So, you’re hungry to start up your own business – and Harry Redknapp with GoDaddy are showing you the recipe for success.
In Recipe #1 of this series, we looked at some of the key decisions you need to make when setting up a small or solo online business.
One of the key decisions you need to make – right at the beginning – is about on the character of your business. That is reflected in your name, the style of your physical premises (if you have them) and the style of your online premises (your website). All of these ingredients are mixed into your brand.
Baking-in your brand
Jeff Bezos (y’know, richest guy in the world – founder of Amazon – yeah, him) has famously said: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
A business depends on its reputation. If you’re a solopreneur, or leading a small team as a startup, that will be your personal reputation.
You may think that your reputation is beyond your control, something that others think of you – and you’d be right, up to a point. But, you can influence what they think of you, even before they’ve met you or dealt with you. ‘Branding’ is the work you do to influence that reputation, to influence what people think – and therefore say – about your business.
Your business can project an image ahead of itself – and that is something you can absolutely control – through your brilliantly-designed website and your mastery of branding, social media and content marketing.
Cooking-up a brilliant brand
You know the old saying about never getting a second chance to make a first impression? Well, that’s never been truer than on the internet.
Depending on where you go and who you ask, you will likely be told that a website has between 7 and 15 seconds to grab a user. If you haven’t got their undivided attention by then, they’ve hit the back button and they’re gone.
That’s between 7 and 15 seconds!
No-one is going to be able to read much of your text in that time. They aren’t going to develop a wide-screen view of your site in that time. They’re going to get a first impression and, if they don’t like it, that’s all they’ll get.
So, it’s crucially important that your website looks right at first sight. That users can see at a glance that they’re in the right place.
A lot of that comes down to the image you want to project.
To give your business the best fighting chance, get your branding right!
You need to decide on a brand voice.
1. Sounding out your brand voice
Your brand voice is how you communicate your brand’s personality. It’s helpful to create a few guidelines for yourself, to ensure the content you create remains consistent – whether it be in your shop, on your social feed, or your website.
The key with brand voice is to be consistent – and to represent your business well at all times.
So, think about the terms you would use to describe the personality of your business (feel free to ask friends and customers about this). What words or phrases would you want people to associate with your business?
Let’s say the phrases people come back with most often are:
- Authentic – meaning that customers trust you and your business, they believe you stand by your principles.
- Knowledgeable – you demonstrate your expertise in everything you do.
- Friendly – you are approachable, nothing is too-much-trouble, you’re a pleasure to do business with.
You need to ensure that your brand voice reflects these good, positive attributes.
How do you do that?
- Authentic – maintain a realistic tone. Explain things clearly, don’t be vague and don’t over-promise.
- Knowledgeable – don’t blind people with science – explain it to them in terms they can understand.
- Friendly – this is more than just being polite, it’s about making a genuine connection with people.
Just keeping a few terms like this in mind can help you maintain a positive and productive tone in everything you do – from every email you send, to every piece of content you eventually put on your website.
2. Your delicious logo
Your logo is the icing on your business’ cake – it’s not just the name you want people to know you by, it’s your image, your ethos, your hopes and dreams for your business. Like the icing on the outside of a cake – it’ll be the first thing potential customers see. If it doesn’t look appetising, it’ll be the only thing they’ll see.
That’s a lot of responsibility for a few words on a business card, or the side of a van.
But it’s also an opportunity.
In just the way that choosing your name and your USP are opportunities to take charge of your future, so is constructing your logo.
You may think you are the best person to design this – given your do-it-yourself mindset – and you may be right, if you know your RGBs from your CMYKs and your jpegs from your pngs.
If not – it would be worth getting a designer on board. Yes, this will cost – but possibly not as much as you think, especially if you have a detailed idea of what you want up-front.
So, how do you get to the point where you know what you want?
Well, you’ve done your market research, so you know who your customers are likely to be and what will motivate them to buy. Use that knowledge and apply it to the prep for your logo.
Research: Check out – and understand – other company logos. It’s best to avoid companies that do what you do and concentrate, instead, on companies that share your ethos.
Think: Think about the words that relate to your business. Think about what you do and why you do it. These words will communicate the information and the feeling you want your logo to communicate.
Moodboard: Assemble a collection of colours, textures and styles you feel are appropriate to your business. This should be from anywhere – your life, your interests, your favourite films – anything that you would be comfortable to have representing your business in your logo.
Font: There are, basically, two types of font, ones with feet (serif) and ones without (sans serif)…
But, within that limited framework, there are literally thousands of options.
So, pick a few that you think suit your business brand – and let your designer work around them.
Think Big: Your logo will need to work in different backgrounds and at different sizes – from a business card, to shop signage, to a website.
Pro Tip: If you’re a big fan of curly, cursive fonts that look warm and friendly on a price ticket or a business card – think about how they’ll look twelve feet wide across the front of your shop.
And don’t forget – once you’ve presented your brief to your designer, be prepared for them to offer you their experience. This may be your first logo, and it may be their five hundredth. So, listen to their educated responses to your ideas.
A slice of someone else’s pie
Don’t take someone else’s logo to a designer and say “Give me one of those”. In business, imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery.
Firstly – if your logo looks like that of another business, you’ll just be advertising that other business, rather than your own. Copying a logo reflects well on the other company, and reflects poorly on you.
Secondly – and more importantly – you simply can’t steal another company’s intellectual property. Their logo will, likely, be trademarked, and infringing a trademark is a serious – and expensive – mistake.
So, once your designer has taken your mouth-watering new logo out of the oven, it’s time to give the world a taste, by putting it on your website.
3. Heating-up your brand online
A website is a great way to promote your business, establish your values and boost your brand identity.
Unlike TV ads, or press ads, or billboards – a website is something you can build yourself at an affordable price.
Your website can be the heart of your business – connecting you directly to customers, as well as linking you to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter which, in turn, connect you with yet more customers.
Having a great-looking, well-written, responsive website, plus a vibrant social media presence, is the way you show potential customers that you are legit.
And you get to control all of it – to ensure that it keeps your brand on the boil and brings your customers to you.
4. Go social – it’s a piece of cake
Firstly, you maybe don’t even think of Facebook, Twitter and the other social platforms as places you can market a business, but they absolutely are.
Having your own website, and building a network of social connections around it, is taking control of the world’s media and building yourself a much better brand.
Here are a few things you can do for your business – by yourself – irrespective of your computer skills… Essentially, it’s time to go social.
The social media mix
The most effective use of social media for a small business is to create posts which feel more conversational and less like commercials.
So, you need a mix of posts – some about your brand, your ethos, history, character, etc. Other posts can be about issues that are relevant to your business – such as interesting news stories, even posts about other businesses and organisations that share your ethos. Then you can sprinkle in more overt “buy my product” type posts.
It’s generally considered wise to mix these types of posts equally so:
The social media rule of thirds:
- ⅓ of your social media posts about your personal brand.
- ⅓ of your social media posts about your area of expertise.
- ⅓ of your social media posts overtly promote your business
Setting up on social media – such as with a Facebook page for your business – is a great way to direct users back to your website and interact with potential customers. It’s a way to stay in-tune with their tastes, get an idea what else your customers are interested in – and it gives them an avenue through which they can contact you directly.
Don’t just limit yourself to the one social platform – you know the saying about eggs and baskets; well, you certainly want to make sure your brand is out there in more than one medium – to help bring customers to you from a variety of directions.
So, investigate the other platforms. If your business is particularly visual, then Instagram might serve you well. If you’re working with other professionals, maybe in a business-to-business capacity, then LinkedIn is definitely worth a look.
Tools like Hootsuite can help you juggle a range of posts across a range of platforms, as well as scheduling posts in advance.
There’s a really useful GoDaddy overview of the various social platforms and what they can do for your business here.
If this helps – there are wildly different audiences for the different platforms. Going with the biggest platforms means you will have access to the biggest audiences, but it also means you’ll be up against the most competition. So the obvious route, might not be the best route for you. As always: do your research.
Whichever platform you decide to go with, let’s look at a few of the techniques you can use in social media, to help ensure that the dough comes rolling in.
- Make friends: Connect with people, both in the internet sense, but also in the human sense. Discuss the things people care about. Be friendly. If you wouldn’t do it offline, don’t do it online.
- Add something: Give away information and insights. Offer solutions to customers’ problems, and share links when other relevant businesses do the same.
- Be dignified: You have the right to expect to be treated with respect, and you’re more likely to earn that if you treat others that way first.
- Be choosy: Don’t bombard your followers with content. A few good pieces a day – or every other day – is more likely to get good engagement.
- Respond: It’s important to respond to comments. Responsiveness is one of the things social platforms reward, so your posts are much more likely to reach a wider audience if you have the reputation of swiftly responding to enquiries and comments.
- Fact check: If someone shares a post that you think your customers will agree with – check that it isn’t fake news before you forward it. You don’t want the guilt-by-association of spreading lies. Organisations like Full Fact, or Snopes are great places for a reality check.
- Return the favour: If someone likes or shares your content, check out their own content and, if you think it’s appropriate for your customers, return the favour. This is how you build both professional relationships and trust with your community.
It’s important that you don’t spread yourself too thin. Don’t throw your business up onto every social platform out there, just because; but pick and choose the ones that suit your business and your brand.
Also, use restraint! If you spend all your time maintaining your social media accounts, you won’t have time to actually run your business. You need to strike a balance.
5. Cooking up a tasty personal brand
Once upon a time, your brand was your company name and your logo. That was it. But there’s so much more to it, now. Your reputation, personality, interests and unique skills are all integral to your brand.
It’s especially important for small businesses to have a personality – and, if you are the heart of your business, that personality really needs to be yours.
Opinions differ about having a photo of yourself on your social media profiles, you may well want your work to speak for you. But, that said, people relate to people, so a photo can help personalise your business. It can also offer simple recognition. If you’re networking, at an exhibition, even at a meeting with a potential client – if they’ve seen your picture, they will recognise you.
That, by itself, should make you more approachable.
A good way to give customers a “heads-up” about you, what you do and what you stand for – is to write a great biography for yourself on your website.
If you’ve set up a business doing a thing, you must really love that thing. So, show people your enthusiasm with simple social media posts illustrating what excites you. Creating blog posts or – if you don’t feel you’re at your best behind a keyboard – video blogs (vlogs) on YouTube – can be a great way to build your reputation and spread your name.
Don’t be scared to show off.
Time-lapse videos of you creating your work, video essays of you discussing an important aspect of your work, podcasts about your work – these are all great ways for you to share your enthusiasm and your unique skills.
If your customers feel inspired by your enthusiasm, they won’t go to any other supplier – they’re all yours!
Solve a problem
A lot of customers want a problem solving – from a wall that needs building or plumbing that needs sorting, to a present for a loved-one or a new place to dine.
Getting a testimonial from a customer is worth gold! However delighted they are, most customers won’t think to leave a positive message or post unless you encourage them to do so.
The big chains offer discounts for filling in their questionnaires, but for you as a startup, simply asking politely should be enough. A lot of people who say they will be happy to recommend you, will forget, but you don’t need many positive comments to create a great impression.
This is also a good time to mention your own problem solving skills. If a client is less than 100% happy, because of a genuine mistake or oversight – a swift correction accompanied by an apology, an explanation, and a discount is a great way to win back that customer’s trust.
If you get yourself a reputation of being a businessperson who can be relied upon to solve problems in an effective and timely manner when things go wrong, that can turn into money in the bank.
In this way, a complaint from an unhappy customer can be an opportunity to win over a customer forever.
Social media is a crucible for complaints – the anonymity it affords seems to embolden some people to complain when they never would in person. This is why it’s important for your business to be present online – to read the comments that people leave and to reply to them.
Be responsive. Be helpful. A complaint online can be just as much of an opportunity as a complaint in person.
This is, of course, part of the basic etiquette of running a business – but spreading the word about this through social media helps feed into your online reputation, which folds neatly into your brand.
You never forget your first!
That’s true of all relationships. And your customers will never forget their first experience with your business – good or bad.
So, it falls to you to be amazing to each new customer. That sounds like a tall order – but that’s why it’s important to understand what your business’ strengths are – and play to those strengths.
Don’t try to be all things to all people – even multinational corporations know that they can’t sell every product to every person.
So, think about what you want to be memorable for. That’s how you build both a reputation and a brand.
Remember: you don’t have to be great at everything – but you must stress those things you are great at, to bolster your brand.
In creating a freshly baked brand, follow this checklist:
- Delicious logo
- Go social
- Don’t forget: rule of thirds!
- Tasty personal brand
- Be yourself
- Solve a problem
- Handle complaints
- Be memorable
Going to market
Now you’ve got your ingredients, it’s time to mix them together to bake that brand into your business. Get the word out there. Like the smell of a freshly cooked pud wafting through your house – you need your business to start drawing customers in and, for that, you need a freshly-baked website.
The first step towards creating the perfect website, is deciding on what to call it. Domain name is what we deal with in the next post.