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:
- Have good SEO, so people can find you through “natural” (unpaid) search?
- Allow customers to book an appointment with you, know your hours, and contact you?
- 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:
- Immediate convey what you do
- Why you are different from competitors
- 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!