6 Branding Basics that Web Designers Can't Ignore
Does your web design business have a brand?
Even if you haven’t put much thought into branding your web design business, your clients probably already have an opinion about your business. You may even already have a reputation for doing a certain type of work. That reputation is one of the branding basics that you should manage.
Branding is important for web designers. Not only must you develop a recognizable brand for your own web business to stay competitive, but often clients expect branding help from their designer. If you can’t help your clients with branding, they’ll find someone else who can.
That’s why it’s important for web designers to understand a few basic principles about branding. In this post, we’ll describe six basic branding principles and explain how they relate to web design.
Branding Basic #1. Relevance
Your web design brand needs to target your potential clients. (Likewise, a client’s brand should target their potential clients.)
You want your clients to understand how your business relates to their needs. You want them to understand the value that your web design business offers to them. Potential clients also need to understand how your web design work is different from the design work of other web designers.
In order to create a relevant brand, you first need to understand your clients and potential clients. This means doing some research. Talk to existing clients and prospective clients to discover what they already believe about your web design business. You may even find that you need to change pre-existing opinions about your business.
Making your brand relevant to your prospects is sometimes called positioning. (Although, not everybody agrees on the definition of positioning.)
Relevance is only one aspect of branding that designers need to be concerned about. Appearance is another aspect.
Branding Basic #2. Appearance
Appearance is usually the first thing that many web designers think about when the topic of branding comes up. Appearances includes such features as:
- Business Logo
- Website Design
- Color Scheme
- Business Cards and Stationery
Obviously, web designers can provide a lot of assistance to their clients when it comes to appearance.
When it comes to your own website, appearance often determines a prospective client’s first impression. That brief first impression determines whether the prospect stays on the website, or quickly moves on.
While appearance is an important branding factor, it’s not all that there is to branding.
Branding Basic #3. Content
Content is another important aspect of branding. This is particularly true if your website or your client’s website contains a blog.
Remember that blog posts are likely to be indexed higher in the search engine results and are also likely to be shared on social media. So, what you publish on your blog may be what draws potential clients to your website. Everything that you publish is a reflection of you and your web design business.
Since your website content represents your business, naturally you want to publish only the highest quality content. However, well-written content on your website is not helpful if you’re not consistent.
Branding Basic #4. Consistency
A brand should be recognizable. One thing that top brands have in common is that their potential clients know who they are after reading (or hearing) just a word or two or by glancing at a logo design.
Everything about your website should reinforce your brand–from the design to the content to the font used. The same is true for client websites that you design.
Consistency is just one of many good reasons why website designers and content strategists should work together. If you are inconsistent, you’ll create confusion instead of a powerful brand.
While it sounds simple, it can be difficult to maintain a consistent tone for a website and for its content, particularly as time passes. You want to be flexible enough to meet your client’s needs, but consistent enough so that your brand’s message is not diluted.
Another aspect of branding that you need to be concerned with is your business reputation.
Branding Basic #5. Reputation
Your reputation can affect your brand’s effectiveness.
Reputation has to do with how others perceive you. While it might seem like you can’t control your reputation, how you act and what you say greatly affects the opinion that others have of your business. If you say your business stands for a particular value while behaving in a way that is inconsistent with what you say, then your brand may be damaged.
To build a good reputation, pay attention to your client’s needs. Deliver what you promise. Always turn in your best work. The branding message you are trying to convey should match the way that others think of you.
Trust is the primary goal of building a good reputation. The more that prospective clients trust you, the more likely they are to do business with you.
Of course if very few prospects have heard of you or if prospective clients have a heard time finding you, then having a good reputation with a handful of clients doesn’t help much.
Branding Basic #6. Presence
Another important part of branding is establishing a presence for your brand. Prospective clients can’t do business with you (or even form an opinion about you) if they can’t find you or don’t know about you.
Here are three ways you can build up your presence:
- Advertising. This can be an effective way to increase your presence, but many advertisements are too expensive for the beginning web designer. If you do advertise, make sure that the medium where you place your advertisement targets your prospective clients.
- Social Media. Social media is a great and inexpensive option for building an online presence. There are many social media options available. One danger with social media is the temptation to behave differently than the brand you are building. Don’t forget your brand message.
- Community Involvement. Getting involved in the community is a good way to build your presence. Your community participation should be directed to your prospects. Giving a presentation to a local business organization is one possible example of community participation.
In general, it takes time to build a strong presence in your target market. It’s important to realize that it could take weeks, or even months, before you see any results.
Learn More About Branding
Here are four great resources to help you learn more about branding:
- The Art of Positioning Your Brand and Why You Can’t Afford to Screw It Up from Jim Joseph on Entrepreneur. Jim provides an excellent general explanation of what brand positioning is. He also explains why positioning is an important part of building a brand.
- Why B-To-B Branding Matters More Than You Think from McKinsey & Company on Forbes. While this post is not specific to web designers, it has a good discussion on how to differentiate a business. It also explains the relationship between branding and purchase decisions.
- How to use a website to strengthen a brand from Dan Rajan on Web Designer Depot. This is an excellent post on branding for web designers. Dan lists and describes some very specific website elements that contribute to branding.
- 3 Effective Ways to Build a Strong Brand Identity from Venchito Tampon on Search Engine Journal. This post on branding is a bit more content-oriented, but should still be very helpful to web designers who want to learn more about how to brand their own website or to help a client with branding.
These are just a few of the many helpful articles about branding that are available online.
Is your web design business branded? Do you help clients with their business branding?
Published August 19th, 2013 by Laura Spencer