I believe every business can benefit from going through the online brand building process — starting from the early days of a new business.
It’s one reason I remain passionate about helping people who are building an online brand after all these years!
Here’s the thing …
Building an online brand requires you to answer some thought-provoking questions.
If you want your online brand to succeed, there are a handful of things you must have complete clarity about.
And that clarity will help you in almost every area of your business, now and in the future.
How online brand building builds your business
Online brand building may not come naturally to you. But it’s a process that sets your business on the right course. It impacts:
- The kind of customers you work to attract with your marketing
- The visual brand design you develop
- The types of products or services you create
- The “voice” you use for both your copywriting and content marketing
In this article, I’m going to share what building an online brand requires. I’ll give you plenty of resources to read for more information.
Let’s start with a definition so we know we’re all on the same page …
What does online brand building mean?
To answer this question, let’s start with what a brand is not.
- A brand is not your logo.
- A brand is not your tagline.
- A brand is not your advertising.
All of these things form part of how your brand is perceived. But your brand is much larger than the sum of these parts.
Here’s my favorite definition:
[click_to_tweet tweet=”What IS a brand, really? ‘Your brand is how your business shows up in the world to serve a specific group of people.'” quote=”Your brand is how your business shows up in the world to serve a specific group of people.”]
Online brand building means …
- Knowing who you want to reach with your brand
- Create messages — both visual and verbal — that appeal to that person
- Using the power of time to build brand recognition and brand equity
Online brand building starts with answering thought-provoking questions
What I love about process of building an online brand is that it obligates you to answer some pretty profound questions about your business, often before you’ve started building it.
And re-branding your business gives you the opportunity to answer those same profound questions over again!
Let’s go through these essential brand-building questions one by one.
The sections below explain the five important online brand building questions you can use to start building an online brand you can be proud of.
1. Do I know my ideal customer?
Who do you want to help?
[click_to_tweet tweet=”If you want to build an online brand that attracts your ideal kind of customer, you must visualize that person first!” quote=”If you want to build an online brand that attracts your ideal kind of customer, you must visualize that person first!”]
We’re not talking about the typical demographic information here, either. You want to identify:
- People who have a challenging problem your business can help them solve
- People who are aware they have a problem — and know they want to solve it
- People who can afford to solve this problem
This step in the branding process is easy to rush — but resist the urge!
It’s essential to spend time really thinking this through. If you don’t target the right customer from the start, you could head off in the wrong direction and spend years pursuing the wrong customers for you.
When you clearly understand who your ideal customer is, your marketing will be crystal clear and on-target. That’s important, because fuzzy marketing is forgettable. It’s boring. It doesn’t make a dent.
So invest time getting to know your ideal customer with the resources below.
Soon, you’ll feel you understand your ideal customer so well, you’ll notice that:
- It’s easy to create content they’ll find valuable
- Your perfect customers will tell you, “It’s like you’re speaking directly to me”
- You’ll feel motivated to create solutions your ideal customer needs — and will pay for
- Your customers will see your offers and say, “This solution was tailor-made for me”
So much of this ideal customer step means eliminating certain people so you can focus on others.
Here are three resources to inspire your online brand building. The first one is powerful — don’t miss it!
Have you been in business for a while and have decided to focus on a different ideal customer?
This can happen as your business evolves over time. Maybe you discover unmet needs, or a group of people who aren’t being served with currently available products or services.
Once you are 100% clear on who you want to serve, you’ll need to answer an important question …
2. Will I build a personal brand, a business brand, or a hybrid of both?
Personal brands revolve around a person — or small group of people — and their charisma and personalities.
There’s a lot to recommend personal brands — when you build your brand around you, it gives you the ultimate flexibility in terms of what you offer. As your interests and skills change, so can your products and services.
On the other hand, it can be challenging to sell a business that’s built around a personal brand if that’s a priority for you. And as the “face” of the brand, you might find it challenging to step away from your business.
Why create a personal brand?
Personal brands are flexible. They most often use the business owner’s name. This means if your focus changes and you want to offer something different, you can make the change without needing to change your business name.
Personal brands are perfect for a speaker, author, or expert. Once you’ve associated your personal name with your area of expertise, you can use that authority to speak, consult, coach, write books, and more.
Personal brands are perfect for solopreneurs. If you’re a consultant, artist, author, professional speaker, or coach, a strong personal brand will boost your business and attract new, interested prospects.
Why build a business brand?
Building a business brand forces you to think long term about your business goals. Your business name will be based on who your ideal customer is, how you’ll serve them, and what your business will be known for. The business naming process will help you create a vision for where you want to take your business that goes beyond creating a business name and tagline.
Business brands allow you to position your business from the start. Your business name can represent an aspirational view of the future. Complement your name with a tagline that builds excitement. Then sit back and watch as your ideal customer grasps what you offer as soon as they hear your business name. It’s pretty magical!
Thinking about your exit strategy today? Business brands are easier to sell. Maybe your interests change; you want to relocate; you’re ready to retire. Whatever the reason for cashing out, it will be easier to sell your business if you’ve built something that’s not associated with a personal name. That’s because if the business is named after a person and that person is no longer there, it’s not worth as much. But if you’ve developed a recognizable name brand, that’s an asset people will pay for.
It’s an important decision. Use the resources below so you know the kind of online brand building you need.
3. Do I have a business name I love?
Once you know who you want to reach and how you want to show up for them, it’s time to pinpoint the words you’ll use to describe your business.
This means finding a business name and tagline that resonate with the customers you want to reach. This isn’t a time to be clever — aim for clarity over all!
My best advice? Choose a business name that alludes to what you offer, but not too specifically. Why?
That’s because as your business develops, there’s an excellent chance that what you offer is going to evolve.
Let’s say you’re a web developer. You start out with a plan to offer website builds for manufacturing companies.
But as it turns out, you end up attracting lots of start ups in the healthcare space.
In this scenario, if you named your business “Websites for Industry” you’d be in trouble. That doesn’t sound like a business that offers web development to start ups!
But if you name your business “Growth Site Developers” you’re all set. You’re simply stating you offer growth-oriented websites, and not getting too specific about exactly what kind of sites, or how they will be delivered.
That’s the happy medium to aim for when looking for a business name. You want it to be flexible enough to grow and change as your business does.
4. Have I chosen consistent brand fonts to start building my online brand?
You don’t need a logo in order to have a recognizable brand.
But you should have some recognizable fonts that “speak” to your ideal customer. If you followed the link to the brand personality quiz above, you’ll have an idea about what kind of fonts you should use to communicate your brand.
Here’s a quick review of how to choose your brand fonts:
You really only need a single font or two. For memorability and ease, don’t choose more than two brand fonts. Your logo fonts (if you have a logo) don’t count toward the total.
Check that you’ve chosen highly readable fonts. Beautiful fonts that are not easy to read defeat the purpose of using words to communicate. Reject any fonts that are too flourished, too condensed, too funky-looking.
Remember x-height. Get to know how x-height makes fonts clear and readable.
Aim for fonts that are available for online and offline use. Some fonts are web-only. To keep your brand consistent across print and the internet, choose fonts that you can use in both places.
Take your brand personality into account. Get clear about how you want your brand to be seen and it will be easier to find fonts to tell that story.
If you’ve never chosen fonts before, never fear. Follow the tips in the resources below and you’ll find great fonts to represent your online business.
Hot on the heels of your font choice is a decision about your brand colors. Sound daunting? I’ve got you covered. Read on.
5. Do I know what brand colors I’ll use?
Color speaks to your idea customer at a visceral, emotional level. It’s powerful stuff! And it’s easy to get wrong.
Color exists on a spectrum, and each color has a relationship with other colors. To understand these relationships, take a look at the two color wheels here:
By the way, for an interactive tool that will help you choose exact colors, try using Canva’s on-screen color wheel.
The left color wheel above shows colors that are darker in the middle and have more white added as they move toward the outside ring. The right color wheel is lighter in the middle, and the outer ring colors have more black.
Remember: Aim for two main colors to start. Then, add an accent color that you’ll use sparingly to draw attention to calls to action.
Begin choosing brand colors with the resources below.
What about your online domain name?
A massive — and often overlooked — component of building an online brand is your domain name.
If you are doing online brand building from scratch, it’s important to think about your business name and your domain name at the same time.
It takes some extra effort but it will be well worth it nailing down a business name and grabbing a domain name to reflect it.
Do I need to own the .com version of my domain name?
The default naming convention for URLs is .com. When you own the .com version of a domain name, you are seen as the “original” domain owner.
If someone else owns the .com version of the domain name you want to use, don’t use an alternative like .net, .life, or .info. Keep searching until you find a domain name that works for you in the .com version.
That’s because people will type in .com to find your business.
If the .com version of the domain leads to someone else’s business, you’re sending business someone else’s way.
Finding a .com domain name can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Break open a thesaurus and keep trying alternatives until you hit on one that works.
Does my domain name need to include keywords?
According to Search Engine Journal, there’s no real advantage to including keywords in your domain name.
The article above quotes John Mueller of Google, who said, “…just because keywords are in a domain name doesn’t mean that it’ll automatically rank for those keywords.”
Focus on ensuring that your domain name makes sense to people — not search engines.
Online brand building on your mind? Start today building an online brand today!
Here’s the element of brand identity design no one talks about …
Brand equity is built over time. The sooner you make these simple brand choices, the better.
Building on online brand — especially when you’re not an expert — can seem daunting. But it’s really a series of small decisions, make intelligently and early on, and then applied consistently over time.
That’s why doing this online brand building work as early as possible is so important. When you make these decisions early in the life of your business and brand, you have the opportunity to get time working for you. The people you touch with the online brand you build will remember your choices of:
- Ideal customer
- Personal or business brand
- Brand name
- Brand colors
- Brand fonts
The more often they see these choices, they more your smart online brand building decisions will have the chance to make an impact on the long-term health of your online business.
Explore the resources here to get started now! Because online brand building works best when you start early and stay consistent over time.