Gone are the days of doing the online equivalent of standing on a street corner and shouting your business’s attributes to passersby, boasting of “quality” and “state-of-the-art” products and/or services. While a quality product or service is absolutely not a bad thing, you’ll need a lot more than that to bring new customers on board. Developing a strong brand identity is tough because you need to step back and evaluate your brand in its entirety, and really think about your goals and how they align with those of your potential customers. Your brand needs to listen before it can speak. Furthermore, you need to make a stellar first impression in a matter of seconds—the online realm is intensely competitive, and the human attention span continues to dwindle.
Brand Identity Essentials
First, the essentials. If you’re just getting started, here is what you need to establish your online brand identity:
- An up-to-date, secure website that contains quality content (text and images) that explains your brand and how it can serve consumers. It should be informative, concise, navigable, and give interested parties the ability to contact you whenever they want.
- A Google My Business profile, which is completely free and helps small businesses manage all of their Google listings. It’s also a great way for you to show potential customers what sets you apart.
- Social media accounts are more important than ever for businesses. If you want your brand to become relevant and stay relevant, interacting with consumers is the best way to do it. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, and others can serve your brand well if you use them consistently and properly. It is crucial to note that you don’t need to have a profile with every social media platform out there—but a Facebook page is highly recommended, and Instagram can be a versatile marketing tool as well, especially if you’d like to share photos related to your business on a regular basis.
- Quality products and services are, in fact, important at the end of the day, and are crucial to helping people connect and identify with your brand. We can all agree that there are certain products and services in life we just can’t live without, and if we like what a brand is producing, we’re going to stick with them for as long as we can.
What Consumers Want
Today’s consumers expect more from their brands. So you need to dig deeper to understand what they want, how to approach them, and how to help them solve their problems. It’s not about having the loudest voice and the flashiest look, but about connecting with your audience on a personal level and being the brand they can rely on to not only give them what they want, but to do so with genuine concern for their needs and well-being. You have to care, and your brand identity needs to reflect that.
Let’s go beyond your products and/or services and talk about some of the elements that can set your brand apart from the rest. When researching brands online, people really seem to want:
A more genuine connection. How do you feel when someone approaches you at the mall from one of those kiosks? You probably start walking a little faster to get away from them, right? That’s no way to connect with prospective customers. Instead of getting in their face (figuratively speaking), you need to give them a reason to want to know more about you and possibly do business with you. You need to acknowledge and empathize with the problems they might be having, and show how you can help them overcome those problems. In a recent study by Sprout Social, the data revealed that two-thirds of consumers surveyed “equate feeling connected with trust.” This shows that the stronger the connection, the more trust people will have in your brand.
An active, engaging social media channel (or several) they can follow. Social Media Examiner’s 2018 Social Media Marketing Report found that roughly 87% of marketers received increased exposure to their business thanks to social media, and 78% saw increased traffic. There’s no better way to connect with people online than through Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms. And the more consistently you post on social media, the more loyal people are likely to be to your brand. You can give consumers more insight into your brand’s mission and all the people involved. Seeing the faces and names behind the logo will make consumers feel like they know you—they will be more apt to see you not as a faceless brand, but as a group of like-minded people who have feelings, ideas, and needs just like they do.
A brand with a mission. Your brand doesn’t exist solely to make a profit. You offer the products and/or services you do for a reason. So what’s your brand’s story? What inspired its creation? What drove you to put your blood, sweat and tears into this brand? Why does it exist? When you have a decisive goal in mind, consumers want to know about it. What’s your goal? To keep pets healthy and nurture the human-animal bond? To bring members of your community together? To help people overcome financial obstacles so they can lead better lives?
Your mission has to speak to the consumers you want to serve, and to show that you have much more than just products and/or services to bring to the table. Today, many people want the brands they follow to contribute something positive to society, and to share their values. Among those surveyed by Sprout Social, 53% said that they felt more connected to a brand with values that aligned with theirs.
1-on-1 engagement. Whether it’s on your website or on social media, you should always address consumers in a conversational, 1-on-1 style that shows you’re approachable and poised to answer questions and help with problems virtually any time. You also need to speak the same language as your target audience. Consumers appreciate companies that are readily receptive to feedback and inquiries, and above all, it shows that you care. Oh, and it’s good customer service.