This project is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme

How to build your small business brand online

DATE: 05/01/21


Being conscious and in control of your brand online is fundamental to the success of any business
these days. Regardless of the mission or size of your business, having a digital profile and
working out a strategy around that is essential.

Which brand?
Your ‘brand’ is simply the personality of your business. What is it the business does? What problems
will you solve for your customer and why? What motivates you and how will your audience
think about you? Everything that connects to your business can be gathered up as part of your
brand. The language you use, your tone, the look of your logo and website, the communications
you use with customers, how you navigate problems and successes. Everything you ‘put out’ into
the world becomes part of your brand.

So how can you begin to use your brand to grow your company digitally? Here are a few steps to
take along the way.

Dig deep
As you’re getting started with your company, take time to do some in depth research. The more
you know about your industry and your customers, the more informed and successful your brand
can expect to be. Research your product or service. Who is your target audience? What problem
does it set out to solve? What will mark you out against your competitors? What is important to
your customers? Find out as much as you can about all your potential customer groups, where
they live online, what they are looking for – and don’t forget to look into your competitors. You
might think your product is novel enough that you don’t have competitors, but don’t fall into that
trap. Every business has competitors directly or indirectly, so spend time making sure you understand yours.

Brand development
Once you’ve established your product and your industry environment, think about your branding

Visual branding
First up is everything you see. Your logo, your website, marketing materials, advertising collateral – everything. Be careful when you’re deciding your name and logo, they say a lot about who you are and they endure through the life of your business, so it’s worth getting it right at the start. It’s a good idea to agree on your brand name and logo but also to spend some time mapping out a positioning statement, a mission that underpins everything you do. You can revisit it to check on your progress, to remember what your goal is and to review any decisions you’re making against it.

Once you’ve settled on visual branding, be consistent in your application of it. Make sure your
website promotes the same look and feel, that everything from price tags to presentations are
created with this consistent brand in mind.

Experiential branding
The way in which your customers interact with your brand online is your experiential branding.
What is their experience with your brand on social media platforms? What is the user experience on your company website? How do customers interact with your digital marketing? Bear in mind that customer and potential customers have many windows into your brand online, so it’s vital to map out them all and make sure your mission and voice is consistent overall. Is your website easy to navigate? Does your out of office message give enough reassurance? Experience your digital touch points as a customer and use your findings to improve.

Engagement branding
Creating and building a digital community is crucial to online success. Once you’ve identified
your digital touch points and set out consistent branding and strategy, you can step up your
efforts from there. Actively engage with your community online. Whether it’s responding to
messages on social media within an assigned time limit, or taking and responding to criticism
through an online review, how you interact with your customers digitally has an impact. If your
engagement practices show your brand to be consistent and authentic, your community will
grow, your brand reach will improve, and your ability to learn from the very people you are selling
to will grow with it. View your customers as a community from whom feedback is vital. You
are reliant on them and their loyalty is invaluable. Let that inform your engagement branding.

Consistency and authenticity
Digitally or not, customers are looking for consistency and authenticity from brands they invest
with. If potential customers are confused about your offering, about your mission, about who you are, it is unlikely they will chose to spend their money with you. If on the other hand, your values
are clear and consistent over every platform, those customers who are curious about your products
or services will be more likely to invest; and if happy, more likely to spread the word. Refer
back to that positioning statement. What is it you’re here to do and why? Restate that through
your digital actions and your engagements. Be honest with your customers and be sensitive to their
feedback and their concerns. Customers are overwhelmed with choice in every area of industry
so the brands they choose with have to offer next level authenticity to win their loyalty.

Nothing is static and that applies to your brand and your business. Be informed and be aware
about what is happening around you. Locally, globally, in your industry, to your competitors, to
your customers. Make decisions that move with updates around you. Your customers will be relying
on you to pre-empt their needs and to do that you have to make peace with change. You
might think your product is perfect when you launch but don’t get too comfortable. Be prepared
to learn, recognise that business evolution is essential and be grateful for the opportunity to keep

It’s never over
Launching your brand is one thing. Building your brand digitally and otherwise is another. But
every part of these efforts are simply chapters in the story of your business. Your priorities this
year may not be your priorities next year. Building your brand is an ongoing process. You’ll get
things right but you’ll also face challenges and being able to move through these, learn from your
mistakes and recognised that your brand is never ‘finished’, is essential.
Whatever stage of business you are at, spending time on your digital brand is part and parcel of
start-up life. Taking time every year to assess your branding, your communications, your customer
engagement and making changes accordingly will be time well spent. The economy is
changing constantly and every brand keen to stay in the market needs to be prepared to do the

Whatever your business idea, whether it’s just something you’ve been mulling over or
whether you’ve taken some steps on the entrepreneurial path already, we’d love to help.
Read some of our Go For It Success Stories and get in touch. Our business experts will
be delighted to hear from you and to talk you through everything you might need to know
to move forward with your business concept.