, or you can try video posts as a way to simply speak what you know. If you are writing, read the content allowed when you are finished–does it “sound” like you? Rewrite it until it sounds natural–as if it really is something you would just say.

3. Write What You Know:

Everyone has topics they consider themselves experts on. For me, it is online marketing and strategy, ecommerce, social media, etc. When I speak or write about those topics, it’s clear I know them well, and as a result, anything I say or write comes across clearly. It is the same for all small business owners–there are things you are simply an expert at. It could be A.R.T. if you are a pilates instructor, or it could be taking care of split ends if you run a salon. Whatever the thing, or things, that you consider yourself an expert on, are the very things you should write and speak about, online and offline. Your voice will be loud and clear because of your expertise. When we are experts in something, we don’t falter when we speak–we simply state things as facts, and that comes across as a solid and strong “voice” online.

4. Bonus Tip–If You Do Post Other People’s Writings/Articles, Tell People Why You Like It:

Curating content (which is another way of saying, posting other people’s articles on your social media channels or Website), can be a way to grow your brand, if you do it correctly. I go into much more detail about this in my Ebook, but if you do post something someone else wrote, at least tell your customers and fans why you like it, what you think about the article/blog, and what you might not like about it. In this way, you are establishing that you have an opinion about something, and you are also showing that you have your own voice.

These four things will help you develop your own voice online, and will help build your small business as a unique and special place.