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Building Your Online Brand

Published By Janet Gershen-Siegel at October 5th, 2017

Much like with a brick and mortar establishment, building an online brand is an exercise in understanding a need, and then filling it. And along the way, it’s also all about getting to know the people who have that need, and want it to be filled.

Here’s a little secret: everyone thinks of platforms first. You need to be tweeting! Oh my God, why aren’t you on Facebook already? No, SnapChat is where it’s at. What about LinkedIn?

Ai yi yi you are putting the cart before the horse if you go about it this way. Instead, you want to follow what’s called the ‘POST strategy’.

P is for Persona

What’s a persona? That’s the typical person with that need you’re trying to fill. That person might be male, or female, or even trans. They might be under 18 years of age, or over 65 or even over 90. They might be Caucasian, or Asian. Wait a minute – which Asian? For you should know that there’s a big difference between people from Thailand, India, Japan, and Hong Kong.

There are other things you need to know about your persona (also called your ‘buyer persona’). Are they married? Are they parents? Are they well educated, or not so much? Are they homeowners? Do they work? What’s their political background?

Essentially the question is: what’s in it for them to click on your webpage, retweet you, share your Instagram photos, or save your Pinterest pins to their own pin boards?

You may be wondering – how the hell am I going to do this sort of market research if I have no real marketing budget? Or maybe you think you just don’t have the time. While it’s understandable that small business owners – particularly in newer companies – are short on both time and money, not knowing your market is a big mistake. It’s a lot like going for a ride to Boise when you’ve loaded your GPS with directions to Milwaukee. Or maybe you didn’t even bother loading directions at all, or are just driving aimlessly. You will never get to Boise that way.

And the same is true with online branding success. Fortunately, the kind of market research you do for your brick and mortar will work here as well. You can send out surveys to your customers, or have your salespeople ask them a few questions while making a transaction (but not about marital status – you just know someone will think they’re being hit on), or add a sign up for a club for coupons which also asks demographic questions. Warranty cards are good for this, too. Why do you think warranty cards have everything from your age range to whether you want to be called Miss, Mrs., or Ms., or Mr.?

People will do a lot, and will give up a lot of personal information, for 10% off.

O is for Objectives

An objective is a goal. You want to get to Boise. You want to double your sales. You want to be recognized as the best tuna salad maker in your city. Whatever it is, your objective needs to be clear. Send it to MARS:

  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant and
  • Specific

Wanting to be a better kids’ clothing store is vague. Wanting to increase sales of girls’ party dresses in three months, by 15%, is a great Martian goal.

S is for Strategy

You need some sort of a plan for increasing your sales of girls’ party dresses or getting to Boise or whatever your objective is. A good strategy will focus on the value you can provide. Again, what’s in it for the people? What can you offer which is meaningful and can help you to reach your objective?

Increasing your sale of girls’ party dresses could mean offering discounts or maybe even a fashion show. As they say, think outside that proverbial box. But your main focus needs to be on how you are giving to someone else.

Yes, really! I know you want to make money, and I respect that, of course! But at the same time, the online world, in this instance, differs from the offline one. In the offline world, the value you have to offer is usually pretty obvious. It might not be so obvious in the online world. Plus the online economy is one of give and take. Customers, fans, listeners, and viewers are far more proactive and empowered than they have ever been in history. So you need to give them something – and sometimes that can mean lending an ear and listening to their suggestions, and acting on them, too.

T is for Technology

Okay, now we can talk about platforms and the like. Fortunately, the demographic data on most of the bigger platforms is online. For example, in mid-2017, Facebook announced they had 2 billion users. Just go ahead and Google the name of the platform that interests you and the word ‘demographics’. Do they match your persona pretty well or very well? Then that’s probably a platform you are going to want to be on and learn well.

The online world can support your offline marketing efforts. Just follow the POST!

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