Once you have established the foundation for your brand, as discussed in part one of this blog series, you’ll need to build the framework. Architecturally speaking, the frame of a house is a combination of the sill plate (the component that attaches the framework to the foundation), wall studs, and ceiling/floor joists.
Similarly, the frame of your brand is a combination of the website, the work you’ve done, and the online/offline network you’ve created around you. Together, these elements create the skeleton that provides structure for your brand image.
Building a brand from the ground up can be intimidating or overwhelming, but it’s a much easier project to tackle if you bite off one piece at a time. Here are three major steps you can take to create or improve your brand framework:
First: Create or Update Your Website
If you don’t have a website yet, you *get* to start from scratch (that’s a really good thing, trust me)! It is often times more difficult to go back and rework something existing than it is to begin with a fresh, clean slate. Not that it’s impossible, of course, to effectively and successfully update something already in place – just can prove to be a bit tougher sometimes for some people.
Now, when we’re talking about creating or updating your website as it relates to building your brand framework, we need to specifically consider the functionality. Any website in this day and age should be these four things, at a minimum:
- Mobile-friendly or responsive – though they sound like they are the same, there are key differences between sites that are “mobile-friendly” and those that are “responsive.” The former of these two concepts features static content that does not render differently across devices. The latter features dynamic content that changes based on the viewing device (optimized images, condensed navigation, proper padding and spacing, etc.). If at least 35% of your traffic is viewing your site on a mobile device, you should seriously consider building a responsive site.
- Easy to navigate – visitors cruising your website should be able to quickly identify and determine where they need to go to get the information they’re looking for. Website nav should be implemented in a standard location, like across the top or down the left side. It should include labels customized to your business rather than the generic labels most businesses use. It should be as simplified as possible – including too many items in your nav could overwhelm users and tank your SEO.
- A way for prospects to get their questions answered – when you begin outlining your sitemap to define the pages you’ll need to create, carefully consider the most important questions your prospects have: what do you have to offer? How does it solve a problem or need they have? How is it different than XYZ other solution? How much does it cost? And how can they contact you to get more information when they’re ready? Be sure to build answers to those questions into the structure of your site.
- Optimized for user experience AND for search engines – there is a limited set of variables that search engines can consider directly, such as links, keywords, and site structure. Because there are so few, you need to make sure you execute them well. On the other hand, search engines are able to draw a substantial number of conclusions about the quality of your site through usability and user experience metrics, including: linking patterns, bounce rates, time on page, etc. According to Moz, “Crafting a thoughtful, empathetic user experience helps ensure that visitors to your site perceive it positively, encouraging sharing, bookmarking, return visits, and inbound links – all signals that trickle down to the search engines and contribute to high rankings.”
Again, it’s important to plan out and implement a site structure that is built to best practice for optimal usability and user experience before you even worry about what words and pictures you’re going to include.
Next: Develop Your Online & Offline Social Presence
To grow the reach of your brand, you’ll need to develop a network – a series of connections between social hubs that will serve as the basis for exchanging expertise, building credibility, and demonstrating thought leadership. Before you get started, though, you need to identify the platforms and forums your target prospects and peers using to share and digest information.
Here’s a list of ways you can start growing your online and offline presence:
- Go where your potential customers are and join the social media platforms they use regularly to consume content.
Depending on your audience and media, consider the following options: LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Quora, Reddit, or Snapchat. Once you identify the platforms that make the most sense, set up all the appropriate accounts. Sometimes it may be beneficial to set up a personal account in addition to the brand’s account, like on LinkedIn.
It’s important to keep in mind that these channels are not just for promoting yourself, your business, and your content; instead, you should figure out how to be part of the conversations that are happening.
- Search for industry-relevant communities, both online and offline, to stay current on related issues, questions, and trends that your prospects and peers are talking about. These communities may offer unique opportunities to deliver presentations, participate in group think sessions, foster healthy relationships with your competitors, etc.
Here are some examples of communities that the Revenue River team participates in: inbound.org, our local HubSpot User Group, Galvanize, Denver Startup Week, Built in Colorado, and Built in Brews.
Finally: Showcase Your Work!
Now that you’ve established a sturdy framework, it’s time start building your portfolio around it. Prospective customers will likely want to know how successful you are at doing what you do at some point in their buyer’s journey, so don’t make them look too hard!
When it comes to showcasing examples of your best work on your website, here are some strategic ways to incorporate that content:
- Use images or videos of your products or services in action in your hero banner, secondary banners and other containers across your pages.
- Create case studies for your resources section.
- Build out pages for each of the products or services you offer.
- Add in testimonials from happy customers on relevant product or service pages.
- Leverage your blog to write about new offerings, unique ways customers are using your product or service, or offer your customers opportunities to guest post.
- Include links to others talking about your brand in some kind of “In the News” section.
Alternatively, it’ll be important to maintain much less of a promotional presence within online and offline social groups. Instead, be an active participant in conversations, volunteer for presentation-type opportunities, serve as a mentor, and build up your peers. These are all ways to demonstrate your expertise, establish rapport, and exhibit the type of leadership your prospects find appealing.
Will Your Brand’s Structural Integrity Pass the Test?
If you’ve worked your butt off to build a sound brand foundation, you should keep that momentum going into the framing process. Spend too little time or energy on the framework, you’ll risk structural failure that could be potentially devastating. If you aren’t sure what the current state of your brand strategy situation is, it would be a good idea to enlist some help from the pros.