Most small businesses are of the opinion that their website is like a billboard on the Information Superhighway. Unlike traditional billboards, having a website without promoting it effectively is an exercise in futility.
If the majority of businesses that have had limited or no success on the Internet were honest with themselves they would acknowledge that they have no clear direction when it comes to the Internet. This manifests itself in their lack of focus and their inability to state, in no uncertain terms, why they are online.
Why Are You Online? The development of a very clear objective statement for your online activities is important because it will help you shape what it is that you intend to do specifically and why you are online?
Branding is a term that you hear most often tossed around in relation to big product names like CocaCola, General Motors, Microsoft, and so on. Not so coincidentally, these are some of the most well known brand names in existence today. These companies recognize that the perception that exists in their customer’s minds, which is essentially the brand message, is a valuable commodity. It is so valuable that often times it is considered as the most valuable asset of any company. For example, the Microsoft brand, which is one of the most well recognized brands in the world, is worth over 59 Billion dollars, according to Interbrand, the brand valuation company.
You may be thinking, “how does that affect me and my start-up or small business?” As follows: Those giant companies with their mega brand valuations didn’t start out as giants. They began life as somebody’s vision or dream in a basement or garage or in a back room somewhere. Over time they were able to define a very specific category or market segment and then dominate it. As a result, their brands came to be identified with that category or segment. The meaning of their brand names evolved accordingly and became associated with a positive image in the mind of the customer.
In establishing your brand, it is important to follow the path of success mapped out by other successful brands, many of which you most certainly are familiar with because they are household names. After defining your particular category you need to work diligently to associate your brand name with that category, striving to establish a positive impression that will set you apart. The Internet represents the ideal opportunity through which to do this.
The Internet was created to enable communication, cooperation and collaboration. Public relations strives to do the same thing. Most people view PR (articles in newspapers & magazines, the news, editorial columns, etc) as the advice of a “trusted friend. You have the opportunity to establish this same level of trust using the Internet as a primary communications medium with your customers and prospects. Be cautious about the contents of your messages however. Try pushing a blatant advertising message through this medium and you will quickly loose that trust.
Everything about the design of your website should represent your unique value within your category and support the positive impression that you are striving to establish in the minds of your customers. In addition, the information that you make available to your website visitors needs to build on the philosophy that you are developing a trusting relationship with your customers and prospects.