Do you feel that the image you project, truly represents what you do?
Does the tone of your copy jibe with the design of your website?
And what about your posts? Do they proudly display your skills and tell a good story?
In other words, have you built an online property that shows you as an authority, converts readers to customers, and helps grow your business?
To do this effectively – to create a brand that sticks – you need a solid combination of design, content solutions, and strategy.
This doesn’t even include all the other items you must think about: What domain should I choose? Is SEO important? Should I advertise or work on print promotion?
In the past I’ve done my best to explain this process, but I wanted to give you a complete list. An outline that shows you the steps I go through with my clients.
A guide that shows you how to plan it, brand it, then build it.
After you read this you’ll be armed with a plan to craft an online presence that does the following:
A. Displays the true essence of your business.
B. Helps build authority, so you attract the right community.
C. Works wonders for your bottom line.
This post will continue to evolve, because I’m adding new services built on company branding, strategic design, content marketing and social media. So, feel free to share it, bookmark it, and let me know what else you would like to see in the comments below (I do want to hear from you).
Please note that several links in this piece are affiliate links which means I earn a small commission if you buy or sign-up (at no extra cost to you, of course!) Thanks!
Here you go (How to build a brand that will grow your business) …
Step 1. Setting up Your Brand.
Does your business need customers or satisfied clients who would gladly tell the world how great you are and keep coming back for more?
I think you know the answer, but how do you setup a property that proudly displays the soul of your business and is built to attract the right clients?
What if I told you a simple 2-3 sentence exercise is step one?
Yep. It’s a necessary (and relatively easy) step most business owners skip, but it’s extremely important. Trust me on this, I’ve been doing this for 18 years plus.
This is a simple exercise to flesh out your business branding.
You need to spend time and do it right, so read the following and get started:
When launching a business, the perfect name can make all the difference in the world. Even businesses with years of brand equity often need a name change.
Here’s where Step 1 (Setting up Your Brand) starts to pay off. If a new name is necessary, it will be glaringly obvious after this process.
Start here to learn more about the naming process: How to Pick the Perfect Name for Your Business (or Blog)
How to Write a killer tagline: I mostly work with established businesses, so nine times out of 10 it’s not a new name that is needed, but rather a shiny new tagline.
Great taglines are effective and do more than you think. I’ve written about the process here: How to Craft a Tagline That Works
Go here, if you want to learn even more about the art and science of taglines.
Step 3. Focus on Copy, Not Design.
Why start with copy?
This is a question clients often ask and here’s my simple answer:
To effectively brand a business you need narrative; without it you’re tethered to a rudderless ship. I discuss this very topic right here.
Think about it, narrative that is.
How will you guide viewers through your site? What keywords will you use on your opening page? How will you define the tone of your overall messaging (your flavor)?
Your story IS your site. It helps you …
a.) craft keywords used to direct viewers to specific pages.
b.) create effective design, fully in-line with your messaging. And …
c.) It’s how you build full-flavored content in the form of site pages, blog posts, videos, and printed brochures.
Your story is your core and your catalyst. And it’s ignited by you … when you take the time to think through Steps 1, 2, and 3 above. (Even if you don’t need a new name or a new tagline this process helps, immensely).
It’s all so simple …
Once you have story, it’s easier to develop site navigation, to build visuals, and to jump on to social and tell the world about your business.
Read more about how story can transform your business here.
You might also want to read (and watch) what Amy Harrison has to say …
So, to review …
Step 1. Run through a positioning exercise as step one. Take your time and strain your brain.
Step 2. Experiment with names and taglines, even if you don’t think they are needed.
Step 3. Then craft a complete outline wrapped in narrative.
The process is about taking a ton of information, breaking it down, whittling it down some more, finding the best bits, then crafting something special around that.
Whew! Now you’re ready to assemble the parts.
Step 4. Logo Design.
I won’t go on about how important it is to hire a professional to do this right. Properly designed logos are an essential component of branding done right, but a traditional icon-based logo is not always what you need.
“Properly designed” can mean simple, clean, elegant, and as long as the logo fits with everything else and doesn’t look like a $5 logo, you’re golden.
Just look at my company site and this blog. The branding is cohesive, but the logo is a simple play on typography. This works with what I want to accomplish.
If you go through a proper positioning exercise (basically, Step 1 above) the type of logo you need will start to come into focus.
So do colorful, icon-based logos.
Do I think logos are dead? Of course not, but they are just one component of a complete A-Z branding mix. And doing the necessary legwork up-front (steps 1-3) often means you’ll end up with something that helps define your business.
Step 5. Putting it All Together.
I’m not a designer or writer or content marketer, I’m a combination of all three. I’m also a project manager.
Modern websites are now media properties. There are many moving parts, but it’s also never been easier to get a nice looking site up and running.
And often a clean, easy to navigate site is all that is needed … if you take your time with steps 1-3.
If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, here’s a detailed post on planning a website based on content (something I’m obviously on board with).
If you want a DIY crash course, Pamela Wilson will guide you through the process.
Lynda.com also offers fee-based courses. (I’ve used them myself and recommend them highly).
If you would rather hire a professional, at least make a quick run through some of the steps above before you meet.
If you’re a blogger, you use WordPress and are probably familiar with Studio Press and Genesis. If you’re a small business owner you’re probably not.
For some clients, a fleshed-out Studio Press theme is all they need. The important thing is to go through the necessary brand positioning steps first, then focus on copy, then map out your site, then contact a designer or developer.
Step 6. Creating a Content Plan.
What is content? It’s blogging, guest posting, podcasting, video … need I go on?
But how in the world does a small business get started with all this?
Well, if you’ve gone through the phases above, crafting a solid content plan is not as hard as you might think.
First, get familiar with the language. For a great breakdown of content marketing, and how to approach it in your business, I would recommend The Sales Lion, Copyblogger and the Content Marketing Institute (CMI).
Take a look at my eBook and see what 25 successful entrepreneurs featured have to say.
Just get started and stop flushing ad dollars.
Step 7. Building a Community.
This is a mix of blogging, networking and social media. I could probably write a 3,500 word post on this topic alone, but I won’t.
What I will do is point you in the direction of several bloggers, each with an engaged community. Check out their posts and how they operate. Study how they approach social media and networking. Write a comment on their respective blogs.
Step 8. What About Outsourcing?
Well, I believe strongly in what I wrote here about finding the best and brightest to delegate to. If you’re a solopreneur you have to do this. If you run a small business – say, under 20 employees – you also have to do this. It’s best to hire a professional, but you need to be involved with the project, and simply running through some of the initial steps in this post is how you initiate the process, correctly.
Find partners, freelancers, virtual assistants. People who are energized by the work that kills your spirit and your energy.
If you continually network and engage on social media, building a list of quality vendors is not that hard.
There’s a guy in the Philippines named Chris Ducker who crafts golden posts of goodness on this all the time. He owns a business built on delegation.
Heck, he just wrote a book on this very topic.
Step 9. Strategy.
If you’re on linkedIn, learn how to use it. Most businesses underutilize this amazing B2B social network, and if you are selling to other businesses, this is the social network you should spend most of your time on. If you want to get busy on LinkedIn, start here.
Never look at Facebook the same again. Francisco Rosales knows a thing or two about this platform … If you want to dive into Facebook, look here.
Read the Tao of Twitter by Mark Schaefer.
Learn about long tail keywords and how to use them in posts and titles. Download my eBook, read what Marcus Sheridan has to say, then download his eBook. He’s been incredibly successful utilizing the power of content marketing in his pool business.
And see what influence marketing is all about.
Step 10. Develop a Mailing List.
In fact this might just be the most important tool for getting your message out there.
Create a brochure that resides on your site’s home page to serve several purposes: 1.) Grow your email list by giving viewers an incentive to sign-up; 2.) increase site traffic by giving away something they need; and 3.) establish thought leadership, encourage social sharing. Bloggers know how insanely valuable this is, but many businesses don’t.
I highly recommend Aweber.
That’s it! I wanted to create a complete post built for small businesses that want to dramatically improve their branding and online marketing. A guide that shows you how to plan it, brand it, build it … and then watch as your business grows. I hope it helps in some way. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
You don’t have to do these in order, but you should get started today.
- Want to Change Your Life? (Let’s Start with 5 Regrets.) - September 3, 2014
- Why the Social Web Needs Thought Leaders - August 6, 2014
- Want to Be a Blog Writing Machine? (Give up on Perfection). - July 30, 2014
- Can Social Media Engagement Kill Your Business? - July 23, 2014
- 4 Big Reasons Why Your Small Business Needs Content Marketing Now - July 15, 2014
- Your 3 Step Process to Surviving and Thriving the Fickle Realm of Social Media - July 10, 2014
- How Do You Become a Successful Blogger? (4 Answers that Might Surprise You). - June 26, 2014
- The Beautiful, Empty Cup of Blogging - June 11, 2014
- Why Small Businesses Hate Content Marketing (and What to Do About It) - June 4, 2014
- My Breaking Out Mission (and Why I Need Your Help) - May 28, 2014