Launch Your Brand Online Without Losing Your Money or Your Mind
A great idea can hit you anywhere. It can wake you at 2:00 a.m., so compelling that you jump out of bed, put on a pot of coffee, and begin outlining your business plan. Remember, though, in the heady rush of dreaming up the business, to build a launching pad for it. In other words, a presence on the Internet. Because in today’s buzzword search-engine climate, a web site is the most powerful marketing and sales tool available to any company, large or small, cottage industry or inspired solopreneur.
You don’t need to be a cyber-genius to go online and get results. But unless you have a clear business objective and message, you could waste a lot of time and money without accomplishing much. Here are seven steps to guide you in developing your web site. Use this system as a clear roadmap, so you don’t find yourself wandering in circles.
Step 1: Strategize
Talk strategy with your web site designer. Clarify how your business goals and objectives translate to a web site. You can’t create an effective web site design if you don’t know what you want the web site to do for you.
Step 2: Define Your Target Market and Niche
What overall customer base do you serve? That’s your target market. Who are they? Any particular field or industry? What characteristics, interests, or needs do they have in common? Within that customer base, find a smaller group that’s a more specific fit for your product or service, and which may not be served by your competitors; or both — that’s your niche. If your target market is comprised of people in job search, for instance, your niche might be people in job search, over 50, who don’t just want to change jobs, they want to change careers.
Why do you need to define your target market and niche? Because: (1) you can’t be all things to all people; (2) you and your customer base need to find one another; and (3) the more specific you get, the more your niche will feel you understand them and can serve their specific needs.
Step 3: Position Yourself
If you’ve done your homework, then you’ve researched the competition. Who are they? What sets you apart in terms of customer base, quality, service, and other aspects? What makes you unique? Look for gaps in the market that aren’t being served — those gaps will help you position yourself and define your niche. Plus, it’ll help you hone your offerings, making you the expert who is sought out for your know-how.
Step 4: Describe “What” and “How”
Whether you’re selling a product or a service, what you’re offering has to solve something or offer something for your customers. How it does is key to making them choose you. If you can’t describe the “what” element, your customers won’t know you have a product or service that might benefit them. If you can’t describe the “how” element, your customers won’t be clear that it is doable, usable, and of value. The “how” element also gives, in precise terms, the ways in which the product or service will provide the results customers want. It is a descriptive roadmap from Point A (their need or want) to Point B (the results or benefits).
Step 5: Brand Yourself
Let’s say you’ve already named your business. Now you need images, words, feelings, to make it distinctive. To make it a brand. Branding involves several elements:
- Perception — How do you want your customers/clients to think about your business? How would your customers describe you and your business? What value do your products/services provide, and how do you want the world to perceive that value?
- Logo — Clarify your message based upon the perception you want your customers to have about your business, your niche, and how you want to position yourself. Distill that into an image that will be the visual representation of your company: your logo. I recommend this tool from GraphicSprings to create a free logo for your business.
- Tagline — Then translate that into a powerful, compelling tagline. Keep it brief (3-7 words). Make it memorable. Be sure it fits your business. The best taglines are evocative, meaning they conjure images, thoughts, and feelings.
- Graphics — Choose visuals that best express and integrate with your logo and tagline. Support your message with every visible aspect: colors, typeface, styles, and other graphic elements.
Step 6: Create Your Web Site
The nature of your business will drive and designate your web site by topic — e.g., content, features, directions, contact info, blogs, links, biography, photos, itineraries. Then start writing your copy, making sure its tone fits the web site design. State the key benefits clients will receive, the key values you deliver, the key concerns you share.
What topics does your web site need to cover? Use that list to create your web site pages. For example, a lecturer or public speaker may need a:
- Home page
- About page
- Who We Serve page
- Presentations/Keynotes page
- Workshops, Classes, and/or Retreats page
- Products (books, CDs, DVDs) page; Shopping Cart
- Meeting Planners page; Contact page
- Blog page; Resources page; E-zine; Special Reports
- Media page/Press room
Design and develop your site using your visual brand elements (logo, color). Review and test it before going live, to make sure everything works, error-free. Offer a free report or e-zine that provides value to web site visitors, while building your list at the same time.
Subscribe to an auto-responder program, to make it easy to follow up with prospects and send out broadcasts to your clients. Then go live and do a final testing to ensure accuracy on all platforms.
Step 7: Optimize, Market, and Network
First, identify your search engine optimization (SEO) goals and your return on investment targets. Hire a specialist to do foundational search engine optimization with meta-tags and images. With your specialist, set up monthly, robust search engine optimization strategies, driven by your specific goals.
Next, establish search engine marketing (SEM). Set up pages on and participate in social networking sites. Post comments on blogs that relate to your business, customer base, and overall market. Write and publish articles offline and online for inbound links.
These seven steps aren’t simple, and they take work, but they generate results and this year you just might watch your business take off — with a powerful brand, backed up by a web site that delivers.