First impressions are everything, especially in the digital world where prospective customers only have to click on the next Google search hit if they don't like what they see on your website. From web design to social media strategy, VARs that want to excel in the 21st century need to know the basics of how to optimize their company brand.
More than 40 million Americans are giving online dating a try because it is an opportunity to start fresh with a new somebody. Essentially you have a clean slate to present yourself in the way you want others to perceive you. This is called your personal brand.
When filling out the online dating profile, you suddenly realize that the questions are intimidating, and not to mention long. And deciding which picture to post of yourself and whether or not you should include that adorable photo of your cat can be daunting.
Then it dawns on you: Why am I doing this again?!
Whether its online dating or defining your company’s image, what does your brand say about you? It’s easy to throw in the towel when it comes to creating a personal brand or a company imagine, no matter if it’s for an online dating website or in the professional capacity. Many of us just don’t have the bandwidth.
The truth of the matter is, you do need to care about your company’s image and your personal brand. Here are some important points to consider.
When people are Googling you, what do they find?
When searching for a new IT service provider or VAR, oftentimes companies will research you and your company online before moving forward in the process. When they search your company, what pops up? Can they even find you?
Because people are busy, first impressions matter whether it is online or face-to-face. Consider taking the time to thoroughly develop your website copy, make it user-friendly, and include helpful images and an interface that’s attractive to consumers.
Don’t forget the heart and soul of your website: the story. Clearly define the company, the objectives and the services you provide. Make sure the grammar is correct and that you utilize spell check because there is nothing worse than visiting a website that is hard to read and full of errors. It sends a message to the consumer that you aren’t trustworthy and your work may be sloppy.
Does social media matter?
You know that picture from college you never wanted anyone to see, but your friend posted it on their social media feed? Well, it is back, and it is showing up when people Google your name.
You need to be extremely cognizant about managing your second life – the online you. Let me tell you, it can feel like a full-time job, but your online appearance could mean all the difference whether you’re seeking a date online or trying to find your next account.
I always urge my clients to take social media seriously, but not to use it as the end-all, be-all communications strategy. It is meant to augment your brand enhancement efforts, not lead them.
Let social media work for you, not against you. Create a business Facebook Page and model it after that incredible website you just developed. You know, the one with no errors that tells your company’s story and clearly defines who you are and what you do.
If you want to dip your toe into the Twittersphere, make sure you are going to be active and take a few minutes to brush up on all the lingo before you get started. Search keywords or “hashtags” that relate to your business to discover new articles, customers, and industry thought leaders. Then actually use them in your tweets.
Twitter can also be extremely helpful when trying to get in touch with a potential client that may otherwise be ignoring your emails and phone calls. Be creative and reach out by retweeting one of their posts or by liking a recent project or initiative.
How do I get started?
Just like online dating, creating a brand will take effort. But remember, your company’s image is worth it, just like the possibility that you may meet your soul mate on Match.com.
Here are three simple steps to get you started:
- Define your brand.
When defining your brand, consider your company’s differentiators, the audience you are trying to reach, and the value-add you provide your customers.
- Build a strategic communications plan.
Just like a business plan, your strategic communications plan will act as your roadmap for success. When creating this plan, make sure it includes your company’s positioning statement, core messaging, goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics.
- Engage with your customers both in person and online.
Social media can be used as a catalyst to engage current and future customers. You can also use it as a way to service your clients that may have a technical issue and decided to post it as a comment on Twitter using your handle. Impress them by responding quickly and with the answer they need to solve their issue. Go the extra distance to show them that you care.
You may only get one shot to impress, so make sure your company and personal brand are on-point. It could mean the difference in that date with someone special or that future client you’ve been trying to impress.
Amanda Lee is the founder and owner of ARL Strategic Communications, a full service public relations and marketing communications firm. With more than 10 years of experience helping companies tell their story and enhance their brand, Amanda is an award-winning public relations professional. Her expertise includes public relations, media relations, analyst relations, marketing, social media marketing, and corporate communications.
Throughout her career, Amanda has worked with many Fortune 500 companies and the U.S. Congress to provide overall strategy, communications planning, and media campaigns.
Amanda holds a B.S.B.A. in Marketing from the University of Southern Mississippi and an M.P.S. in Public Relations & Corporate Communications from Georgetown University.