When you want to start running your business online, with both a website and social media, your online brand is HUGELY important.  So what do I mean?  I’m referring to how your brand ‘looks and feels’ and whether your ideal client can connect with you.  I’m talking about what people can find out about you and how they judge whether your business is the right fit for them and their needs.

But I just have a little business, does it matter?

Whether you’re a one-man-band plumber, or a 10 partner law firm…the rules still apply.  More and more, businesses that people are looking to hand over their hard earned cash to, will be judged by the ‘verification + trust‘ rules…

…let’s say a friend recommends a great financial planner to you…fabbo, you needed someone to talk to about your retirement planning.  You head over to their website to check them out a bit first…donuts. Nada.  Nothing of substance there.  Ok, maybe they have a shingle up, but there’s not much about the business and certainly nothing about the people who run the business.  So, second chance.  You click on the link to their LinkedIn profile and you see a dodgy photo of someone in a penguin suit, mid champagne, at what looks like a boozy conference…hmmmm, not sure they are the right fit for me.

It’s all about verification + trust

The reality is, you will be judged online and you may lose business because of it.  You may WIN business too.  So we want to avoid any hurdles for potential clients at all costs, plus we want to capitalise on opportunities.  We want to create the right look and feel for your business, by creating a piece of online real estate that you love, resonates with your potential clients and makes you PROUD to spruik about the place.  No good keeping it a secret, eh?

So, where do you start first?

A big part of creating your brand, are your colours.  We generally all like things that catch our eye, whether it be beautiful flowers, the allure of a dazzling red car, or maybe a stunning architectural shiny image.  It’s all about aesthetics and colours play a big part of that.

Depending what business you are in and what part of the world you’re located…or market to…you should be aware of colours that have certain meanings.  Now that’s a whole other kettle of fish and I won’t be expanding on that…you should do some extra research on that area if it’s relevant to you.  Google will hold all the answers to that.

It’s sometimes hard to narrow down what colours you like, plus know what they look like on the web…sometimes you favourite green in print, might look a little bit shabby online.  Also remember your colours will appear everywhere…print, your website, social media and any other websites you decide to put up a shingle.  So a great way to get an idea of what you like (and what you don’t), is to go to a website like ColourLovers.  A proverbial candy store (lolly shop if you’re Aussie) of delectable colour combinations.

Creating Your Online Brand Like a Boss | Colour Lovers | socialmarque.com

You’ll see examples of trends, as well as websites that have colour combos that work REALLY well together.  It truly is a brilliant website to find out what colours resonate with you.  I LOVE it…I spend waaaay too much time gazing at all the pretty things there.

Now you have to do some work…your FIRST TASK if you don’t have a colour scheme (or one you like), is to head over and have a look at what they have at ColourLovers.   Do some research on other websites you like too and come up with at least 3 colours that work well together.  Record the colour codes somewhere (you’ll need this later)…Evernote is a great tool and Canva will help you create a style guide.  Check out this Canva article about other brands and how they built their style guides.

Got a logo yet?

Next step is to create a logo that signifies what your business is about, so you need to have a think about what it will be used for, as well as what it should represent.  Maybe it will be predominantly used on your website, so you might want more of a stand alone design and no text, however if you need business cards too, you might choose some text to go with it.  With your research you just did on other websites, what did you find that you liked?  If you found some designs that really grabbed you, take a screenshot of them and record them somewhere…again, Evernote is a great tool for keeping ideas together.

You now need to get it created…eeeeeek

Going to one designer can be problematic if you’re not sure what you really want…sometimes you can feel obliged too, to take on a design they have prepared even if it doesn’t really hit the spot for you.  BUT, if you have a great designer you have worked with before and you know they have the goods in the ideas department…GO FOR IT.  The next option is if you don’t have that amazing designer in your life.

What do the rest of us do then?

I thought you’d never ask…the next best option is to go where all the designers hang out…crowdsourcing.  There are several websites you can head to now to have GREAT design work done, but two of my favs are DesignCrowd and 99Designs.  The concept revolves around running a competition for your particular job, in this case a logo.  You essentially fill out an online form that provides the designers with the specs of what you want…colours (remember, we’ve sorted that now), styles, ideas etc.  You plant the seed of what you want…you might be quite specific, or you might give them artistic licence to come up with an interpretation of your brand.  They will then go away and create designs to submit to your competition.  You will judge the submissions as the competition progresses, nominating your favourites and dismissing designs you don’t like, until finally you judge the winner.  You will receive some amazing designs…you will likely get some dud ones too, so your guidance and feedback is SUPER important to get the right image in the end.  Inviting some good designers to participate in your competition is a good idea too.

Have a look at other competitions.  What worked?

Have a mozey around some other competitions and take notes…what designers do you like, what was in their brief that you liked?  Every competition is different and what you have in your mind, might not be the message that the designer is getting, so be prepared to give lots of feedback.  This will really help the process for the designers, PLUS give you a greater chance of getting exactly what you want.  Here’s a great example of how the designers interpreted the needs of this business…

Creating Your Online Brand Like a Boss | 99designs Competition | socialmarque.com

But this is the one that actually WON

Creating Your Online Brand Like a Boss | 99designs Winner | socialmarque.com

Some pretty good designs in there.  Just make sure you set the right budget, be really involved in giving feedback and be excited about what you are creating!

Now you have more work…your SECOND TASK.  Head over to a design crowdsourcing website like DesignCrowd or 99Designs and do some research on other competitions you like.  Note down any particular competition designs you like and make a list of 5+ designers you might like to invite to your competition.  Then decide on your budget.  You can go with the minimum, but just be mindful that if you have a not so interesting industry, designers may over look you.  Pitch price where you are comfortable and where you think the designers you like will have a peek.

Now you need to sign up and start your brief…try and get it really detailed to begin with, however you can amend it as you go.  Just make sure you let the designers know if you change a key brief spec or colour.  Now, keep glued to it for the next 7 days!

Now we’re onto everyone’s favourite part…getting photos done.

I can ACTUALLY hear you groaning…

It’s not the end of the world to get your face in front of a camera.  Remember, everyone sees your face every day!  You just get the benefit of some make-up, good lighting and maybe a little Photoshop touch-up this time.

Seriously…I would highly recommend getting some semi-professional or professional photos done.  They make a BIG difference to your online brand.  When someone either comes searching for your website via a referral or social media, or finds it after a search in Google, they will go to the most looked at page of your website…your ‘about‘ page.  People want to see who you are and what you’re about.

They don’t want to see a 1985 picture of you with some dodgy moustache or perm…

They will want to verify who YOU are, who the people are that make up your business and they will often decide if this is a business I can trust, based on the images.  Don’t believe me?  Have a think about your own behaviour online.  I know I judge businesses when I can’t see who runs them.  I want to see who the owner is, who the team are that ‘do the work‘ and I also like to see who the board of directors are.  Maybe that’s just me, but I’m pretty sure I’m not on my Pat Malone.

As well as using these images on your website, you’ll need them for your social media profiles.  Creating the right image on social media is going to be R-E-A-L-L-Y important too.  Remember, someone might find you on Twitter or Facebook first, so you want them to take the next step and head over to your website…you need to have the right images to entice them to read more about you and your business.

You need to do some research around what you like, what you think you might wear and where you might want them taken.  I have included below some amazing shots from a photographer I really admire, Timothy Jane Graham, who is A-W-E-S-O-M-E at corporate style shoots…

Creating Your Online Brand Like a Boss | Timothy Jane Graham | socialmarque.com

I truly love her work, because she just captures people being WHO they are…how they would want their potential clients to see them and connect with them.  You need to get creative around how you want to be portrayed…really think outside the square.

OK, we’re nearing the end…your THIRD TASK.  You need to find a good photographer.  I mean a really GOOD photographer.  Not your cousin who has an SLR camera.  You need someone who has experience in taking great corporate shots and you know this either by seeing a great portfolio on their website, or you got a referral from someone else who has great photos.  Now, book them in and get some AMAZING pics done.

We’re done!  You stayed the distance.

My last tip though, would be for those who have already done all of the above once before.  Maybe you’re now looking to get a re-vamp…take it up a step.

My tip to you, is invest in yourself and pay someone to help you.

There are many, many FABULOUS branding companies out there…big, small and in between.  They will help you find the right ‘look and feel’ for your business, because they are OBJECTIVE.  They don’t know you, they can therefore take you where you should be and help you STEP UP to your next challenge.  You now want to get a greater edge in your niche and they can help you do that.

They are not cheap, however if you’re at this stage you need to invest in YOU.  Take the step.  It will be worth it.

We did it!  You’ve now chipped away at some crucial tasks for your business, which will be SUPER important for your website development.  Well done.

Got any questions?  Ask away in the comments below.

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