Creating a recognizable brand should be a top priority of any business, no matter your size or budget. The branding of your business will either attract customers or it will drive them away. It's that simple. Branding should be one of the very first considerations of a new (or existing) enterprise - yet it is shocking how little many entrepreneurs focus on the branding of their company and their products or services.
Nothing screams "small time"to me more than a business owner who hands me their business card which has neither a website to reference nor, more frequently, an email address tied to their domain name.
A serious entrepreneur should never have an email address that is tied to Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or any one of the litany of free email accounts. I personally do not like to send or answer emails to these free email sites due to the obvious ease into which they can get hacked! (See the John Podesta hacked emails...)
Having this kind of email screams laziness at worst or the lack of attention to detail at best. Email addresses should always be firstname.lastname@example.org or .net, etc. The website domain host should be able to provide you a branded email account. Consider having several email accounts such as info@ or sales@ your domain. You can have all addresses pointed to one catch-all email account.
Beware of the many domain hosting companies that offer free templates to build your website. Many of these free sites will host our site if you reserve the domain name through them, but they keep your domain name! You don't own the URL, nor can you transfer it at a later date. There is often fine print that allows them to attach their name or brand prominently to your website. Avoid these hosting companies at all costs. Again, the idea is to brand professionally without the professional budget. If it becomes obvious your business is using a free website building template you broadcast an amateur status.
A brand begins with a logo. There are countless inexpensive freelance websites that can help you develop a logo very inexpensively. Make sure your logo is also attached to your email signature to convey your band as a professional organization.
With branding, the little things all add up to create the image you want. Business cards, invoices, letterhead, etc. should have a common look, feel and logo.
If the name of your business doesn't automatically tell customers what you do (e.g. Oak Street Meat Market) then consider developing a short tag line. At Teligistics, we came up with a brilliant tag line that encompasses exactly what we do, "Making Cents of Your Telecom Dollars". Hence, large enterprises know we are in the business of reducing telecom expenses.
Your website should be simple, straightforward and an effective brochure for your business. We drive leads to our websites by offering white papers on various topics where potential customers register. There are dozens of inexpensive website design templates from a multitude of providers. Avoid incorporating large pictures or flash in your design that will contribute to a long load time for the consumer. Various studies show that once a prospective customer visits your site, you have about twenty seconds to keep them there. Make double sure the mobile design of your website works on cell phones, tablets, and all browsers.
Today, content it everything. The most successful websites are those that offer content that educates the consumer, whether it be a retail consumer or B2B consumer. Educating builds confidence in the potential customer.
Make sure a potential customer has an obvious link to reach you through a prominent Contact Us page and link. How many times have you had to search on a website for a way to contact the merchant? It's frustrating and for me it's an immediate sign the enterprise will be hard to reach for customer service, etc.
Consider using an SEO (search engine optimization firm) if your budget allows or consider Google Adwords to drive traffic to your website. At a minimum, your hosted domain website template builder should allow you to add embedded key words to allow potential customers to find you in web searches. Building a website does not guarantee anyone can find it. It must be part of an overall branding campaign.
After creating a professional logo or image, tag line, business cards and a website consider producing regular press releases about your product or service. Again, the Internet is a wonderful place to find services that will write press releases. However, unless you are a gifted writer make sure you have a professional editor. The damage done to your brand by issuing a press release that is incoherent or has spelling errors is almost irreparable in the short term.
Finally, one greatly overlooked area of branding is how your new venture answers live phone calls.
I personally get turned off by the difficulty of reaching a live person in a company I'm prepared to spend money with - or one in which I have already spent money. Nothing beats a call answered live by a human being. Again, with todays' technologies there are a myriad of services that will forward your office phone to your mobile device, etc. Beware however, if you use this approach to never miss a phone call, make sure customers don't reach your mobile phone voicemail - or worse that your mobile voice mail message is less professional than your greeting on your business phone number!
Branding your venture is essentially the building of your company's business reputation. Taking care of the small details goes a very long way to creating the image of a successful operation - and everyone likes to do business with a success!
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