A Comprehensive Guide to Building an Online Brand for Small Businesses

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Building an online brand is now more important than ever, especially for small businesses. A brand helps you win your customer’s trust and helps you grow your business. Your brand needs to stand out from other businesses if you wish to grow and succeed. When brand-building is done successfully, it can generate new customers.

However, only 33% of consumers have certain brands in mind while shopping. This implies that most businesses are not able to establish themselves as a brand and connect with their customers.

Building a brand online will definitely help to boost loyalty and customer trust. When done correctly, online branding can help to develop an emotional connection between you and your customers. Customers will recommend your business to others if they feel emotionally connected to your brand.

With online branding, your potential customers can recognize you and your brand’s mission and vision. This will help you differentiate yourself from other players in the industry.

Before we get to the guide to building a brand online, let’s try to understand the importance of doing so.

Why You Need to Build a Brand Online

Branding is the core requirement for any business in order to be successful – to maintain your relevance and continue to grow. Here are some important reasons which explain why you need to build a brand online

1. Build an Emotional Attachment

Successful brands connect with their customers emotionally as it helps them boost loyalty. Online branding can actually help you connect with your customers on an emotional level. It can help you develop a loyal customer base for your business.

2. Improve Brand Loyalty

Brand loyalty is essential for any business that is keen to grow. For this, people need to know about your brand and what you can do for them. This will encourage your prospects to be loyal to your brand and consider you over your competitors.

3. Cut Costs on Advertising

Online branding may seem like a daunting task, but it’s totally worth it. It will help you increase awareness and the reach of your business among your customers. Eventually, the amount of time and budget spend on branding will be less. And in the long run, online branding will help you cut down on your expenses for advertising.

4. Get References and Endorsements

Endorsements and references are good for your small business. They can help you reach and develop a new customer base and can also multiply your profits. But if you don’t have a well-known brand, it becomes difficult for your existing customers to recommend you. Online branding will help people know about your business and get acquainted with it.

5. Improve Business Equity

When done correctly, online branding can help you win over prospects and draw them towards your business. This will give you a set of loyal customers. Taking advantage of this, you can charge a premium for your products and services, not exceeding their worth of course. This will result in an increase in brand loyalty and profits.

6. Get Identified and Recognized

Your potential customers need to identify and recognize your business. They need to know what your business has to offer, and learn about your products and services. So, when your business is not recognized by people, it will become very difficult for you to attract customers.

7. Impact the Minds of Consumers

Customers tend to remember brands which leave an impact in their minds and hearts. So, it’s important for your brand to appear attractive. Try to make it very different and stand out from other brands in your industry. This should leave a long-lasting impact on your potential customers and they should be able to recognize your brand.

8. Instill Trust

You need to showcase the best features of your products and services to your potential customers. They need to realize that your business is the best in your industry. This will also instill trust in the minds of your prospects. For all this to work, online branding of your business is a must.

9. Stand Out from Your Competitors

You are not the only one selling useful products. There are many other players in the market who are doing the same thing as you. It is important for your business to be able to successfully differentiate and present yourself in front of your prospects. With online branding, you can eliminate this problem and stand out among your peers.

Now that you understand the importance of building your brand online, let’s look at the step-by-step process of doing it.

Step-By-Step Guide for Building an Online Brand

The question is how do you build your brand? Here’s how.

1. Identify Your Customer Base

It doesn’t matter how good your product or service is, you simply cannot satisfy everyone’s needs. So, you must identify your target audience, which would be the basis for you to build your online brand. When building an online brand, you must know exactly which demographics you want to target.

But, why is it so important to define your customer base? Having a clearly identified set of customers will help you customize your messages and content for them. You must make sure that your brand’s messages meet the needs of your customers.

Try to be as specific as possible about your customer base, on the basis of their lifestyle and behavior. For example, are they IT professionals, college students, or marketers? This will help you develop a brand identity and messaging, which is relatable to this set of customers.

The more you narrow down on your target market, the more effectively you can communicate your brand’s message to them. Identification of the right target customer base will help you in every aspect of your online brand-building process. It will be most useful for your marketing campaigns too. Obviously, you want to pitch to the right person to sell your products or services.

2. Create A Mission Statement for Your Brand

Not sure about the mission statement of your brand? You must come up with a statement which relates to and exhibits your passion. But before you go and frame a mission statement for your brand, there is one vital thing you need to take care of. You must have a clear understanding of the value you are providing.

Your mission statement is a sentence which states the purpose of your business’ existence. It will also impact other key aspects of your business – such as your brand’s logo, message, tagline, etc.

For example, we all know Nike for their unique and inspiring and tagline – “Just Do It.” But do you know what their mission statement is? Given below is a screenshot of Nike’s mission statement.

Nike for their unique and inspiring - Building A Brand Online

Image Source – Nike.com

Every product from Nike reflects the mission statement of the brand, as they are aimed at all sorts of athletes. The brand goes one step further and adds a disclaimer to their mission statement. By adding a disclaimer like this, they expanded their customer base.

3. Study and Analyze Other Brands from Your Industry

You must study and analyze other big brands from your industry. This will give you an idea of what is working and what is not. This step is a learning exercise. Also, it will make sure that you’re not copying them in any way.

The objective of this step is to help you differentiate yourself and stand out from your competitors. This will help you convince your potential customers to buy from you over others. So it’s important that you do this step to build a strong online brand. Do not skip it.

But how to go about analyzing other brands?

Make a list of your competitors, and research how they have built an online brand. A simple and easy way of doing this is to prepare a spreadsheet on Excel or Google Sheets. The tables will help you compare and analyze. Collect and analyze information on the quality of their products or services, their consistency in messaging, their marketing strategies, etc. By implementing this process, you can differentiate and stand out from other brands.

4. Define the Important Benefits and Qualities of Your Brand

In every industry, there will be big brands with big budgets and a lot of resources. Brands that dominate their niche. However, your products and their benefits are solely yours. To create a brand that’s unique, you need to showcase these benefits.

Make sure you are not creating a laundry list of all of the features and benefits of your products or services. Keep it simple and to the point. This will encourage your potential customers to select your business over others.

For example, a business leader like Apple also implements this tactic. They use one of their best qualities (design) and one of their key benefits (ease of use) to attract customers. All of their advertisements, events, and packaging reinforce the same idea to their customers. The idea is that their products are easy and ready to use the moment they’re outside the box.

Apple also implements this tactic - Building A Brand Online

Image Source – Apple

5. Design a Logo and Tagline for Your Brand

When presenting your brand in front of your potential customers, visuals are the first thing which will have an impact on their minds. This step is the most exciting and important in the process of building an online brand. In this step, you get to be creative and develop a brand logo and a relevant tagline for your business.

To implement this step, it is better to hire a design expert, because your logo will become an identity of your business. The logo will appear literally on everything related to your business. Your potential customers will recognize and relate to your business from your logo.

So, make sure you invest in hiring a professional and ask them to create an innovative logo. You need a logo which is unique and exclusive to your business. The visual identity will help you build an online brand for your business.

To ensure consistency in your logo usage in future, ask the expert to follow certain guidelines. Broadly, the brand guidelines will include:

  • Logo size and placement
  • Color palette
  • Typography and fonts
  • Iconography
  • Photography/image style
  • Web elements

You also need to come up with a tagline, which has not been used before. Make the tagline catchy, attractive, relevant, relatable, and understandable for your customer base.

For example, Amazon the largest e-commerce company, has a yellow arrow in their logo. The arrow from A to Z indicates that Amazon sells everything – from electronics to books, from homecare products to fashion. The arrow also implies the smiling and happy customers after shopping with Amazon.

Amazon the largest e-commerce company - Building A Brand Online

Image Source – Amazon

6. Create a Brand Voice for Your Business

The voice for your business should be created based on your business’s mission and customer base. It’s about the communication between you and your business and how they react to it. Your brand’s voice can be promotional, friendly, authoritative, or informative – it’s entirely up to you.

However, you need to make sure that the voice is relatable to your target customers. There are high chances of connecting with your customers quickly and easily when you use the right brand voice.

For example, the airline company, Virgin America, is popular for their friendly customer service. Their voice continuously supports in building the brand. Their Twitter account is full of customer-friendly tweets. Below is a screenshot of one such tweet. In this particular tweet, they are offering the customer to help them look for flights to Florida.

Virgin America, is popular for their friendly customer service - Building A Brand Online

Image Source – Twitter

7. Create a Brand Message

In brand building, it is important for you to tell your customers briefly who you are. You should also use your brand voice as explained above.

Keep your brand message up to a maximum of two sentences, and make it relevant to your brand. Creating a brand message is slightly more complicated than creating a logo or tagline for your brand. Your brand message should cover vital aspects like:

  • Who you are
  • What do you have to offer
  • Why people should consider you over others

A brand message is important. But how exactly will it help your business? With a relevant, simple, and clear brand message, you can connect with your customers at an emotional level. This means the use of language should be simple and should be able to strike an emotional chord.

Avoid explaining what your products are capable of doing in your brand message. Rather focus and explain how your products or services make a difference to the lives of your customers.

For example, TOMS Shoes have a huge following on social media. Below is the screenshot of the brand’s message, which is displayed at the center of their website. As you can see it is not more than two sentences and perfectly connects with the customer at an emotional level.

TOMS Shoes have a huge following on social media - Building A Brand Online

Image Source -Toms.com

8. Develop a Unique Brand Personality

One thing you need to keep in mind is, you are not the only one doing business. There are other small as well as big businesses in the same industry. The challenge for you is – how do you differentiate yourself from other business and attract customers?

The customer is not interested in your laundry list of products and services. All they want to know is how your product or services can address their needs. You also should ensure that the interactions are done at a personal level.

So, you need to develop a unique brand personality, which is a crucial aspect of building a brand online. In this process of brand-building, ensure that your brand personality speaks for every aspect of your business. Once you develop a brand personality, you need to be consistent with it on all your social platforms.

Create a simple and appealing brand personality. You can describe your products or services in an unusual but funny manner. You can also share some quick pictures of your regular day at the office or share real experiences with your prospects. When communicating, always use ‘I’ and ‘you’ i.e. conversational voice.

For example, Zomato is a well-known restaurant-finder app. They have a unique way of creating simple, yet funny and engaging content. They tend to simplify the complex information into funny and engaging infographics.

Zomato is a well-known restaurant-finder app - Building A Brand Online

Image Source – Instagram

This sort of a brand personality helps increase audience engagement and brand awareness.

brand personality helps increase audience - Building A Brand Online

Image Source – Facebook

9. Incorporate and Reflect Your Brand

You have to make sure that your brand is visible and reflected enough in every aspect of your business. Whenever a customer sees, hears, or reads anything related to your business, your brand should reflect in it. Building a brand online is a continuous process.

When a customer or a client approaches you, your brand should reflect not only in personal communications but also in your office/store environment. Your logo should be present on the packaging of your products or service, business cards and on all advertisements.

You must ensure that your brand looks exactly the same on all your social media platforms. The best way to do it, refer to the brand guidelines which was prepared in step 5. The guideline will help you in maintaining the uniformity and evenness with the visuals.

Don’t forget to integrate your brand’s message, voice, and personality, when developing a website or an account on social media. When you post content on YouTube, Instagram or Facebook, make sure your content reflects your brand personality and voice.

For example, Warby Parker is a famous American online prescription glasses and sunglasses retailer. The brand has successfully managed to reflect their voice and personality across all their social profiles and physical environment.

Warby Parker is a famous American online - Building A Brand Online

Image Source – Instagram

10. Turn Your Employees into Your Brands Advocates

You and your employees have gone through and completed each step for building a brand online for your business. And in the process, you and your employees became aware of all the teeny tiny details regarding your business. So who else would be the best advocates for promoting your business?

Encourage your employees to promote your business and enable them with the necessary means to do so. When signing a new employee, you need to ensure that they fit with your values, culture, and mission of your brand.

In the due course of time, you will get a set of loyal customers. You can even turn your loyal customers into brand advocates. Encourage them to post and share reviews or pictures of your products or services on their social media accounts.

For example, Reebok motivates their employees to post and share pictures related to their fitness routine and passion for fitness. They ask employees to use social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram for posting authentic and relevant pictures.

Reebok motivates their employees - Building A Brand Online

Image Source – Instagram

Final Thoughts

Be it a small or big business, building a brand online is an important aspect of the business.

Your online branding should impact the minds of consumers so that they can recognize your brand. Developing an emotional connection with consumers can help you build a loyal customer base.

The above-mentioned guide includes the most important steps required to build an online brand. The identification of a relevant customer base is a very important step. As the rest of the process depends on this, you might want to invest some time to do this carefully.

When implemented correctly, online branding can help you give your competitors a run for their money. It will help you gain the trust of your target customers. Ensure that there is a visual consistency throughout your online branding. Your brand’s message and voice should resonate with your brand’s mission and vision.

Do not overlook the importance of having an attractive and relevant logo for your brand. If you don’t have in-house capabilities, don’t hesitate to invest in a professional logo designer. Be careful when selecting a color palette and design as this will become the identity of your brand.

Use it on all your social media accounts. By doing this, potential customers can quickly and easily identify you.

Follow this guide to see your business grow and flourish. Can you think of any other ways of building a brand online? If you have any other insights to share, feel free to comment below.