I am asked a lot how I built both my professional leadership brand and my Advancing Women brand. I’ve written and spoken lots about building my leadership brand, but haven’t really discussed the process I followed about building my business brand and digital presence. I was like a lot of other people starting up and venturing into a business of my own, I wondered how I could carve out the room in the market for my brand, products and services in the online digital world.
The Honest Truth
I would love to write this article with a list of the “must do” steps that I diligently followed, but that would be disingenuous. Because the truth is, that I really didn’t follow a formula in the beginning and I really didn’t nail it. But I did do what a lot of other entrepreneurs and small business owners do, I read a lot, followed the blogs and articles of people who seemed to know what they were talking about, joined business networking groups and really tried to learn how to focus my efforts on digital strategies that gained me maximum attention (and customers) in a minimum amount of time.
Keep reading for a few of my tips and tricks about enhancing your brand, before you spend money. In other words, look before you leap!
1. Professional Networking
For any of you reading this, you will know that I use LinkedIn religiously to connect with people and to learn from them. I’ve learned that LinkedIn is the perfect place to learn about how to use LinkedIn! LinkedIn is home for social media strategists, like Bonnie Power, and reading her articles and watching her videos are fabulous ways to get started on building your brand on the worlds most powerful professional network.
You must invest time to build a solid digital profile on LinkedIn as this will be an essential tool in your toolkit for proactively manage your leadership and business brand. Using the Groups function and joining industry niche groups and discussions can be a really good way of demonstrating your expertise and connecting with people in your target market.
I would estimate that more than 50% of my new work comes via LinkedIn, so this is a very valuable (free!) tool to advance your leadership and business brand. If you’re not sure how to use LinkedIn, then get help! Its a gamechanger.
2. A Website that Wows
One of the first things I did when I started my business was to register my domain name, email address and set up a website. There is NO way that anyone in business can be considered legit without a website. However, before you rush off and spend thousands and thousands of dollars, work out what you want from your website and why.
My philosophy for my website, which is a simple one built on WordPress, is a place to house information about what I do, how I do it and importantly, how to contact me. (I find it amazing at how many websites I see that make it really hard for the customer to work out how to contact the owner!) I also use my website to publish my blogs and articles (like this one) and have it linked to my social media accounts. My customers are typically organisations rather than consumers, so my website needs are not high-tech, so I do not invest a huge amount of money on managing it.
However, if you are not confident, or require greater levels of functionality from your website, then I suggest investing in a combination of web design training and customizable platforms like WordPress (which I use) Squarespace or Wix which are all excellent platforms to start with for beginners. This can save you a bucket load of money in the first place.
As your content grows and your brand appeals to more clients, you may wish to then contract a professional web designer with an upgrade of your current presence. I’m proud that I taught myself the basics of websites, I acknowledge that my website isn’t perfect, but I am clear about what purpose it serves and would rather invest my hard-earned small business dollars where they are going to have high impact.
3. The Kind of Viral We All Like
My content needs to be both SEO-friendly and truly generate a buzz that reflects my brand and philosophy. Content marketing is the new black and as such, there are literally trillions of pieces new online content published every day.
So how do you stand out? It’s fair to say that you need to create something out of the ordinary to remain relevant and readable. That’s precisely what viral content is about: Going viral is about creating a chain reaction of shares, likes and discussions following the publication of your online content, whether the material is text or video-based.
Now, I have read a lot about content marketing. In ll of that, and after writing online for a while, I know that nothing takes the place of honest, transparent and interesting articles that are useful. Amazing right? I’ve found that the more honest, open, informative and helpful I am in my blogs, the better they perform. Not many people are interested in sharing, let alone reading or watching, articles or videos that serve no purpose.
4. Get all the links
I have to say this is my area of least expertise. The more links you get to your website, without creating a viral effect, the more trustworthy you become for search engines. The problem is that link-building strategies are difficult to set up if you’re not working with an SEO agency. But the main rule is that you should earn natural links through quality content and handy social media sharing. Understanding the principles of SEO and keywords is critical and, depending on your target market, can give you a competitive edge. But be wary! The penalties for not getting this right (inflicted by Google) are greater than simply not ‘fiddling’ for the sake of fiddling!
5. Your Digital Housekeeping
Your digital presence and your (high) impact will be due to a combination of deliberate and purposeful digital networking, effective web design and creating authentic content that not only gets you noticed but also builds and enhances your reputation. Just like any other housekeeping, it needs to be done regularly (not all the time!) efficiently and effectively.
My top 3 tips are:
- Use FREE resources first! If nothing else, LinkedIn is a free and highly effective tool for small business.
- Look before you leap. Do not spend lots of money on digital tools before you understand your brand messages, your customer and how you want to reach them.
- Get advice and help at the right time. Don’t keep ploughing on doing stuff that you should and could outsource. It detracts you from your core purpose, which is to make your business a success!
Once again, I’m sharing my own experiences so that others can learn. I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for getting your digital housekeeping right.