Picture laying out your business card, the pages of your website, your brochures or product sheets, the sections of your app, and the individual posts from your social accounts all out on a table. When you look at it all together, does it tell a story? Is it cohesive? Does it embody the tone, personality and mission of your business? If not, then it might be time to revisit your brand.
Your brand not only represents you and your business, but also communicates your value to the consumer. When people perceive value, they stop and take notice, whether it’s a person, place or business. Yet, they’re not just paying attention to your product – they’re also taking stock of you. Consumers want to have authentic connections with the brands they support and the people behind them, so a strong brand identity can help tell your customer exactly who you are and what you do.
If you have some capital set aside, a solid online brand identity can whipped up in a couple of weeks. But what if you’re stringing this entrepreneurship thing together with pennies? Then take charge and maximize your online presence with a just a few adjustments.
Think about your brand story.
What’s the narrative behind your business? Why did you start this thing in the first place? While customers may care about your product, it’s this story with which people will connect. As humans, we’re programmed for stories, and we understand their innate structure – beginning, middle and end. How you got started (beginning) and what you’re trying to create (middle) is both your story and the emotional tie that will set the larger tone and feel for your brand identity.
Try this: Sit down and write a paragraph or two that describes your start and where you are now with the business, particularly how you want your product to be seen and the value you think it delivers. Length is not important here, but the contents are. It should feel authentic to you, and showcase your passion behind your product. Perhaps most importantly, this is the story which will bring customers into your world, your community. How can they be a part of what you’re building?
Once that’s created, think about the feelings conveyed in it. Does it have a bit of an edge? Is it authoritative, or a bit whimsical? These are all concepts that have visual elements, ones that should be conveyed not just in your logo, photos and website, but in every aspect of your online business presence.
Get professional photos of YOU.
Your business is not about the product or service you offer. It’s about YOU. People patronize your business because of who you are, what you offer, and the way you offer it. People do care about things, but more importantly, they care about other people. So, naturally, they want to see the face behind the product. The setting of the photo is just as important – you can have a headshot on a solid background, in an office setting, or you can have a headshot taken outdoors or in an environment that matches the tone, position and offering for your business (think about that brand story!). Just having this one element online adds credibility and legitimacy to your business, because it shows that effort’s been taken to showcase this business and brand story properly.
If you have any money to spend on anything, this is where it should be spent. If you’re on your last dollar, give a student a shot. Contact a local art institute or a local undergraduate journalism program to find someone who’s wanting to build their portfolio.
Create consistency across the entire presence.
Armed with your beautiful new photos and crystal clarity on your brand story, what pieces of the online presence need to be tweaked? If money is still tight, start with the logo. It’s worth the money to hire a designer to establish your logo, because that’s the visual foundation of your brand. Not only does it establish a singular visual that represents your business, but it also sets the tone and personality for your visual presence. A designer has the training to pick the combination of fonts, colors and graphic elements to really convey the story of your business. If you deal with a designer who doesn’t ask detailed questions about your business before producing proofs, you need to find a new one – a good designer wants to know the story they’re trying to convey, and that should begin with a conversation with you. Check out sites like Upwork and Dribbble to find a good designer, or again, check out your local art institute or design school for those just starting out. However, if you have to get it done on your own, check out Canva. They have a number of logo templates to choose from in order to customize your own. For more about choosing colors and fonts that reflect that brand story, check out these articles by Forbes contributor Samantha Harrington, the staff over at Canva, and Rachel Gillett over at Fast Company.
Less is more.
Throughout all aspects of your online presence, think about what you really need to convey. Go back to the brand story. Does everything a consumer sees about your business match that brand story? Does your bio mention that talent show in when you were 12, but your business is tax preparation? Does that photo of your new ride on your Facebook wall have anything to do with your custom cake business? By all means showcase your personality and aspects of your life – just make sure it’s done within the context of the brand story. If that means less content in the beginning, so be it. But over time, your business will evolve and so will the number of ways you can present. To start, stick to those visuals and posts that clearly reinforce your brand story.
Building a brand can feel overwhelming, especially when you’re doing it on a shoestring. But just getting clear on your brand story can help provide the cohesive brand presence you need online. Know who you are, why you’re doing it and what its value is, and the polished online presence will come together.