A brand is an integral part of every successful business. It’s the personality and identity that sets you apart from your competitors. But it can be challenging to establish a strong, market-recognized brand when you are working on your own, without previous experience or little to no help. Thankfully, there are many tools available to female entrepreneurs who want to build their brands online successfully! In this toolkit, we will discuss five key steps for building a strong brand and online presence.
So firstly, what is a brand and why do you need one?
A brand is the personality and identity of your business and the first thing that your customers will see when interacting with your company. You may have heard the phrase “a brand is not just a logo” and that is very true, in fact, it is a way of differentiating yourself from your competitors whilst also attracting your target audience and helping them feel connected with your company or product.
The goal of branding is to be memorable and recognizable, which in turn will help your customers remember why they should interact with you over any other company. A strong brand done right can also bring value to the customer experience by bringing in an element of exclusivity and trust.
On that note, here are my five key steps for building a strong online presence:
- Know your brand story and what you want to stand for
- Identify your target audience(s)
- Use the insights developed to design a memorable brand that people will associate with your company and product/service
- Build relationships online through social media channels, blogs, networking etc.
- Get feedback from customers on their experience so far (and ask them where they think improvements can be made).
We’ll explore each of these steps in more detail below. I hope this toolkit helps inspire female entrepreneurs out there who feel like it’s hard to get started!
Step One: Know Your Brand Story and What You Want to Stand For
As I mentioned, it’s important for business owners to know what they want their company or product or service to stand for. Working on this will help to create a strong brand story that is memorable to customers and allows them to identify with your business and remember why you’re different from your competitors.
Some questions you can ask yourself during this process are:
- Why have I started this company?
- What do I want to achieve?
- What makes me different from my competitors?
- How do I want my customers to feel when interacting with or purchasing from me?
Once you have thought about the above, you can start to identify the qualities that your customer should associate with you and what it is about you that will ultimately set you apart from other brands.
Step Two: Identify Your Target Audience(s)
The next thing we need to establish is your ideal target audience.
We’ll need to identify the difference between a niche market and target audience. A niche market is simply focusing on one industry or type of customer, whereas your target audience will be made up of several different types of customers that you want to gain interest from.
This may be overwhelming at first but it doesn’t need to be. There are few questions you can ask yourself during this time to figure this out.
- What are my potential customers’ demographics like?
- What is my customer’s pain point or what problem do they have that I can solve for them with my product or service?
- Who are the competitors in this space, how big of an audience does each one command, and who am I competing with most directly?
- Who is my ideal customer and what do they look like i.e. what do they do for work? What is their lifestyle like? What is their personality?
This should help you to determine who it is you want to target and cater your new brand around this.
Step Three: Design a Memorable Brand
Once you find your target market it’s time to really dive into branding. This is where we’ll focus on the branding tools that will help you build an instant brand identity including my top do’s and don’ts of designing.
The first thing we need to work on and what will form as the main part of your overall brand is of course, the logo. A logo is the cornerstone of branding and it needs to be designed in a way that is not just ‘pretty’ but serves its specific purpose to convert.
It needs to be as simple and branding-focused as possible.
Many people make the wrong decisions at this point and design for what THEY like and not for what is best for their business and target audience. Whilst it is important to like your brand (after all, it is an extension of your personality and vision) it is equally as important that you take a step back in the design process and not get too attached on what is visually appealing for YOU.
At this point, I would always recommend getting your logo professionally designed as we are trained to look and create designs strategically and not emotionally. Understandably, it is not always as easy or financially doable to outsource this and many business owners (especially startups) may prefer to work on the design themselves.
If you are going down the self-design route, some of my recommendations are as follows:
- Adobe Illustrator: Illustrator would always be my tool of choice and is what the majority of professional designers would use however there is a steep learning curve as well as a higher price point so it may not be the ideal tool for you unless you are willing to put in a fair few hours learning the platform. Find out more here: https://www.adobe.com/uk/products/illustrator.html
- Affinity Designer: Affinity Designer is a cheaper Illustrator alternative that’s great for branding and design. Again there is a learning curve but for the price, it may just be worth it! Discover Affinity here: https://affinity.serif.com/en-gb/designer/
Whichever platform you choose, it is important to make sure your final design is created as a vector so that it can be scaled to any size without loss of quality.
Here are my top do’s and don’ts for designing your logo:
- DO design in black and white first as colour can change perception early on. You also need to make sure your end design works in black and white as well as colour so by designing this way first, allows you to eliminate designs that don’t work well.
- DO create design variations of your logo for your website, social media and print collateral.
- DO create size variations and design a submark to use in scenarios where the primary logo cannot be used easily.
- DO export your logo as a transparent PNG file for use on web (this ensures there is no background on your exported graphic).
- DO take into consideration font styles, weights and combinations.
- DO request feedback on your design by showcasing to your peers
- DON’T add unnecessary graphics and icons to deter from the logo.
- DON’T add glitter, watermarks or foil effects without creating an additional ‘flat’ version. Remember, fancy effects can do more harm than good and won’t work well in print.
- DON’T use illegible typography i.e. heavy script fonts
- DON’T overcomplicate the design – simplicity is key!
Step Four: Build Solid Online Relationships
We know visual branding is important, but did you know that relationship building is just as impactful in building your brand successfully?
Like I mentioned before, part of the user experience relies on trust and no matter what your brand looks like visually, without trust and knowledge of your brand, it is unlikely you will grow your business to where you want it to be.
Here are some ways to build relationships online:
- Create a blog and begin posting content that is useful, insightful and valuable to your target audience.
- Join Facebook groups where your ideal customer hangs out. When in the group, don’t just post and run but instead, provide value regularly and interact with the group authentically.
- Reach out to bloggers within your industry that you admire, and start following their blogs.
- Comment on blog posts with thoughtful insight or just say “thank you” for the post’s helpful information.
- Interact with those who engage with you on your social media platforms – respond to comments, likes and follows.
- Engage in conversations that are happening online, like commenting on the many interesting Twitter chat topics throughout the week.
The biggest tip I can provide is to always remain authentic and make your interactions come from the heart (that means no spam or constant promo – nobody likes that!).
Step Five: Get feedback from customers on their experience so far (and ask them where they think improvements can be made).
As part of remaining authentic, there is nothing wrong with being honest to your customers and followers by reaching out for their feedback on your business and offerings – If you’re open to feedback, they’ll be more willing to provide it.
People can always tell when someone is trying to be something they are not and whilst it’s easy to try and appear bigger than you are, by doing so can open you up to looking untrustworthy and unprofessional.
Don’t be afraid to be humble and honest from where you are starting from and use this opportunity to be open to your followers and ask their advice so that you can become the business they need, and want you to be.
In conclusion, Building your online brand is a journey. It takes time, patience, strategy and an open mind to establish a successful online brand.
What have been some of the most important steps in establishing your own personal or business brand? Share them below! We would love to hear from you.