After analyzing many websites to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of various online marketing elements - social media, reviews, videos, website user experience, etc. - I've realized a common pattern. While a bit more vague than other elements, branding appears to be a common weakness in online marketing of local businesses.
Branding can be described as the notions that are common throughout your business, and the unique strengths that your business has to set itself apart from other like businesses.
Old Spice is a great example of strong branding. They have distinct messaging and use obscure humor to capture the attention of their audience, to the point that we all know the commercial character, "The Old Spice Guy," and we know exactly what Old Spice does, sells, and looks like. We even know how the "theme song'" whistle tune goes. (If you're not familiar, click on the image to watch an example commercial from Old Spice. Ridiculous? Yes. Catchy? Also yes.)
In the syndications that Page 1 Solutions works with - dentists, plastic surgeons, lawyers, and ophthalmologists - branding can be a difficult element to develop and utilize in marketing strategies. For one thing, it's unreasonable to think we can mimic successful branding campaigns from companies like Old Spice because our syndications have a completely different business model. But most often, branding is difficult to define is because businesses aren't able to answer this question with a solid, repeatable answer: What Sets Your Business Apart?
Follow along to get some tips on answering this question and why branding is an important element in your marketing campaigns!
Why is Branding Important?
In general, there is an oversaturation of businesses in most markets. That is due to a growing population, growth and development of towns and cities, and the accessibility for Americans to start their own businesses. Would you believe me if I told you there are over 1.6 million search results for the query "Dentist in Cambridge, MA"? No, there aren't over 1.6 million dentists in Cambridge, but there are that many entities competing for this search result real estate. There is no more "only guy in town" for a business - you have to find a way to make your business stand out in this kind of market saturation.
Additionally, there is an oversaturation of marketing channels to keep up with and come up with unique strategies for. For example, there are over 200 social media/networking websites with anywhere from over 10,000 to over 1 billion active users. And that's just the social media piece of the pie - multiply that times all of the review sites out there, all of the YouTube videos that are being uploaded every second, all of the advertisements being shown on popular news and entertainment websites.... It can be overwhelming, so defining what is important to your business helps to focus on those marketing channels that will matter most to your business.
Demographics are also expanding. Age groups that used to be dismissed are now viable spenders. Genders, ethnicities and cultures are evolving. And more demographics are accessing and adapting to technology and the Internet. Defining your ideal clientele is more difficult than ever, but that also means there are more possibilities now than ever.
With all this accessibility to information and research when making buying decisions, it is important to remember that users will create their own associations of your business if you don't set the tone first. If you fail to be the one to define your business and stick to your guns on those ideals, it will happen for you eventually and you will be left playing defense. Hello Internet trolls and memes....
And lastly, you have to remember the theme of the micromoment/Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) for users to choose your business for their needs. Google coined the phrase “Zero Moment of Truth” to demonstrate that micromoment when a person is making the decision to contact your business to complete that sale. A business has literally seconds to convince a user to convert. See this Facebook study showing that mobile users spend an average of 1.7 seconds on a piece of content - and that is compared to desktop users at 2.5 seconds on average. Yes, it's all fast no matter the device! If you don't convince users in that tiny amount of time that you're the right business for their needs, they are immediately moving on to the next shiny object.
How Do You Define Brand Identity?
Ok, so you now know that branding is important for your business. So how do you start to create a brand identity for your business?
Think about different aspects of your business: cost/affordability and accessibility, customer service, technology, experience and history, and community involvement. Once you look into these aspects of your business, decide what is it about your business that you are proud of, and which aspect is most distinguished. As you narrow down your list, think about marketability of each aspect and how you could communicate these strengths. This is a great time to talk to your Internet Marketing Consultation to develop these aspects into real concrete ideas and strategies.
In addition to asking, "What Sets My Business Apart," you can also ask yourself or your team some core questions to see if there are common themes in the answers:
- Why do you deserve to be #1 on Google?
- What separates you from your competition?
- Why is doing what you do important to you?
- What problem(s) do you solve for your clientele?
- What is the primary message you want to communicate to your clientele?
- What is the “story” of your business? (Keep this short, like an elevator pitch.)
- What are the core values of your business?
- What questions do you hear everyday from your clientele?
- Do you participate in your community? Do you have charitable goals for your business?
Answering these questions can help you develop an identity for your brand, and can help strengthen your marketing efforts to increase the value proposition for your clientele.
Communicating Your New Brand Identity
Once you've started to define your business's brand identity, you will need to work it in to all aspects of your business presence and marketing strategies. This identity should be built in to all messaging from the business - words, images, attitude, everything.
Start to work on taglines that encompass the qualities and value of your business. Evaluate if your website or other marketing materials need to be redesigned to reflect the new brand identity. Set a budget for developing campaigns to communicate the new brand identity. Remember that you don't have to rely on a single branding aspect for all of your campaigns. There are so many marketing channels that can highlight various branding elements and value propositions of your business.
And most importantly, stick by your brand identity and be true to it. American consumers are smart enough to sniff out fakers or all-talk-no-walk businesses, and they do not hesitate to call you out on it - especially on the Internet.
For more information on how to brand your business, contact your Internet Marketing Consultant at Page 1 Solutions. If you are a prospective client interested in multi-channel Internet marketing campaigns for lawyers, dentists, plastic surgeons, and ophthalmologists, please contact our Sales Team to schedule a FREE consultation and website evaluation!
-By Laura Nagler Duncan, Website Analyst