We are in the midst of a marketing revolution. As consumers turn from “traditional” forms of media (magazines, newspapers, radio, television, yellow pages, etc.) to the connected world of the web (desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) business owners and marketers have an exciting opportunity. In the traditional advertising world, the pricing has more than caught up with the actual value. In my opinion, most traditional forms of advertising are a rip-off. In the “new media” advertising and marketing world, this isn’t the case. In fact, there are numerous instances online where the value of the advertising is FAR greater than how it is being priced today.
For example, an awesome SEO company can add to your bottom line is far greater than the prices most companies currently charge. This is especially true for companies serving small medium sized businesses. Content marketing, as somewhat of a subset of SEO, is the single most cost-effective lead generation strategy I’ve ever tracked – and I’ve tracked A LOT of direct response advertising. This is precisely why NOW is such an exciting time for business owners and marketers – especially small business owners. It’s the opportunity to get more than you paid for, but you’ve got to get started – like yesterday – because the market is quickly catching up.
What does any of this have to do with the importance of building a brand?
If you own a small business, it might seem like everyone is already “all in” with online marketing, but this isn’t the case – far from it. You need to get in the game now and start to build a strong brand online. Why is it important to build a strong brand online? First, most of your competitors are looking at the web from a tactical perspective – i.e. “how do I get more leads tomorrow?” or “how can I rank higher for XYZ keyword.” This is all well and good, but these tactical directives should be united under the umbrella of a coherent online marketing strategy. With the right strategy in place, every tactic becomes more effective. The first reason you should focus on building a brand is because most of your competitors aren’t (and they should be).
The second reason to focus your efforts on building a strong brand online is because Google is going to ranking trusted brands over everyone else. Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, says that the Internet is being overrun by SPAM. Google hates SPAM because it mucks up their search results. Google wants to match searchers with the most relevant AND authoritative website given their search query. If low-quality SPAM sites sneak into Google’s results too frequently, eventually searchers may go somewhere else to find what they need. Today, it’s not hard to get a relatively unknown website to outrank a proven brand, but this will not be the case in the very near future. If you’re a plumbing company in Gaithersburg, MD with three trucks, you need to ask yourself – when someone searches “plumbing company Rockville” (a neighboring city to Gaithersburg), do you really deserve to be on the first page?
The test to determine whether you have a skewed vision of reality is this: If someone searches “plumbing company Rockville” and your business isn’t there, would they think Google is broken? If you deserve to be there, the answer is “YES.” If the answer is “NO”, you don’t belong there and you better start thinking about the changes you’re going to have to make to change the answer.
So, how do you build a brand online?
My recommendation to you is this – start with creating a written online marketing strategy. For example, at Blue Corona, our strategy is centered around three tenets:
- Track everything and make data-driven decisions
- Maximize your online real estate – starting with search engines like Google
- Establish and promote your company as THE authority for what you do in the markets you do it
The word “brand” is alien to many small medium sized businesses.
“Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.” – John Williams, founder of LogoYes.com
Put accurate tracking in place and then work to build an online real estate empire, but never forget Williams’ words above and keep your messaging clear and consistent. What do I mean build an “online real estate empire?” I mean:
- Create an awesome website that is informative and helps your prospects make better buying decisions
- Having complete and informative social media profiles
- Connecting with prospective customers online and building and online community
- Being referenced around the web by relevant industry websites as an authority
- Building your own “media” outlets like a company Vimeo or YouTube channel to share great content with your audience, etc.
Before the web, building a brand was ULTRA expensive because you had to “rent” audience attention from a handful of big media companies. Today, with the web, this isn’t the case. In the world of online marketing, YOU can become the media. You can build your own YouTube TV channel. Do you know how much that costs? Nothing! Just your time and creativity (and if you’re a small business owner, you might have gobs of both).
If you’re a small business owner, your goal with online marketing should be to build a strong brand as fast as you reasonably can. If you get started today while your competitors are wasting time thinking about how to save money on their latest marketing tactic.