Major corporations and big businesses spend millions of dollars of year with agencies, consultants, freelancers and partners to brand themselves on the Internet.  They dominate the virtual scene in every online outlet.  However, most local businesses can’t afford such luxuries and don’t have the insights to get the best results.

But you know that you need to be online.  The good news is that there’s hope for small-to-medium sized businesses.  Similar efforts of large marketing departments can be achieved with a fraction of the cost, and in some cases, a fraction of the effort.

Branding yourself online is a key component of local online marketing.  It’s the first step.  In this series of blog entries, we will shine a light on what local businesses can do to enhance their online branding efforts to their fullest potential.  So lets jump right in.

STEP 1 – HAVE YOUR STORY IN ORDER BEFORE YOU GO ONLINE

With so many different online channels, it’s important that you decide ahead of time how you want to best represent yourself across all of them.   Consistency matters and if you don’t have a clear vision, you’ll find that you will be communicating different messages wherever consumers may find you.
What I mean by this is have your basics of your business firmly down.  Before you even think of going online you want to come from an advantageous position.  Right now, you are in fortunate position of telling others who you are and what you do.   With an actual pen and paper, please answer the following:

Audience – It Starts With You Are Trying To Reach
-Who is your target demographic?  This should guide all your decisions on messaging.
-Where can they be found online?
-How often do they want to hear from you?   A patron to a local bar may want to receive events often, but a locksmith customer may want less frequent contact.

Basic Info – Consistency Matters
-What’s your business’s name?  Always use the exact same phrase (“restaurant vs. taqueria,” “store vs. shop,” “salon vs. spa,” etc.”)
-What are your contact details (phone, address, email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

Brand Message – What You Want To Say To Drive Customers
-Do you have a slogan?
-How would you describe your business to a friend in a sentence or two?
-What’s the one thing your business does do really well?  What makes it different from other businesses?
-Do you have a logo?  A color scheme?
-What’s the one photo you would want a consumer to see that best promotes your business?
-Do you have a video that showcases your business?  Here’s a Vivial favorite from a great burrito place, Dos Toros.  They are targeting NYU students and it’s brand consistent with what they are trying to convey (a fun, youth targeted burrito house).

Knowing these answers is important as a local business owner.  Use what has currently worked and what hasn’t to guide you to your conclusions.  Once you are locked in with your brand, now it’s just a matter of communicating that same messaging everywhere online.

So, until we meet again on this topic, tell yourself who you are before you tell the online world!