Regardless of whether you’re a business owner, an eCommerce entrepreneur, or a digital freelancer, you need to have your digital presence figured out. There are around 4.2 billion internet users at the moment, and in this digital age of social media and eCommerce, businesses can’t afford to miss out on these opportunities.
It’s a competitive market out there and you have to stand out to be successful. One of the best ways you can do this is by building a strong digital brand.
We don’t just mean ‘do digital marketing’ — there’s a difference between digital marketing and digital branding. Marketing will get your business’s name and your products out there and grab your audience’s attention.
Digital branding, on the other hand, will help you to establish a long-lasting, meaningful name and ethos for your business with your customers. Digital branding creates an identity and a feeling; it conjures an image that will stay in your customer’s head of your business.
If you want your business to last, then building a strong digital brand is crucial. Here are some pointers on how you can manage it (and make the rest of your market jealous):
Research your target audience and competitors
Every good plan starts with some research. To decide how you’re going to appeal to your audience, you need to find out what makes them tick. Once you’ve done that, you can start optimising your target market towards your products and services.
Firstly, you need to decide whom your products are going to be branded towards. Your business is going to fit into a market niche somewhere, whether it’s a broad niche like clothing or healthy living or a micro-niche like furniture for goldfish tanks.
It’s best to narrow your audience down — a strong digital brand is one that is aware of its relevance and appeals to a specific audience instead of trying to reach everyone. Take into consideration factors like age, sex, location, and income.
When you’re trying to establish where your business fits in a niche, you also need to identify your competitors and find out more about them. What is drawing your target audience to them in the first place, and how can you steal them away? Figure out what your competitors are doing — and do it better.
Be clear on your unique value proposition
What makes you different from all of the other competitors in the market? What is your unique value proposition — what are you offering and promising to your customers? It’s not just a proposal: it’s also a promise. You have told them that you are going to deliver a particular product or service for a certain price by a certain time, and you need to do so.
It doesn’t need to be spectacularly different or original — it just needs to be authentic. You should offer something that there is a sincere need for in your niche. This could be a time-saver, or something that already exists but for consumers on a budget. It could even be a high-end version of something every day (look how gourmet hot dogs took off).
Establish your brand’s voice
Having a distinct brand voice is what is going to set you apart from your competitors — and if it’s really good, will definitely make them jealous.
Just look at UK smoothie brand innocent:
Image credit: Facebook
It has a reputation for being quirky, warm and funny. In an extremely competitive market of healthy smoothies, innocent stands out by a mile. It’s also genuine: despite being acquired by Coca-Cola in 2013, it continues to give 10% of its profits to charity.
Decide what you want your tone of voice to convey to your customers about your brand — is it funny and informal? Sophisticated and bespoke? Do you want to convey strength and security? This all depends on your business’s message and mission; tone of voice is intrinsically linked to what you are offering and to whom.
Your customers and industry will play a part in developing a strong brand voice. Once you’ve established your voice, create a set of brand guidelines detailing this, and stick to it. Your brand’s voice will be used to market your products and communicate with customers, so it needs to be consistent.
Develop high-quality visual elements
Want to make competitors jealous of your strong brand image? You need to start with a strong foundation, of course, which means having all the design trappings of a modern website — though this is easily done through a modern CMS, particularly in the retail field where so much time and money goes into development (it’s fully justified, of course: Shopify sellers alone have accumulated over $135 billion in revenue). Once that’s in place, it’s time to start adding on the well-thought-out visual elements.
This process is key to building a great digital brand, and involves developing everything from logos and colours to fonts and even stylized slogans. These components work towards painting a picture of your digital brand. Repetition of your logo (which needs to be mobile-ready, of course), brand colours and themes throughout your website, social channels and email campaigns: all of this will create a more vivid picture. (Although you shouldn’t go overboard and paste your logo excessively.)
You want your customers — and potential customers — to instantly recognize your brand through its visual aspects. That’s why it is important to have continuity with these features; add some visual branding to your brand guidelines as well to ensure this.
There are some incredibly knowledgeable design and branding experts from whom you can learn a lot about visual brand elevation. It’s definitely worth checking out some expert industry podcasts (here are some from BrandFolder) — leaders in the industry can help with best practices and give advice on how to make every aspect of your digital branding count.
A vivid image of a digital brand doesn’t just mean pretty colours and expensive logos — it’s also about captivating your audience, creating a website that’s reliably functional, and strengthening your brand identity. Customers should easily identify your brand, and identify with your brand.
Keep evolving with time — assess and improve
Building a strong digital brand isn’t just a one-time thing; you’re going to need to put work into maintaining your brand and your digital presence.
Staying on the ball and evolving with the needs of your market is what’s going to make your competitors jealous, not a 10-year old logo that hasn’t aged well. Not changing and adapting in the digital market isn’t just like standing still — it’s tantamount to walking backwards. Soon, each of your competitors will overtake you.
Now that we rely so heavily on SaaS tools, we can easily fall into the habit of assuming that everything will update automatically, but your brand won’t move unless you push it. Consequently, you must take the time to regularly analyse how your digital brand is performing. You can do this in a number of ways:
- Run audits: regular audits will help you to review your branding strategy — you can create your own or download ready-made audit templates for free online.
- Split-test: you can do split-testing on your website and in email marketing campaigns to see which branding your customers respond to best.
- Analyze social media: use social media analytics to assess brand awareness and performance on your chosen channels.
- Gauge customer opinion: find out what your customers think of your digital brand with opinion polls and surveys.
These are the key starting points in building a strong digital brand that will make your competitors jealous. If you include these features in your brand strategy, then you’ll get a head-start against your competitors. Digital branding isn’t just about making customers notice your brand — it’s also about creating a brand identity that they love and identify with.
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