If you are running a business these days, having an online presence is pretty much essential - and building a strong brand is also a bit of a necessity if you want to stand out amongst the noise that is the world wide web. We turned to Olivia Tripp, founder of Weekend:IN to find out how small independent businesses can go about getting their brand some traction online by establishing their brand identity….
At Weekend:IN, we see a lot of amazing, small businesses that have great products on the shelves, but a less clear idea of who they are as a brand and how to showcase themselves online. We believe a strong brand identity online is not only what drives sales but it’s also what keeps a business running smoothly and evolving in the right fashion. If you’re just starting out with your brand and are looking for some handy pointers on how to develop your business online, read on for our ten top tips.
1/ Think about your target audience
Out of all our ten tips, this is the most important and the first step to building a cohesive brand. If you don’t already have an outline of what your brand’s target audience looks like, start by building a customer profile - go into maximum detail by questioning yourself, ‘who are they?’, ‘what do they do?’, ‘what are their likes and dislikes?’, ‘what other brands do they shop/enjoy?’. This will help to develop your ideal customer ‘on paper’ and reminding yourself of your ideal customer base will steer you in the right direction when faced with tricky business decisions.
2/ Consider your brand ethos
Your brand’s persona should be apparent in everything you do. Whether that’s food made using environmentally conscious production methods or a beauty line that aims to boost the self-esteem of young people, these beliefs should be at the forefront of all your business decisions. If you aren’t yet sure of your company ethos, make a list of all the reasons why you began, this will help to bring out your brand ambitions (whether you knew them or not!) and will be a handy stepping stone towards developing a clear identity and knowing what opportunities to take or pass up in the future.
3/ Don’t stray away from your values
Don’t be afraid to shout about what you believe in - but remember you need to stick to your word and be consistent in your messaging and beliefs, otherwise customers will doubt your credibility. This also applies to saying things you don’t mean. It soon becomes apparent that a brand is inauthentic and only saying things to go along with trends and attract followers and sales. These may get them page hits and sales to begin with, but it’s not good for building trust from your customers. Our favourite brands are the ones that we want to support and share with friends and family, rather than just buy a product from. The latter is, of course, important, but if a brand doesn’t support values we believe in, we’d be much less likely to keep shopping there.
4/ Be consistent with your visual identity
Depending on your company values and target audience, consider what immediate reaction you want your brand visuals to give and what visuals would best represent your business. Perhaps, for example, dark, sleek imagery would be best for a professional, high-end brand, compared to a colourful, playful style for a modern, millennial brand. Ask yourself what colours would best represent your brand? What key messaging do you want included in your logo? These are small but vital details and they round off your brand’s online aesthetic and furthermore solidify your brand’s identity. Working alongside a graphic designer is the best and most efficient way of creating a strong visual identity - why not start with building a collaborative Pinterest board for colour schemes, design styles and logo ideas, so that you and the designer are on the same page.
5/ Keep your tone of voice consistent also
Whether it’s a promotional blog post or an inspirational caption on your Insta, your desired tone of voice should be maintained throughout your online platforms. Do you want your brand to come across as friendly or serious? Informative or laid-back? By keeping your tone of voice consistent, your followers will come to recognise your unique way with words straight away, and trust and respect what you have to say.
6/ Communicate your story
Scepticism towards large, impenetrable corporate companies is at an all time high and more and more, shoppers are looking to buy from businesses that are authentic and transparent in regards to their back-story and aims for the future. Make sure to include an ‘About Us’ section on your brand’s website so that customers can understand more about you and your business - it will ensure you attract the right customer base too. Engaging with followers on your social media platforms by replying to comments, posting Instagram stories and writing blog posts are also important, everyday tasks to help get across your brand’s story and connect with your customers.
7/ Find your niche
Here at Weekend:IN we’ve found that, in order to flourish, it’s all about having an engaged following and a following that’s right for you and your brand. When we work with clients, we don’t aim to accumulate an extreme amount of followers in a short space of time, instead, we focus on a steady growth of the right type of audience, because what is the point of having a massive following online if they don’t actually like or buy your wares? Similarly, don’t try and sell your products to anyone and everyone. You simply can’t cater to everyone (unless you’re the next Amazon), and you’ll end up tying yourself in knots trying to please everybody. Remember your brand values and ideal customer profile, and with these thoughts in mind, spend an hour or two on Instagram following people who you could see fitting into your target audience.
8/ It’s more than just sales
The best brands around know to not bombard their online followers with repetitive imagery and sales posts after sales posts. Your online presence is not solely a shop front, it is a mood board representing your brand’s ideas and inspirations. It can even be a space to occasionally showcase brands similar to your own that you admire and value (they may return the favour too!). You may want to post behind the scenes photos on Instagram now and then or write a more personal blog post, but don’t feel like you should if it isn’t in keeping with your brand.
9/ Nurture customer relationships
Knowing your customers believe in what you believe, and support your brand and its goals, is a huge morale boost. You could be in the competitive realm of fashion, but you know what you bring to the table is different thanks to your unique ambition, established brand and loyal customers, creating your own niche in the market. Respect your audience by being transparent and authentic in your business endeavours; post behind the scenes photos from your workshop, let them know what projects you’re up to, express your current interests or future goals, take them on the ride with you. But it’s not only on social you need to nourish those customer relationships, every step of the journey should represent your brand well. Think customer service and user experience! By treating your customers well, you’ll have not just one-off customers, but faithful friends, fans, and most importantly, trust.
10/ Don’t get disheartened
Things won’t happen overnight, attracting customers and sales, will of course take time, so be patient and kind on yourself. If you’re having a down day, remind yourself why you started and chat with other like-minded brands online; there are a tonne of fab business support groups out there.
Try to represent your brand the best way you can, with an authentic and clear approach, without losing sight of your values. Interact with similar brands and followers to keep you in the loop - it will also make you more likely to attract customers and clients from further afield.
If you can create a brand that holds strong beliefs, a clear visual identity and a thoughtful relationship with your customer base, you will do more than just sell products, you will create a real positive impact on people’s lives and keep them coming back for more.
SO much great advice there! Thank you Olivia.
Weekend: IN are in fact hosting a weekend retreat on ‘How to Build a Brand’ this September in East Sussex with a wealth of knowledge and inspiration guaranteed! Like I said at the top of this post, making your brand stand out these days is half the battle so it is worth investing in how to do it well.
Olivia is offering 91 readers a wonderful £100 discount with the code '91magazine', which is valid until 1st August 2019. Go check out the event details to discover the schedule, the amazing venue, the speakers and what else is involved. It sounds fab. All the details can be found here.