Since Covid-19, more and more businesses are realising that getting online is simply essential. It's not enough any more just to have any old website because, in today's market, everyone is looking online first.
But if your business has been up and running for years, your branding might not be suitable for use on the web.
And if you're starting a new online business venture, then you've got to build a brand that's going to work from scratch.
So how do you bring your small business branding online? In this guide we'll talk about:
This article should give you everything you need to bring your business online.
What is branding?
It may still feel like a bit of marketing jargon, but realistically your brand is just how your company comes across to others.
From your logo and colours to the way you answer the phone, your whole business outlook informs and becomes part of your brand whether you like it or not!
That's why it's so important to actively shape your brand into something that accurately reflects the business, and is appealing to your customers too.
Almost everything you say and do as a company makes up your brand, but there are certain key elements that make the biggest impression. These include:
- Your company name
- Tone of voice
When you're an established organisation, a lot of this will already be in place, so how do you translate it from your offline business, to your online presence?
Choosing a domain name for your business
One of the first things you're likely to need to do when taking your brand online is organising your domain name and hosting.
Your company's name is obviously a huge part of your brand, and 90% of the time it's going to work wonderfully online, but there are a couple of considerations you should keep in mind.
You need to keep your branding consistent, so most of the time it's best to have a domain name to match your company name.
This isn't always advisable though, particularly if:
- Your company name is long
- It's difficult to spell (you'd be surprised how often that causes issues!)
- The domain isn't available
- It's too similar to another company or brand
In these situations, you may need to think carefully about how you proceed.
If you're struggling because the domain isn't available, or another company is using something similar, it can help to include another term to make your brand clearer.
For example, if you work in a specific area of the country, you might want to consider including that as part of your domain.
So, for example, a Shropshire business called ABC Plumbing might choose the domain abcplumbingshropshire.co.uk. That helps establish their brand as a local company, and to differentiate them from any other ABC Plumbing businesses (of which there are many!).
Similarly, if your business has a fairly generic name, you may want to add your industry or service into your domain name to differentiate it and make it clear what you do.
One of the most common things to change when you bring your brand online is your logo.
That's because older logo designs, especially ones that were never meant for the web, are often difficult or even unusable online.
There are lots of businesses that use sketch-based logos, crests and badges, or sometimes just older style graphics.
Every website builds out the branding from your logo, so if yours isn't quite right for your digital presence, it's well worth updating.
For lots of people, this just means a bit of a refresh.
We've worked with plenty of clients whose logos have needed a touch of modernisation. Take a look at this example for our client 3SK.
This wasn't a dramatic update, just a refresh to suit modern styles.
This sort of update ensures that you don't lose your current brand identity but also makes sure it looks great when you take your brand online.
Once your logo is sorted, you'll need to think about your brand colours and fonts. These will play a big part in your website design and wider online presence, so most digital agencies will use your logo as the starting point, and build out from that with a range of options for you to use.
While you're going to want to have a hand in shaping your brand colours and fonts, we highly recommend you be led by a professional web designer at this phase.
That's because they'll be able to take into account some of the technical requirements, like web-safe fonts and colour contrasts for website accessibility.
What is a brand voice?
Another key part of getting your brand online is establishing a brand voice. Again this might sound like a bit of marketing spam, but really it's just about speaking to your customers in a consistent way.
For example, at Edge of the Web we've got a fairly relaxed way of speaking. That's for a number of reasons.
The first is because lots of people can find websites and technology daunting, and we want to use terms that people understand and help simplify web design jargon.
The second is because we build ongoing relationships with our clients, so we get to know them really well, and it's a lot simpler to do that without formality or jargon getting in the way.
And lastly, it's generally how we communicate anyway!
But that tone of voice carries through everything that we do, from our Tweets and blog posts, to the text on our website and even how we speak to you in meetings and on the phone.
That's all a "brand voice" is, it's making sure you communicate in a consistent way.
How to create your brand voice
If you've been doing business for a while, it's a good idea to review things like brochures, email templates, flyers etc. to see if you're using a consistent tone of voice for your brand.
And, if not, the perfect opportunity to establish one is when you're bringing your business online, as you'll need to make sure your website is using that same brand voice when you're writing website content.
Your brand voice might be playful or professional depending on your business. But your small business branding should always be a reflection of your team, your company values and principles.
One really significant element of your branding is one that's really often overlooked - and that's brand imagery.
Particularly when you're moving your brand online, having a set style for your images is going to have a big impact on how you're perceived.
Sometimes it can be really helpful to set yourself up with some brand photography. This is when you get a professional brand photographer to take a suite of photos for your website and throughout your marketing materials.
Having a bank of images like this means that you'll have a lot of pictures to choose from, and that they'll all have the same consistent style.
One thing you really need to bear in mind is that any image style you set out for your website will need to be something you can replicate.
So, let's say for example you want to use illustration across your website. You'll need to make sure that you have enough illustrations not just for every page on the current website, but for any pages you may want to add in the future.
Brand promotion using social media
The last part of bringing your brand online is one that lots of people find intimidating, and that's thinking about the right social media platforms for your small business.
Social media can be a fantastic way to reach potential customers, but it does take a bit of time and effort, so it's important that you choose the platforms that are going to work best for you. It's better to start out with just one or two channels and do them right, rather than take a scattergun approach with a poorer social media presence across more channels.
Here are a few to consider:
- LinkedIn: Perfect for B2B companies and professionals.
- Facebook: Best for B2C businesses, especially smaller, more personal organisations.
- Instagram: If your business is visual in any way, this is the place for you!
- Twitter: A good option for lots of businesses, so long as you're regularly posting.
Of course, there are lots of other platforms that might work for you, such as TikTok or Snapchat, but these are probably the most popular social media sites for businesses.
Ready to get your brand online?
Now you've got a plan for how to bring your brand online, it's time to take the plunge!
And remember you don't need to have your brand perfectly ready before starting your online journey.
A good digital agency will help you with each and every element we've discussed in this article, from refreshing your logo design to helping create your brand voice.
And if you're looking for the right digital agency to help - we'd love to hear from you!