Every business person “knows” that his or her brand needs to be online. The problem is that many businesses are doing it so poorly that they are actually hurting their image. These days, regardless of what type of business you have, whether B-to-C or B-to-B, the way you look at marketing your business in the online space is a key factor in any overall growth strategy. However, often times business owners are too worried about doing it cheaply or in saving time and the results of this can make a business come off in an undesirable way to online users and browsers.

Online, you have to put a lot of attention on what your business looks like and how it’s presented, because you are in a marketplace with thousands, if not millions of other businesses. There are a few key things that you should pay attention to so that your business is not a casualty. As you basically have one shot to make a great first impression on a prospective client, you must pay close attention to displaying your business wisely.

Some top mistakes to avoid:

1. Don’t keep your head in the sand.
Businesses often just don’t know what the surrounding territory of their competition looks like. It’s important to know what others are doing— not to buy into the competition, but to be able to properly differentiate themselves from the field. If they don’t know what the others in the field look like, then there is no real ability to differentiate.

2. Don’t be too cheap to go pro.
Many times businesses simply won’t spend the money to do something the right way. Business owners may think they can do something in house with an amateur employee because when branding is done right online, it does not (and should not) look complicated. Keep in mind that Picasso could have been a top realist artist — after he had mastered realism he went on to develop his truly unique impressionistic style, creating artwork which might seem childish to the unsophisticated viewer.  In our case, a person doing one online course in Photoshop for example, is probably not going to produce the next award-winning brand imagery. Instead, your visual brand might end up looking like a third grader did it on the back of a milk carton — not ideal!  In the case of start-ups, where the business owner himself is wearing all of the hats, it becomes the norm to think that you can do it all yourself — and must — to save money. But you should consider where your time is best spent as a business owner, and unless you’re a design or marketing company, it’s most likely not on Photoshop or SEO. A business owner’s time is most cost effectively spent on core business activities, with admin and marketing handled using professional help. A little money spent on these activities while the owner concentrates on improving delivery is money well spent.

3. Don’t mix messages.
We can do this, we can do that… Does you customer even know what you do? If you are mixing messages in your online brand imagery or message, then they most likely do not have a clue, and that’s a huge mistake in marketing your business. Audiences are fickle, and with fierce competition, will go with the company that seems to most directly speak to their immediate needs. Businesses with a confusing brand message will become the chaff that is forgotten while the company communicating a strong brand with a simple direct message will be remembered. Think  Nike: “Just do it.”  No doubt there about what idea is being conveyed, no change or mixing of messages, and the Nike logo is one of the most seen and recognized world wide. When customers land on your page or see a piece of direct mail or a banner ad, there should be no confusion in their minds about who you are and what you are offering.

4. Don’t get distracted with fad techniques.
There are many, many ways to market your business, and new ones pop up approximately every ten minutes. The latest fad techniques might work for some, but it is important to research, find out, and understand what is tried and true for your business. Stick with something that works, even if it is not the cheapest method out there. Try new methods sparingly, without abandoning what has already worked. And don’t get stuck on the latest fad in marketing just because it is supposed to work.

Though the list is short, these are key things that can not only stunt your brand’s growth, but can kill a successful brand once it goes online. There’s no excuse for making the same mistakes that everyone else is making. Having this knowledge a powerful thing, but along with it one must also be able to observe. If you’re reading this, you’re already probably quite a savvy business person or well on your way there. Use your own powers of observation to see what’s out there, what’s working, what is clear and distinctive for your brand, and avoid the above mistakes. In this way you can make a great first impression and distinguish yourself among the thousands and thousands of businesses marketing themselves online.

Can you think of more of these which didn’t make our cut?
Post a comment and let us know!