Does your online branding match?

Most small businesses use a wide range of technologies to communicate with customers. Does your online branding match your print ads? Are you friendly on Twitter and authoritative on Facebook?Mixed messages and inconsistent branding could cost you sales.

Major brands are built on branding consistency. Consistency is the very essence of a brand like Coca-Cola or Pepsi: wherever you are in the world, you’ll get the same products in the same packaging. You’ll even see the same marketing campaigns on different continents.

This marketing strategy makes it easy for the consumer to spot their preferred brand, and to buy into a particular message. But how does it work if you’re not a major international beverages firm?

For small businesses, consistent branding is essential as it is how your customers identify you and how they separate you from your competition. Branding includes all aspects of your company identity, from uniforms to newspaper ads to sales scripts and online marketing. It’s what your company considers important, and how you show that to your customers.

An inconsistent brand is untrustworthy

People relate emotionally to brands, as they do to food, weather and other factors. Inconsistency is confusing and disappointing as customers do not know what to expect from a particular interaction. It’s like meeting a friend for coffee – if the coffee (or the friend!) was sometimes sweet and sometimes really bitter, sometimes strong and sometimes weak, you’d quickly switch to a more reliable brand.

Twitter, Facebook and email counts, too

For many small businesses, it’s easy to offer brand consistency in person or in your product line. If you’re a small choir, it’s easy to sing from the same book. Online marketing, including social media, is often a stumbling block. Many SMEs have no clear online marketing strategy for branding, working instead on an ad-hoc basis, answering emails, tweets and Facebook messages whenever they have a spare moment.

This is like bailing water with a sieve. It’s easy to miss a message or three, making customers unhappy, and it’s hard to be consistent and careful across a range of platforms. Many people who are experts in their field, entrepreneurs and business managers, are poor written communicators, further complicating matters. Some employees find it hard to switch out of ‘private’ mode on social networks, chatting about internal affairs rather than providing useful content to customers.

How a strategy helps

A marketing strategy for online and offline communications can help you create a consistent brand. As you create it, ideally with the help of an experienced professional, you’ll think through your business priorities and strengths. You’ll create a brand profile that colleagues can easily follow, and this will help you target your marketing effectively. You can set response times and assign responsibilities, ensuring that all your customers get fair treatment. Thinking ahead in this way, or hiring a professional team, can save money in the long run as campaigns can be run across multiple platforms effectively, creating a bigger buzz and bigger rewards for the same investment.

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