The key to marketing for online businesses is simple: branding. Branding has been a marketing buzzword for a very long time. It has caused a flurry of redesigned corporate logos, spiffy new letterheads, mission statements, rewritten mission statements, and even theme songs, and an endless stream of focus groups to guide the process. All of this can play a role, but branding is simpler than that, really. It’s letting customers know who you are, what you do, and how you do it (and it doesn’t hurt if they come away believing you’re better at what you do than your competition).
If you want to create an identity for your online business, you need to define your brand up front. When customers arrive at your website, the first thing they should see should be what you do and why they should care. There are way too many websites that bombard you with flashy graphics and catchy slogans, yet leave it to you, the potential customer, to figure out what the heck they actually do! This is wrong, dead wrong. The best thing you can do is spell it out. Who you are and what you do should be immediately clear and unmistakable.
A potential customer doesn’t know who you are. The best way to make them care about who you are, is to start with what you do, not who you are. This may not make sense at first, but the most important concept of Internet marketing for online business is that your message should always start with stating a benefit for the customer. What’s in it for them? Then, once they know what you can do for them, you can tell them who you are, and introduce your spiffy logo or flashy graphics.
Rather than trying to get readers, visitors or users, think in terms of creating fans. “Users” visit your site, maybe subscribe to your newsletter, and buy your products or services. “Fans” are better—they rave about how great you are to their friends, cheer you on, and breathlessly await news about what you’re up to professionally. It shouldn’t be too hard to see why fans are better than users.
As much as you love that spinning flash graphic that takes ten minutes to load, the word’s the thing on the internet. What matters most online is what words you use. Don’t believe it? Fire up your search engine. Go on, do it. Ready? Good. Now search by really cool flash graphic and let me know what you come up with. Don’t worry, I won’t hold my breath. If you want online fans, you need to give useful, interesting brand-related content. A conversational tone is best. Write like you’re talking to someone. After all, would you rather listen to a real person talking, or a list of bullet points?
Words are supreme, but visual elements are still important. (You can sigh in relief now, knowing you’ll still be able to use your spinning flash logo). The visual elements should reinforce your identity and message. In other words, don’t decorate. Communicate.
The key to Internet marketing for online businesses is simple. It’s branding. And all branding means is letting them know what you do, how you do it, and who you are.
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