Traditionally, small business branding begins when there’s an immediate need for print products, like business cards or flyers. An event, networking opportunity, or store opening presses small business owners to think about how they want to be perceived by their target audience. The first brand items are often a logo, font, and preferred colors. While many do not realize they’re building a brand by creating these components, that’s exactly what they’re doing!

However, in this era of digital marketing and mobile-first technology, it’s equally important to get your brand online to remain competitive and gain as much awareness and exposure as possible. How do you know where to start, though, when taking your brand online? That’s where we come in! You’ve done most of the hard work by establishing brand standards (perhaps unknowingly), and with a few simple steps, you can seamlessly integrate your brand online so it is completely in sync with your offline marketing materials.

Let’s get started!

Take inventory of your brand elements

First things first: take stock of your brand components before you do anything. As an operational small business, you already have everything you need to take your brand from offline (print) to online. Collect the most recent versions of your logo, fonts, graphics, and standard language. Having these elements in one place before you start the digital dive will keep your online brand consistent with your offline brand, and save you hours of searching your files for the right PDF document.

Each of your brand elements will serve a purpose for your online brand, so once you’ve compiled them, review for accuracy and that they still match your business. If not, this is the time to update everything – from business cards to flyers to any online efforts – so you keep a consistent brand persona across all marketing materials.

Identify online opportunities

Assess which of the digital marketing opportunities you want to dabble in. There are a plethora of options, so being strategic about where and how you market your business online is important.

If you are unsure where to start, the trifecta of online branding includes a website, social media accounts, and being listed in local directories. A website is basically the online equivalent of a business card, so it’s a natural starting point when taking your brand online. Incorporate your brand elements into your website design so that the site is instantly recognizable. Your site needs a domain name (preferably with your business name, so it’s easily remembered and identifiable), and must include enough information that it helps potential customers decide to do business with you. Your website is your online storefront, so take the time to have it accurately represent your brand.

A social media presence allows a business to market itself to broader audiences for free. It’s a way to engage the customer, attract attention, and drive traffic to your website. It’s a small business’s branding best friend. Develop consistent social media accounts on the platforms where you target audience is most active. Don’t feel like you need to be on every social media; when it comes to social media accounts it is definitely quality over quantity.

Lastly, local directories, while not as glamorous as a website or social media accounts, give small businesses brand authority from an SEO perspective. When your business is listed in local directories, it means your business shows up in local search queries and directs your local audience to your business. Again, this is a no-brainer, and once complete, it only needs refreshing if you change your business hours or location.

For each of these digital marketing channels, it’s important to include your brand elements from the first step. Your logo, business description or bio, font choice, and color palette should all be the same to help establish an authentic online brand.

Fill in the gaps

After you’ve settled on where your business will be present online, it’s time to bring those areas to life. Add as much relevant content to your website as possible. As mentioned before, your website can either make or break someone’s decision to work with you. Give them a flavor for your business, speak to your products and services, have a robust About Us page, include social media widgets, and have a Contact Page that encourages customer outreach.

Much of your website content can come from your print marketing materials, such as brochures or flyers, and easily applied to your website. It’s easy to overwhelm visitors with complex navigation or dense text, so only include the content that speaks to your unique selling points and expertise in the industry. These points will differentiate you from your competitors and give future customers a reason to work with you. Regularly refresh your content to keep your visitors engaged and coming back.

When your social media accounts are set up and ready for activity, establish a posting schedule to create a cadence of content with your audience. Social media is only helpful to businesses when they are active. With a set schedule, you will keep your audience active and expecting new content. You don’t have to post 20 times per day, but once you have decided on posting frequency by platform, stick to it. Your followers will recognize your consistency and that only helps build your brand online.

Beyond your posting schedule, keep a branded tone of voice across all your social accounts. While social media lends itself to be more casual than on your website or brochure, it needs to sound the same no matter the account. So, figure out how you want to sound online and keep with it.

Lastly, the process of registering your domain with local directories is all about consistency. For each directory, you will submit a registration form for your small business. Ensure your small business makes the right impression by using the same information across all directories. While much of the information is intuitive (domain name, business name, hours of operation, address, phone number, etc.), typos happen. Take your time and enter each form carefully to ensure your business gets listed in as many directories as possible.

Taking your brand online is an exciting part of a small business’s lifecycle. Guarantee your business makes the best impression possible by following these three steps and watch your brand recognition – both online and offline – grow before your eyes!