As I’m nearing the end of my master’s degree. I have been taking time these past couple of weeks to really focus on my business model and its online presence. Keeping up with the times is an absolute necessity for any online business with hopes of success.
So I’ll delve into some notes on my recent experiences and discoveries when it comes to running a business online.
1. What is your brand image?
This is something that I have personally struggled with over time. Being that I am very versatile and love so many different clothing styles, it was hard for me to really narrow down and choose what specific niche my clothing design is.
But trust me, as hard as it may be, targeting your brand image is a must. The main piece of advice I can stand on is this: stay true to yourself. Doing something because a person of authority tells you, or you think you may make more money, or it’s a quicker path to success will only dig a deeper hole. I ended up changing things around multiple times, finally landing back where I started in the first place.
Some things to consider about brand image:
- Who is your client? This means you need to know more than just their age and ethnicity. What do they do on the weekends? What are their hobbies?
- What music do they like, etc.
- What do you want your brand to feel like? This takes some thinking. What does the Starbucks brand feel like? And why does it seem to match the feeling of the Apple brand? Consider your senses the next time you go into your favorite store, coffee house or restaurant. Notice the things around you that carry the vibe that you recognize so easily when you think of that place.
Consider your competition. Who are they and what are they doing to get the attention of your potential clients? What strong and weak points do you notice? How can you differentiate yourself?
- What’s your story?
- Consider your goals as a business.
- What is the hook that makes you different or intriguing?
- Consider the emotional triggers you will ignite when telling people about your brand’s story.
2. Your own website vs. third party platforms.
Making a website for your business is always the best option. It gives the feeling of professionalism and creates trust in the eyes of the client. However, this may not be an option right away as most startups are funded solely by the owner. Putting together a makeshift website from a template is an option, but I guarantee it will make most people shy away. It makes the company look less reputable. Having a solid, professional looking website is truly the best option.
Then there is the choice of using third party as a platform to sell your merchandise. As an example, ww.reverbnation.com is a great site for music artists to network and sell their music.
Weigh your platform options:
- Having your own website gives you more control. It also gains better search engine optimization than third party platforms.
- Consider your customer. What will they feel most comfortable with?
- How are you going to get paid? Paypal is by far the most trusted way to send and receive money online. Get an account. It’s free and you can transfer money straight to your bank account with minimal fees.
3. Create a marketing plan. Without question, you absolutely must have all the standard social networks in tact if your business is online. The first thing people want to do when they find your business is check out your Facebook, twitter, etc. It builds credibility and status instantly. The key is finding where exactly your customer is online and formulating your marketing plan around that.
- Do more than just be present- Interact!
- Find people who have similar businesses. For example, if you have a make up line, friend and follow others in the beauty industry as well as related industries like fashion and photography. Forums are a great place to do this. People share insights, tips and carry great discussions in forums.
- Don’t forget about the offline world. Be present at related events in your area. Learn who’s who. Have your professional business cards ready to direct people to where you are online.
- Create a campaign. Something that you will focus on and push for a set amount of time. This could be a sale, a special product launch, a grand opening, etc. This will help your new audience understand what your all about. Consistent brand image is vital in this stage.
4- Blog. The main thing about blogging is establishing yourself as an expert in your craft. People will come to your blog to learn from you. So you want to blog about a topic you’re confident in.
- Post consistently. At least once a week is ideal.
- Find sites that you can submit your articles to. (Like this one!!)
- The more links your blog is tied to, the higher Google ranks you in searches.
- Make sure you’re using the right keywords and tags. This is how people find you!
- Check out other blogs to see what is working for others.
Final thoughts on this topic; be honest. Keeping up communication with clients and colleagues is the best way to build and maintain your online relationships. Never forget that on the other side of that screen is an actual person with thoughts and feelings, just like you.
Thoughts? Suggestions? As always, I’m open to improvement.