This week we’ve got another guest post here on Smokehouse SEO!
Written by Joe Shoop (follow him on Twitter at @rainydaydigital) of Rainy Day Digital this is his third post here on the Smokehouse and is all about why everyone out there needs to get involved in brand building.
This is a critical step that a lot of people neglect and end up wishing they hadn’t!
Build Your Brand
I recently was in a meeting with a client, whose local business was beginning to rise. After years of hard work, his construction brand was finally beginning to see significant increases in both profits and leads. Word-of-mouth had spread a little faster than he had anticipated, and now he was beginning to get more jobs than he could handle, with more and more calls and emails requesting his service. He was elated to see his company begin to take off, and had big plans for the future of his business.
But, he had a problem. While he was seeing so much growth, much have it had come at a price. He was working anywhere from twelve to fifteen hours a day nearly every day of the week. He was happy to be busy, but this was a little more than he could handle. He had tried hiring or promoting others to manage parts of his business, but often they were unreliable at getting the job done to the standards he had set for his business. And, yes, his phone was ringing night and day, but with the types of work that yielded low profit margins and wasn’t really the type of work he wanted to be known for. Worse yet, the only significant time he had taken off recently was due to an unexpected hospitalization of his wife, who needed observation for 48 hours.
“I’m grateful for any work,” he said, “but this isn’t really why I started this company. I really wanted to focus on new construction and large home renovations and additions, not small repair jobs. Besides, with all these little jobs pouring in, I’m too busy to bid on bigger jobs. If I need two weeks for a large renovation, I’m struggling to find the time in my calendar because of all the little repair jobs.”
Here was a guy who had a grand vision for his business at the onset, but compromised during the early days to keep the ends meeting. While he hadn’t intended on his business becoming a handyman service, his constant acceptance of these types of jobs was keeping him away from the types of work he wanted to do.
As a small business owner myself, I understood exactly how he felt. Often, when trying to get a new business off the ground, you sometimes make a few exceptions in the type of work you will do to keep the lights on. It’s a struggle in those early days to maintain your vision, and many companies never get back to their original goals as they feel the pull of the market to go in different directions.
However, I encouraged my client to return to his original goals. I told him not to be afraid to build his online brand.
What Is Brand Building, Exactly?
Brand building has become quite a buzzword in recent years. It has become synonymous with fly-by-night tech startups, one-month-and-done bloggers, and ill-conceived pop-up stores. There is a concrete foundation in this term, though, as those with successful businesses can often attest to. As an individual, or as a company, you have to determine early how you’re different from the majority of the industry, and what unique products and services you have to offer the public.
In my client’s case, he wanted to offer upper-mid-tier construction and renovation services. This was not the highest level of luxury available to the masses, nor was this bargain-basement quickie remodels, but a service that offered many of the highest levels of quality and materials at a more modest price point. An attractive sounding service to be sure!
But, what about making ends meet? If we modify the website, change the direction of our social media message, and try to rank for keywords based on our desired goals, aren’t we going to begin losing smaller jobs? Is this a risk that’s worth it?
From an online perspective, most definitely! Again, your business needs an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. After all, if your business is just like everyone else’s, why should anyone choose you? The same can be applied to search engines; when they have several of the same types of businesses in a certain area, they need some reason to rank your site above the rest.
Take my client’s example: if a potential client is just searching for a carpenter, there could be hundreds of services to choose from. But what if this same searcher is looking for ‘luxury home renovation’, there may only be a few to choose from. This is a golden opportunity to stand out from the pack!
But, what about all those little jobs? No fear, we’re only changing the direction of the business online, not offline. Word-of-mouth will still keep the calls and emails coming, and you’ll have the power to take whatever jobs you like, and still guide the direction of our online presence. It’s the best of both worlds – attract the type of business you want through your online channels while taking all the jobs you like offline.
Putting Verbs In The Sentences
So how do you go about building your brand online? Well, it’s actually quite simple – you just have to start communicating this message out through your available channels. By this, I mean talk about the message you want to deliver to your customers through your website, social media platforms, and Google My Business/Bing Local accounts.
Let’s start with the most obvious one: your website. This is the best place for us to begin tailoring the message of your brand and communicating out the right message. Start with your logo and tag message; this is almost certainly the first way you make an impression with the people you’re hoping to reach, and should be the first way to help them understand what it is you do. If your message is bland and open-ended, you’re not effectively targeting your audience.
Expanding on your website, a blog is a fantastic way to help clients understand your business and brand. Once a month (or more, if you have the time!), take the time to write about your industry, your practice, your shop. Be sure that you’re writing from the frame of mind of your brand, though – don’t just talk about anything that comes to mind.
If, for example, you’re a bakery that specializes in gluten-free or vegan baking, talk about it on your blog. Highlight some of the successes you’ve had recently, like baking a large gluten-free wedding cake and sheet cake for a large wedding, as well as all of the positive feedback you received. Or, talk about the struggles you’ve encountered, like trying to closely match the flavor palate of a beloved baked treat for a gluten-sensitive toddler. Not only will this help to humanize your business, it helps to reinforce exactly what it is that you want to be known for. These are the things that will help set you apart in the online landscape!
Great! What Else Can I Do?
Another way to use your website to help develop and refine your brand is by utilizing a photo gallery. This is especially true for businesses that do highly visual work, like construction companies, landscapers, interior designers, and photographers (obviously).
Highlight the types of work that you want to be known for, like new construction jobs or wedding photos, and refrain from using photos that aren’t the types of work you may offer, but don’t want to be part of your official brand. If you’re the carpenter who does some hardwood flooring from time to time, you may not want to put these photos on the site, but you can always share them with a client who may be interested in hiring you. Likewise, if you’re the wedding photographer who occasionally does family portraits, you may not want to put these on the sites for fear of misleading customers.
The next most-obvious place to begin your work is through social media. Just as with your website, Facebook, Twitter, et al give you the chance to speak directly with your audience and broadcast exactly who you are and what you do. Don’t muddy the water here; tell your audience exactly what you do, what you’re passionate about, and why you’re the very best choice for whatever it is you do.
Don’t be afraid to answer questions through these platforms, be social! Users really enjoy when their comments and tweets get answers from the businesses they’re reaching out to, and it’s a great way to earn new fans. Also, a common problem we see with businesses is that they post too much irrelevant content. Again, focus on the core of your business and make sure that your social media activity is inline with the branding of your enterprise. Finally, as is always the case when talking about social media or any online activity, be sure you are posting to the correct account! How many times have we seen a company post out inappropriate, drunken, unusual, or inconsistent content just because the person handling the account posted to the wrong account?
Don’t become a cautionary tale – always make sure your social media accounts stay completely separate from your personal accounts. One of the best ways I’ve personally managed this is by never using your professional accounts from your mobile devices. If you’re going to post something to your business’s Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook accounts, do it all from a desktop or laptop computer, and only use your personal accounts on these platforms from your mobile device. This help to keep the accounts separated and hopefully keeps you from making a potentially embarrassing – or costly – mistake.
Another crucial place to examine for your branding is through your Google My Business or Bing Local accounts. In many cases, this is a customer’s first interaction with your business, especially if this was based on a general search on these sites. Likely, these searchers were looking for a business like yours in the area, and they clicked on your map listing or local pack. We are often surprised and amazed at how many businesses take this listing for granted! It is very easy to utilize these platforms to their fullest and make a fantastic first impression on a new client! First off, make sure your NAP information (Name, Address, and Phone Number) is up-to-date and exactly how you have it listed on your website. For example, if your GMB (Google My Business) name includes ‘LLC’ at the end of your name, but your website does not, change the name to match on one of the two platforms. If your address includes a box number or suite, make absolutely sure that the address is exactly the same on each. ‘123 Any St. #321’ and ‘123 Any Street, Suite 321’ is not a match, even though we humans would see it that way. Accuracy counts here, so take the time to make sure this is done exactly right. Next, be sure to add a minimum of ten photos, and make sure any older photos you have posted there are current. Old versions of the logo, former employees, and pictures of the old office should be weeded out and replaced with the newest versions. Next, utilize additional services provided by these platforms. For example, Google began offering “Posts” on GMB in 2017, and very few businesses use this feature. This is a way to write a short description (100 – 300 words) and link up a resource on your site. If you’re offering a limited-time special, have an innovative service you want to help customers be aware of, or have recently written a great blog post on your industry, use the Posts to help highlight your site! This is a surprisingly under-utilized resource that most businesses aren’t even aware of, and you can use to help drive more and more local traffic to your site.
To Sum It Up
In closing, don’t be afraid of building your unique brand online. It can help refine your business to be exactly what you imagined at the onset. This is helpful for searchers as well, as they don’t want to pursue businesses that aren’t passionate about the work they need done.
Word-of-mouth will carry you very far in local business, but your voice online can be what makes or breaks your business or your sanity in the long run. Besides, if your business is only one of a hundred other generalists in your area, why should a client choose you over everyone else (and please, don’t waste your breath on ‘customer service’. Everyone says that, too!)? Be the company – the business – that you want to be. Build the right brand online, and let the customers know exactly why you’re the best at what you do.
Besides, if all else fails you can always rebrand yourself later!